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Badung regency - BaliBadung, the southernmost regency of Bali, is the most heavily populated area of the island - with an average density of more than 1,000 persons per square km. Partly this is because Denpasar, the island's capital and principal metropolis is here. Also, Bali's major tourist resorts are all in Badung, and the tourist boom of the past two decades has fueled a rapid economic expansion and population influx to this traditional southern court center.

Extending north-south from the lofty central volcanic ridge of the island to the rich rice-growing plains around Denpasar, the regency of Badung is geographically defined by a distributor network of rivers and streams fed from the Plaga rain-catchments area in the north. The clubfoot-shaped Bukit Peninsula in the far south stands apart - its limestone formations, thin topsoil and lack of water make it poor and sparsely populated.

Ill-favored as it is, the Bukit peninsula nevertheless demarcates the Benoa bay and harbor area through which southern Bali traditionally maintained contacts with the outside world. Ships coming from the Bali Strait would sail along the white beaches of the western shore, round the inhospitable cliffs of the Bukit, and anchor in the reef-sheltered cove behind Kuta. Alluvium now clogs up the back channel to Kuta, but a land bridge has been built out into the bay to create the new Port of Benoa here. Having reverted to marshlands, the coast is now being developed into fishponds.

Badung's historical role is due to its pivotal position, allowing control over the three major elements of Balinese economic life: irrigation, rice and the sea. Indianization took Place early here, as evidenced by the Prasasti Blaniong inscription, dating from the 10th century. Besides Bugis settlements, there are also Chinese tombs and dances named after the Chinese - such as the famed baris cina of Semawang and Renon.

The town of Denpasar, also known as Badung, did not enter the limelight until the last century. The early island kingdoms were all farther east, in Gianyar and Klungkung. But soon after the Javanese conquest of the 14th century, western princes arose and for a time Mengwi held sway over the whole of western Bali. After the 18th century, as foreign merchants and warships became more intrusive, power shifted to the sea. This was an historic opportunity for Badung's Pemecutan clan, who defeated Mengwi in 1891.

Pemecutan's rule was short-lived. The Dutch were at this time expanding their territories, and having subdued northern Bali in the mid-19th century, they pushed their claims of suzerainty south with increasing confidence. Many pretexts were used rights of trade, recognition of the Dutch crown and flag, ritual suicide of widows (suttee). One eventually drew blood.

It started as a common event a ship ran aground on the reef off Sanur. The Chinese crew survived, but the cargoes disappeared. The Dutch demanded reparations but the raja refused and two years later, in 1906, Dutch troops landed at Sanur. The king chose death over surrender. Dressed in white loincloths, row after row of Kris and spear wielding Balinese hurled them into the Dutch gunfire. For them, this was an honorable road to Indra's heaven, abode of fallen warriors.

Its palaces destroyed its king and warriors dead, Badung surrendered. From the ruins of the palace, a young boy was saved the last survivor of the proud royal house of Pemecutan. Today, the royal line continues. On July 15th, 1989, the boy's grandson was installed as the new Cokorda or King of Pemecutan. The new king is a businessman, his palace a hotel.

'Beach Blanket Babylon' of the East

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Kuta/Legian beach is living proof that one man's hell is another man's paradise. This bustling beach resort has in the short space of just two decades spontaneously burst onto center stage in the local tourist scene. It is here that many visitors form their first (if not only) impressions of what Bali is all about. Many are shocked and immediately flee in search of the "real Bali" (a mythological destination somewhere near Ubud).

The truth is, nevertheless, that certain souls positively thrive in this labyrinth of boogie bars, beach bungalows, cassette shops and honky tongs - all part of the Kuta lifestyle. What then is the magic that has transformed this sleepy fishing village overnight into an overcrowded tourist Mecca - with no end in sight to its haphazard expansion?

Before tourism came to the area, Kuta was one of the poorest places on Bali plagued by poor soils, endemic malaria and a surf-wracked beach that provides little protection for shipping. In the early days, it nevertheless served as a port for the powerful southern Balinese kingdom of Badung whose capital lay in what is now Denpasar.

