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Bali's Most Illustrious

The town of Klungkung centers around the Puri Smarapura or "Palace of the God of Love" former home of Bali's most illustrious line of kings. Unfortunately, all that remains now are the great gate and garden, and two pavilions with magnificently painted ceilings. These are the Kerta Gosa Hall of justice overlooking the town's main intersection, and the larger Bale Kambang or Floating Pavilion just behind it.

The rest of this splendid complex was razed to the ground in 1908, during the royal mass suicide or puputan ("ending") against the Dutch invaders. This event removed the last obstacle to Dutch domination of the island. A monument commemorating the puputan now stands across the road.

The Kerta Gosa was a place for the administration of traditional justice in precolonial times by a council consisting of the great king and his priests. The paintings on the ceiling tell of the punishments awaiting evildoers in hell, and of the delights of the gods in heaven. Different levels and station in heaven and hell are described through the story of the hero Bima, who journeys to the underworld to save the souls of his parent. These scenes were used to alternately threaten and cajole anyone who appeared before the court.

KamasanLike the Sistine Chapel, the Kerta Gosa presents a whole complex of ideas on the workings of fate and the role of the divine in human affairs. The ceilings themselves have been repainted three times in recent memory. The last complete refurbishment occured, in 1960 under the famous artist Pan Seken although in 1984, weather damage cause a number of panels to be repaired.

The Bale Kambang in back is actually rather new, having been added to the complex only in the 1940s. The ceiling was originally painted by Wayan Kayun in 1942, depicts episodes from the story of the Buddhist king Sutasoma, who defeated his enemies through passive resistance. Also portrayed is the story of the commoner pan Brayut - a coarse man who received great spiritual blessings.

Palaces and priestly estates

Kerta gosaMembers of the royal family who survived the massacre of 1908 were exiled to Lombok. They returned in 1929 and settled in a new palace, the Puri Agung to the west of the old site on the other side of the street. Chief, among them is Dalem Pamayun, eldest son of the former king, who has become a priest. To the north of the main crossroads, on the right hand side, is a set of beautiful and important royal temples, with an ancestral shrine dedicated to the great king of Gelgel, Palem Seganing. Just next to it is the Pura Taman Sari or Flower Garden Temple, consisting of a peaceful garden and moat around a main pagoda. In the 19th century, a famous warrior queen of Klungkung meditated and wrote poetry here.

There are many priestly estates in Klungkung with long histories connected with the royal house. The best-known is Griya Pidada Mungkung, once home to the chief priests of the court. Another residence with long historical associations is the former palace of Lebah, to the east of the city just before the Unda River, now the Ramayana Palace Hotel. Just to the west is the Banjar Pande, the blacksmiths' ward of Klungkung, and the long-established Muslim quarter.

The best time to visit Klungkung is every three days on the Balinese day known as pasah, when the Klungkung Market is in full swing. The market nestles behind a row of shops to the east of the Kerta Gosa, and although it has lost some of its old atmosphere as a result of being re-housed in a new, multi-storied concrete structure, it offers a full range of local delights, including handmade house wares, baskets, fruits, flowers, vegetables and the like.

For those interested in souvenirs, the row of art shops on the main road in front of the market is well known to antique collectors. The astute old women who own them have been in business since the 1930s, although age is now thinning their ranks. They all complain, however, that nowadays they can only occasionally find the sort of valuable items, which used to routinely fill their shops.

West of the town

To the west of the town of Klungkung, bordering on Gianyar regency, is the fertile district known as Banjar Angkan, separated from Klungkung by a spectacular ravine. This once served as a buffer zone between the two frequently warring kingdoms, and changed hands many times during the 18th and 19th centuries. Partly as a result, Banjar Angkan has developed its own unique identity quite apart from the rest of the region.

One of the objects of these frequent wars was the important temple of Pura Kentel Gumi, "the Temple of the Congealing Earth" - located on a bend in the main road west of Klungkung. The name of this temple indicates that it was a focal point around which the mystical and political forces of the former kingdoms moved.

Northwest of Klungkung are the villages of Tiingan and Aan. Tiingan is most famous as the village of gamelan smiths or pande gong, which have been famous throughout Bali for centuries. Aan is best known as the home of a learned high priest, Pedanda Aan, who advises people on the proper procedures for Bali's most important rituals. Between Banjar Angkan and Klungkung lies the village of Takmung, which also has many interesting temples, and is known, as a center for the Resi Bhujangga sect, who are priestly worshippers of Wisnu.

