The Water Palace of Tirtaganga

Back in 1948, the late Raja of Karangasem, Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem, built a beautiful water garden near a natural spring. This spring wells up under a hugh banyan tree at the foot of a stony hill on which the local community had built their village temple.

The religious rites of the spring, the relatively cool climate of the area and the beauty of the scenery all inspired the Raja to build himself a private country house nearby this spring, with a recreational garden for his personal enjoyment and for that of his subjects. And he called it, Tirtagangga - derived from the words 'Tirta' (blessed water) and 'Gangga' (from 'Ganges', the holy river in India).

The water gardens were constructed with a unique mix of Balinese and Chinese architecture. They cover an area of 1.2 hectares (about four acres).

The premises of the water garden consists of three complexes with ponds and dozens of sculptures. The first complex lies on the lowest level, with two large ponds and a water tower. The second complex at the middle level, is where the swimming pools are located. The third part consists of the main complex and comprises the country home of the former Raja. Nowadays this country home also houses a restaurant and four bungalow units, which are for rent.

It is interesting to note that building water gardens, including the designing and the labor work, was a favorite hobby of this Raja. Many of his visitors were surprised fo find him working among his labourers digging out the earth, often knee deep in mud.

The water provided by the spring is lead into a reservoir. From there it is split into two to provide drinking water for the town of Amlapura while the rest is led through an underground pipe which emerges into an upper swimming pool through the mouth of a raksasa (a demon) who watches the bathers from the corner of the pool. The overflow then goes into a lower swimming pool, and from there into small fish ponds, yet another swimming pool, and finally into the adjoining rice fields.

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.

Tirtagangga is located near Ababi village in the subdistrict of Abang, Karangasem, about 6 km north of Amlapura, at a distance of 83 km from Denpasar.

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