Rice, slaves and booty
Though Bali was never very trade-oriented, it did supply neighboring islands with several commodities - mainly rice, and notably slaves. Also, the booty salvaged from shipwrecks provided an occasional bonanza for the hardy inhabitants of this coastal outpost.

After an earlier Dutch trading post had been abandoned as commercially unviable (even the illegal trade in slaves proved disappointing), there arrived in Kuta a remarkable Dane mounted on a proud stallion, the likes of which the Balinese had never seen. Mads Lange, as he was called, had the audacity march straight to the palace of the raja of Badung and demands an audience.

Despite his bravado, Lange had in fact recently been a victim of his own intrigues on the neighboring island of Lombok, where he had aided the wrong raja in a war and lost all. As fate would have it, Lange not only survived his move to Bali, but prospered building here an extensive new trading post coconut oil factory and luxurious residence stocked with wines and other delicacies.

Within the walls of his fabled Kuta residence, Lange wined and dined a succession of visiting scholars, adventurers, princes and colonial officials. During the tumultuous 1840s, moreover, he repeatedly played a critical role in mediating between the Balinese rulers and the Dutch. Today, his grave can be seen in a Chinese cemetery at the center of Kuta, not far from a Buddhist temple and the crumbling remains of his once-regal house.

A tourist caravansary
It took a young Californian surfer and his wife to first notice Kuta's tourism potential. The year was 1936. Robert and Louise Koke decided to leave Hollywood and start a small hotel in Bali. They describe their discovery of Kuta as follows: The next day we cycled ... to the South Seas picture beach we had been hoping to find. It was Kuta ... the broad, white sand beach curved away for miles, huge breakers spreading on clean sand."

The hotel they founded was called the Kuta Beach Hotel, naturally. It was a modest establishment but things went reasonably well in spite of an occasional malaria attack and a run-in with a young and fiery American of British birth by the name of Ketut Tantri, who managed to stir up controversy wherever she went during her 20-odd years in Indonesia.

After the War, tourism in Bali all but disappeared. And when the first tourists began to trickle back during the 1960s, Kuta was all but forgotten. Suddenly and without warning, however, a new kind of visitor began to frequent the island during the 1970's, their preferred abode in Bali was Kuta Beach.

Nobody quite knew what to make of the first long-haired, bare-footed travelers who stopped here on their way from India to Australia - nobody, that is, except for the enterprising few in Kuta who quickly threw up rooms behind their houses and began cooking banana pancakes for this nomadic tribe.

The main attraction here was and still is one of the best beaches in Asia - and the trickle of cosmic surfers and space age crusaders in search of paradise, mystical union, and good times soon turned into a torrent, as tales of Bali spread like wildfire on the travelers' grapevine. Stories of a place where one could live out extravagant dreams on one of the world's most exotic tropical islands - for just a few dollars a day - seemed too good to be true.

Within the space of a few years, Kuta's empty beaches and back lanes began to fill up with home stays, restaurants and shops. Most visitors stayed on as long as the money lasted, and many concocted elaborate business schemes that would enable them to come back, investing their last dollars in handicrafts and antiques before leaving.

In Kuta and Legian, the clothing or "rag trade" developed rapidly. Fortunes have been made and a handful of young entrepreneurs who began by selling batiks out of their backpacks have made it big. With the new affluence has come a lifestyle of flashy villas and sultry tropical evenings beneath moonlit palms.

By the end of the 1970s, nobody knew quite what was going on. Up-scale tourists were mixing in increasing numbers in among the "hippie travelers" and deluxe bungalow hotels were popping up between US$2 a night home stays. With them came the uncontrolled proliferation of shops and bars and tourist touts lurking on every street corner. By the 1980s, Kuta was no longer an underground secret.

Kuta's reincarnation
Many changes, good and bad, have come to Kuta over the past several years. These range from traffic jams and pollution to excellent food, great shopping and a vibrant nightlife. Australians once dominated the scene, but today Kuta is truly international the spectrum of visitors ranging from macho Brazilian surfers to prim Japanese secretaries. Tourism, however, is the common denominator for everything that happens here.

There has been an equally rapid rise in domestic tourism, with western tourists and their curious ways becoming an attraction for Indonesian visitors from the neighboring island of Java. Large numbers of out-islander have also settled here, opening businesses or simply hanging out in this Indonesian version of a gold-rush boom town. At times, one has the impression that the local Balinese have become a minority in their own community.