Bali's original capital

The old court center of Gelgel is situated 5 km south of Klungkung town and actually comprises a number of distinct villages, notably Tojan and Kamasan. The entire area is filled with ancient and legendary sites from Bali's "Golden Age" - the 16th and 17th centuries - and this is the area to which all Balinese nobility and just about everyone else on the island trace their ancestry.

The most important site lies at the very heart of Gelgel - the sacred Pura Jero Agung or "Great Palace Temple," which stands on the site of the former Gelgel palace. The temple is the ancestral shrine of the old palace, which was abandoned in the 17th century following a rebellion. Adjacent to it is the Pura Jero Kapal, all that remains of the second largest palace in Gelgel that of the Lord of Kapal.

To the east of the Pura Jero Agung is ancient temple, the Pura Dasar or "base temple." This is the lowland counterpart Besakih, providing a direct connection with the sacred "mother temple" up on Mt Agung.

The festivals held at Pura Dasar are spectacular, as all members of the royal family join in. It is here that the deified ancestor are worshipped - inside are a number stones set on a stone throne, archaic symbols of ancestral worship. Nearby is the Gelgel Mosque, the oldest on Bali, which was set up to serve the spiritual needs of Muslims came from Java to serve the king in ancient times.

Further to the east of Gelgel is a large complex of graveyards and temples, which are cited in the genealogies of many families from all over Bali. Just north of this is a set of two unusual shrines, the Pura Dalem Gandamayu, which was the dwelling of Pedanda Nirartha - Bali's greatest priest and the ancestor of all Siwa brahmans on the island. He established this as a branch of the legendary graveyard of the same name on Java. One of the shrines at Gandamayu is dedicated to the descendants of Nirartha, while the other belongs to the pande or black smith clan.

The present temple of Gandamayu was restored in the 1970s after being partially destroyed by the 1963 eruption of Mt Agung, which devastated the whole area. The Paksabali is famous for its Dewa Mapalu or Pasraman Dewa festival - the dramatic "clashing" or "meeting of the gods." This is held during the annual Kuningan festival, when idols are borne from the temple aboard palanquins down a steep ravine to the Unda River to be ritually bathed and given offerings. As the palanquin bearers proceed back up to the temple gates, they are possessed by the gods they are carrying and race madly in circles, colliding against each other in an effort to get back into the temple compound.

The nearby village of Sampalan is the home of Bali's foremost traditional architect, Mangku Putu Cedet, who is a builder of fabulous cremation towers and traditional houses. He has traveled all over the world exhibiting his skills, and is thoroughly steeped in the arts of healing and white magic as well. When the royal family of Klungkung holds major ceremonies, it is he who is asked to perform a ritual to prevent it from raining.

An important village further to the east is Dawan, home of one of Bali's most famous high priests, Pedanda Gede Keniten. He is directly descended from the court priest of Gelgel and is in great demand for major rituals. North of Dawan is the village of Besang, famous for its main temple which has an ancient inscription under a giant pagoda. The Dawan area, situated among small hills, is another "hot spot" or center of natural and
Mystical power on Bali.

The main road meets the coast at the fishing village of Kusamba, with its dramatic black sand beaches. For several decades the late 18th century, the palace Klungkung was inhabited by a mad king Dewa Agung Sakti, and Kusamba was the headquarters of his son and rival.

Kusamba was at this time an important port; like Kamasan and Klungkung it was a center for the blacksmith clan, whose skill in the manufacture of weapons was of crucial importance to any ruler. In 1849, when the Dutch conquered north and east Bali, Kusamba was the site of a major battle in which a Dutch general was killed by order of the "virgin queen," Dewa Agung Isteri Kanya.

Not far beyond Kusamba is the famous Goa Lawah bat cave temple, one of the states temples of Klungkung. Legend has it that when Mungkung was ruled from Kusamba prince of Mengwi sought protection here and entered the bat cave. He was not seen again until he emerged nearly 20 kms to the north, at Pura Besakih. No one has since tried to enter the cave to prove whether it really extends that far - the strong odor of bat droppings is no doubt a major deterrent.

Goa Lawah


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