Tirta Gangga: Royal Water Garden, Bali

Tirta Gangga saw a series of restorations following the destructive hot showers of volcanic ash from the 1963 Mount Agung eruption. The lavish water gardens owned by the royal Karangasem family feature 1.2ha of pools, ponds and fountains surrounded by neatly cut lawns adorned with stepping stones, ornate statues and tropical gardens.

The gardens of the Bali water palace in Tirtagangga were designed and constructed in 1948 by Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem (1887 – 1966), who was the last Raja (King) of Karangasem. He was a remarkable man to say the least, not only because he was the architect of the water gardens, but also because he helped with the construction of the gardens. A lot of people were astonished to find the Raja amidst his lower class laborers, working knee deep in the mud digging out the pools and ponds.

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The gardens of this Bali water palace show a unique mix of Balinese and Chinese architecture. The grounds of the water garden (ca 1.2 ha.) consists of three separate complexes each with ponds and many sculptures. The complex on the lowest level has two large ponds and a water tower.

At the second complex (middle level) of the Bali water palace are the swimming pools. The third level houses the main complex with the country home of the former Raja. Nowadays one can find a restaurant and four bungalow units (which are for rent) in this former country home of Raja A.A. Anglurah Ketut Karangasem.

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Building water gardens, including the designing and the labor work, was a favorite hobby of the Raja. As many of his visitors did not expect this, of course they were surprised to find the Raja himself working among his labourers, standing knee deep in mud digging out the earth.

A reservoir on the grounds receives the springwater and from this reservoir drinking water is delivered via a pipe system to the town of Amlapura. There is also an underground pipe system which leads to the upper swimming pool, where it emerges through the mouth of a raksasa (a demon statue) which stands at a corner of the pool. Here the water flows over into a lower level pool. From this lower level pool it flows into some small fish ponds and from there into the rice fields that border the gardens.

The water of Tirtagangga has always been regarded as holy and is regularly used for religious temple ceremonies. With important celebration days Tirtagangga is the destination of colourful processions with offerings, umbrellas, flags and other tributes. Led by the local temple priests, ceremonies are held at the spring, accompanied by chanting and the music of the ‘Beleganjur’, a gamelan gong group of small gongs with each musician striking a specific, different note on the musical scale, all blending in harmony.

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Tirta Gangga is a convenient stopover along tour itineraries to Bali’s eastern region. Its main entrance and large parking area is easily spotted from the main Amlapura Road. The site is open to the public and a small entrance fee applies which goes towards maintenance.

How to get there:

The Bali water palace of Tirtagangga is located near Ababi village in Ababi, Karangasem, situated about 6 kilometres north of the town of Amlapura, at a distance of 83 km from Denpasar. Tirta Gangga is located in the village of Ababi, an approximate 75km east of Denpasar. The complex is a cool retreat in the eastern highlands, perched on the south-eastern slope of the island’s highest mountain, Mount Agung.

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