For many, this litany of change reads as an indictment of yet another paradise lost certainly for those of us who knew Kuta in an earlier, more innocent state, the new Kuta is often difficult to accept. But what of the local Balinese what do they think of all this? The most common answer is that despite the changes, the Balinese community remains strong, if wary. The traditional ceremonies are still being held, so there is as yet no need to worry, they feel. One need only witness the powerful calonarang dance in Kuta beneath a full moon to understand this. While we despair the loss of Kuta's village past, we cannot condemn all that is new. Infect, goods and services have improved and Kuta enjoys a standard of living higher than almost anywhere else in Indonesia.

Above all, though, Kuta/Legian beach has become a major cross-cultural international meeting spot with few peers. Love it or leave it, only one thing is sure - the old Kuta has passed away and nobody knows what the future may bring.

Surf-Wracked Shores of Southern Bali

The first thing which strikes the visitor to Bukit Badung, the bulbous peninsula at Bali's southernmost tip, is that the landscape is totally different from the rest of the island. Most of Bali is volcanic - rich soils watered year round by run-off from mountain lakes and streams, which support lush, tropical vegetation. In contrast, the Bukit is a non-volcanic limestone plateau which has its own unique ecology.

The so-called "hill" for that is what "Bukit" means has an ecosystem characterized by its lack of surface water. The soil lies on a base of cracked and porous limestone, and any rain, which does fall quickly, seeps through fissures to a very low water table. The area is thus ill suited to agriculture during the dry season, when the scrubby vegetation looks more Mediterranean than tropical. During the rainy season, however, the area's vegetation becomes quite lush and crops of soybeans, sorghum, cashew nuts, manioc, beans of various sorts and even corn, flourish.

The plateau which constitutes most of the peninsula rises abruptly to about 200 in above sea level, and is ringed on all sides by steep cliffs. It is connected to the rest of Bali by a narrow isthmus, upon which lies the village of Jimbaran. Many lovely beaches line the shores of the peninsula and the isthmus, although access is often difficult. The biggest and best-known beach is just beyond the airport, on the western side of the Jimbaran isthmus. More secluded and equally beautiful sands are found further to the south, at the foot of steep cliffs along the western and southern shores of the Bukit plateau.

The whole area has a host of natural attractions for those willing to invest the time to explore. Grand, gray-white cliffs overlook long, white rollers world famous among surfers. Graceful boats sway at anchor in tranquil Jimbaran bay. The quiet and empty bush areas of the elevated plateau are ideal for experienced hikers (though few good maps of the area are available). The region also boasts places of cultural significance, the most renowned being Uluwatu Temple Luhur Uluwatu).

A glimpse of the past
The Bukit bears witness to a long history. There are limestone caves all over the area and evidence of prehistoric human occupation has been found in Gua Selonding. Before Uluwatu became a Hindu temple, it was the site of worship for more ancient cults. The foundation of the temple itself is dated Balinese tradition to the 11th century.

The poverty of the soil and its geographical isolation has shaped the social landscape of Bukit Badung. There was never any wet rice farming and other crops and cattle-breeding did not suffice to feed the population. So those who could not subsist through farming cattle-raising and crafts looked to the sea for salt, lime and fish. Others migrated to rice growing areas. Old men of Sukawati still talk of Bukit peddlars exchanging betel lime and salt for gleaning and accommodation right Bukit Badung is also known as a region where the overlords of Mengwi and Badung banished malcontents and defaulting debtors Nowadays the population is growing, the region having become a major focal point of Bali's relentless tourism boom.


Jimbaran as an administrative entity forms a part of Kuta, and encompasses the area just south of Bali's international airport. Most of Jimbaran's 12,000 inhabitants live in a cluster of traditional banjar neighborhoods at the narrowest part of the isthmus, but the Jimbaran area also includes the sparsely populated northwestern corner of the Bukit plateau.

Since the Nusa Dua highway leads visitors through the region along the eastern mudflats and mangrove swamps, the area went almost unnoticed by tourists until a few years ago. There were no hotels or even home stays, no tourist restaurants, no art shops, few artists, and hardly anyone who could speak English. All those are changing rapidly, perhaps more rapidly than some of the local residents would like. Jimbaran's fine beach has now led to the construction of a number of luxury hotels along its edge, and in a few years the area seems destined to become another major resort rivaling Sanur, Kuta and Nusa Dua.

Jimbaran village is unique in that it borders two separate coasts lying less than 2 km apart, each of which has a markedly different geography. To the west is the broad expanse of Jimbaran Bay and the Indian Ocean. To the east is a tidal mudflat enclosing the shallow and sheltered Benoa Harbor. The ecosystem of the two strands, and the occupations of villagers who five on them, differ dramatically.

Salt making and lime production are the principal livelihoods on the eastern side while fishing is the main industry of the west. The salt is made by sloshing seawater onto the flats, to be dried by the sun. Villagers then rake up the salty dirt and evaporate the solution over wood fires in shallow metal pans. The abundance of coral fragments provide the raw materials for the lime industry. (NOTE: You will have to ask directions if you want to see salt and lime workings, these areas are only accessible via a rabbit's warren of unpaved tracks.)

Jimbaran's lovely western beach is protected from larger waves by a fragmented reef behind which lies shallow water, an ideal anchorage for large fishing boats. However idyllic it may appear during the dry season, the beach is often rather unpleasant from about November through March when high waves assault the shore, and the sand becomes littered with flotsam of every description.

Fishing is the principal activity all along the bay, not only in Jimbaran itself, but also in the villages of Kedonganan and Kelan to the north. Kedonganan's catch always surpasses that of Jimbaran. The Kedonganan fishermen who are mostly Javanese use large, motorized prahu made in Madura to catch enormous quantities of sardines with huge purse seines. They depart in the late afternoon and return just after dawn to sell their catch to wholesalers waiting by the shore with trucks full of ice.

An early morning visit to witness the arrival of the fishing fleet at Kedonganan is a heady experience. Head north from Jimbaran towards the airport and take the first paved road to your left (west) just beyond Jimbaran village's northern boundary. Bear in mind, however, that fishing comes almost to a halt during the rainy season.

In contrast to those in Kedonganan, almost all fishermen in Jimbaran are local Balinese who use jukung (small outrigger boats) and fish with gill nets or large round cast nets. 'Me gill nets are set out in the bay in the late afternoon, and the catch is collected early the next morning. During the fishing season there is lots of interesting activity just after sunrise, well worth waking early for. To get to the hub of the activity, follow the unpaved road that leads to the beach from Jimbaran's main crossroads, past Pura Ulun Siwi.

Jimbaran's market is located on the northeast corner of the main crossroads in the village, just across the street from Pura Ulun Siwi. It is the principal trading center for most of the Bukit, as well as for the villages that lie to the north, between Jimbaran and Kuta. There are no crafts sold specifically for tourists, but there is a considerable variety of local products, including baskets and mats produced by the weavers of villages such as Ungasan and Pecatu. There is no special market day. Activity is greatest early in the morning and almost ceases by noon.

Lesser-known temples
Jimbaran has the usual three village temples, the Pura Dalem (called Pura Kahyangan locally), Pura Puseh and Pura Desa. The latter two are combined into one enclosure in Jimbaran, as occurs in many villages. These tend to be overlooked in favor of the more spectacular and better-known Pura Ulun Siwi (alternatively Pura Ulun Swi). But each is interesting in its own right.

Pura Kahyangan lies just to the west of the cemetery, north of the access road to Hotel Puri Bali. The Pura Puseh/Desa is about 50 in northeast of the market. It is interesting to note that the odalan or anniversary ceremonies of these three temples, and of Pura Ulun Siwi, all occur within four days of each other, commencing on the third day after Galungan (which is the biggest holy day in the traditional Balinese calendar). Jimbaran becomes a beehive of ritual activity at this time of year.

One of the most important ceremonies in Jimbaran is the exorcist Barong procession The Barong is a mythical beast who acts as protector of the village and its people, represented by a mask and costume which is paraded through the area at periodic intervals. Jimbaran's inhabitants spare expense to support the Barong, making offering to, to praying, and performing the ritual. Appearances of the Barong in the main street of Jimbaran between Pura Ulun Siwi and the market are always accompanied by the evil witch Rangda and her two cohorts, and by a retinue of about a dozen other dancers. Trance plays an important part in a Barong performance, and the actions of the trance dancers who try to stab Rangda are bizarre and unforgettable.

Pura Ulun Siwi
Pura Ulun Siwi (or Ulun Swi) is Jimbaran's best-known "sight" - for the Balinesee as well as for tourists. This large temple lies at the northwestern corner of the principal crossroads, across the street from the market. It is unusual for several reasons. Firstly it faces east, rather than south. During prayers, the worshippers face west, rather than to the north, to Gunung Agung, as is the usual practice. This is attributed to the fact that the temple, once a primitive shrine, became a Hindu13, Balinese temple fairly early, in the 11th century. At this time the Javanese holy man who founded the temple, Mpu Kuturan, still followed the custom of his native Java in orientating his temples toward holy Mt. Semeru, in East Java. It was only much later that Gunung Agung became the focus of Balinese Hinduism.

The temple has only two courtyards, instead of the usual three. The spacious interior courtyard measures 66 x 30 meters and is dominated by an enormous eleven-tiered meru tower that is more massive than artistic. The temple has been periodically renovated, but remains simple and rustic, lacking the ornate paras stone carvings that characterize the temples of Gianyar.

The principal gate, a kori agung with wings, is very similar in construction to that of Pura Uluwatu on the Bukit, except that it is made of brick instead of coral stone. There is a close connection between these two temples, and it is said that one should pray at Pura Ulun Siwi before proceeding to Pura Uuwatu.

Ulun Siwi is unusual in yet another way. It is the principal temple in Bali dedicated to the welfare of both wet and dry rice fields, and the spirits, which live in the temple, are thought to control the mice and insects such as grasshoppers that periodically infest the fields. Farmers and farming groups regularly come to Pura Uluwatu to get water, which they then take back home and sprinkle on their fields either to protect them from these pests or to rid them of those already present.

South to Uluwatu
South of Jimbaran, the road climbs steeply up several switchbacks onto Bukit Badung Plateau, offering dramatic panoramas back up the beach to the rice lands and the volcanoes on a clear day.

All around the southern and western edges of the plateau, limestone cliffs tower above pounding surf 70 meters (250 feet) below. This is where Bali's best surfing is found - particularly famous are the waves at Suluban, Labuhan Sait and Bingin.

The Bukit's most famous landmark is Pura Luhur Uluwatu, an exquisite monument situated on a headland at the westernmost tip of the peninsula. The carvings, which decorate the temple, are very well preserved in comparison to many of Bali's temples, due to the extremely hard, dark gray coral stone used in its construction.

Uluwatu was reputedly built by the architect-priest Mpu Kuturan around the 11th century as one of the six major sad kahyangan territorial temples of the island. The reformer priest, Pedanda Wawu Rauh, rebuilt it in its present state in the 16th century. He is said to have attained his moksa (release from earthly desires) here. The temple is home to a small colony of monkeys who have caused some damage to the temple over the years, but still retain their status as sitting tenants.

The temple's structure follows the tripartite pattern of godly, human and demonic courtyards. The outermost entrance is a candi bentar split gate shaped as a set of curved Garuda wings, an unusual feature as they are usually left smooth. Inside the temple, a second gate is capped by a monstrous Kala head guardian figure. At the foot of the gate, right and left, are two Ganesha "elephant god" statues.

The temple underwent renovations in the late 19th century, in 1949, and more recently in the 1980s, and some parts are actually as new as they look. Despite the temple's mixture of old and new it is a breathtakingly beautiful spot, especially when the sun begins to set.

A Well- Manicured Paradise

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Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa are Bali's modern tourist resorts - a government-run dreamland of coconut palms, white sand beaches and pristine waters located near the island's southernmost tip. Geologically, the area is quite different from the rest of Bali, and even from the rest of the Bukit peninsula upon which it rests.

Instead of rice fields or limestone cliffs, there is sandy soil reaching down to a long, sandy beach protected by a reef. Coconut trees are everywhere - Nusa Dua was once a huge coconut plantation. The climate here is also drier than the rest of Bali, freshened by a mild ocean breeze.

Genesis of a beach resort
Once upon a time, the Balinese giant and master builder Kebo Iwa decided that the Tanjung Benoa marshes should be transformed into rice fields, so he went to the Bukit and picked up two scoops of earth. While shouldering them along the coast, his pole broke, dropping the earth into the sea. Two islets appeared: the "Nusa Dua."

The marshes were never to become rice fields the bay remained a bay with a long cape, Tanjung Benoa, jutting into it. Nevertheless, Kebo Iwa, who created the area, is now engaged in a new venture - luxury hotel development.

Making Nusa Dua into a tourist paradise was a consciously implemented government policy, designed with the help of the World Bank. Two main concepts underlay the project: to develop an up-market tourist resort, beautiful, secure, easy of access, with the most modern facilities, while keeping the disruptive impact on the local environment as low as possible.

Bualu was chosen both for its scenic location as well as for its relative isolation from densely populated areas. By 1971, the master plan was ready Construction began in 1973. The first hotel, the Bualu Club, was completed in 1979, initially as a training ground for a Tourism and Hotel School (BPLP). Several luxury hotels with over 4,000 rooms have opened since then.

The early days
The project did have its teething pain. Tenants would not leave the land - Balinese custom distinguishes rights over land from rights over trees! And the trees have soul Fishermen would not leave the beach. And then there were all the temples.

These questions were all eventually settled - tenants got land, fishermen take tourists sailing for a fee, and the temple festivals continue.

The entrance to the complex consists of a tall candi bentar split gate. Facing it 200 meters away is a modern-style candi dwara pala pala fountain-gate surmounted by a monstrous kala head. The outer split gate separates while the inner gate unites. The cosmic complementarily of Bali and tourism in a nutshell.

The hotels are landmarks of the new Balinese architecture. The design committee specified that buildings be no higher than the coconut trees and that their layouts be based oil Balinese macro and microcosmic models. Thus, the Club Med has its head in a Padmasana shrine to the northeast and its genitals and bowels in the discotheque (naturally!), with the kitchen to the southwest.

Tanjung Benoa: revamped port
For centuries, the natural means of communication between this area and the rest of Bali was by boat from Tanjung Benoa, as this was easier than the overland route via Jimbaran. Tanjung Benoa, which appears isolated at the tip of the peninsula, was in fact a trading port for Badung and the eastern Bukit, with a world outlook extending right across the archipelago. Its population bears traces of this mercantile past. Chinese have lived here for centuries: a "Ratu Cina" shrine in the local temple of death bears witness to their long presence.

Although most families have moved to Denpasar, they still maintain a Klenteng temple here, where local fishermen now inquire about the secrets of the stars with a Chinese abbot. The village also has a Bugis quarter, with a small mosque.

Bualu village
Compared to Tanjung Benoa, the village of Bualu, where Nusa Dua is situated, was a sleepy village subsisting on copra, fishing and coral collecting. There were two noble houses and no brahmans. As elsewhere in Bali, religion was ever-present.

The area had, and keeps, very special features. Its best-known ritual is an appeasement of the sea, to protect the land from any incursion by the fanged monster lurking beyond the waves - Jero Gede Mecaling harbinger of death and illness. People present him with offerings in his many shrines along the coast.

The region around Buala is also dotted with sea temples, some within the perimeters of the luxury hotels. And pengelem duck sacrifices to the sea are offered under the eyes of passing tourists.

Former Kingdom of Mengwi
The once great realm of Mengwi arose with the weakening of Gelgel in east Bali around 1650. Descendants of a Javanese nobleman' opposed the Gelgel ruler and moved to the village of Kapal around 1700. A certain I Gusti Agung Anom then married the daughter of I Gusti Panji Sakti, the mighty ruler of north Bali. He moved to Blayu, near Mengwi, and soon began to expand his territory.

All rulers of Mengwi became engaged in bitter power struggles, not only with the lords and rulers of neighboring realms, but also with members of their own clan. At this time, access to the north coast (via Marga) and to East Java was of great importance, because these areas lay on the vital shipping routes to the Moluccan spice isles. To have access to the southern sea - as antepode of the north - was also convenient for religious reasons. The ashes of the royal dead could be scattered here and purificatory and agricultural rituals could be held on the beaches.

The first ruler of Mengwi made a pilgrimage to Majapahit, land of the Javanese ancestors and of the sacred Mt Semeru. The second ruler did so as well, accompanied by the king of Klungkung. Mengwi and Klungkung 11 dilled allies from this time onwards, the ruler of Klungkung being called raja while the ruler of Mengwi was his patih (first minister).

In the 18th century, Mengwi expanded to the mountainous north around volcanic Lake Bratan, and to the west and east. Even the southern peninsula came under Mengwi's sway. The rulers mobilized people to construct huge irrigation works and transformed the landscape into a vast rice field.

As the result of a power struggle, a branch of the family based in Munggu reigned sometime after 1740. Cokorda Munggu then founded a new center, Puri Gede, in the village of Mengwi. He also created a large state temple here, Pura Taman Ayun, and a sea temple, Pura Ulun Siwi, far to the south in Jimbaran.

Between 1740 and 1770, Mengwi thus became a replica of the divine Hindu cosmos. The ancestors and gods lived in the north atop Mt Pengelengan, and holy irrigation water descended from Lake Bratan in the rivers Sungi and Petan. In the south, the demonic forces of the sea were venerated at Ulun Siwi, while at the center of this axis in Pura Taman Ayun - the rulers themselves were venerated as gods on earth.

A new power struggle around 1780 greatly weakened Mengwi, resulting in a loss of the western and southern villages. From 1829 onwards, I Gusti Agung Nyoman Mayun tried to expand again into Marga (now Tabanan) and Payangan (now Gianyar). These areas were very important since they had rich coffee plantations. Coffee became an important export in the second half of the 19th century, attracting Chinese merchants, and with them came opium. The new ruler also built new temples and created a new axis in his realm - from Pura Panataran Agung in Tiingan, near the coffee plantations in the northeast, to the coastal temple in Seseh in the southwest.

When in 1872 the third powerful ruler of Mengwi, I Gusti Agung Nyoman Mayun, died, the realm began to decay. There were plagues and crop failures, serious conflicts concerning irrigation systems and dams, and family intrigues. Moreover, Mengwi lost the support of Klungkung. In 1891 first Klungkung and then Badung, joined after a while by Tabanan and Bangli, defeated Mengwi. The profitable coffee enterprises, the opium trade and the rice fields were divided among the conquerors. The realm of Mengwi ceased to exist, though the palaces and temples remained.

The Dutch took control of south Bali after 1906 and the former realm was then divided for administrative purposes between the neighboring districts of Tabanan and Badung. However, the inhabitants still feel themselves to be "people from the realm of Mengwi."

The Realm of Royal Architects

The rulers of Mengwi were famous for the temples they built. The oldest of these is Pura Sada, a few hundred meters south of the main road in Kapal, about 15 km to the northwest of Denpasar. The name sada may derive from the Old Javanese and Sanskrit term prasada, meaning a tower temple. There is indeed a huge shrine in the shape of a tiered tower in the inner court. The local inhabitants call this temple a candi, meaning a funerary monument for a deceased king.

According to the chronicles of the rulers of Mengwi, the son of the first Cokorda or Lord of Mengwi, I Gusti Agung Panji, received a shrine in this temple after his death around 1710. The divinity of the temple is Bhatara Jayengrat, the Divine World Conqueror.

At present the complex is venerated and maintained by the people of Kapal, irrespective of their caste or kin group. It was severely damaged during the earthquake of 1917 and was restored by the Archaeological Survey in 1948-49. The leader of the team, Balinese craftsmen was I Made Nama, and it is said that the construction of the tall was quite a challenge for him and his men.

The forecourt of the temple is large and spacious. A big tree grows at the center. The temple complex is surrounded by a wall of red brick constructed in the traditional way, without mortar. By rubbing one stone against the other, a fine powder crumbles from surface layers. When water is added to it the stones can be simply stuck together.

A split gateway on the west side leads to the central courtyard. A second, closed gate way with a three-tiered roof on the west give way to the inner court, in which 16 shrines are to be seen. Right in front of the gateway is the prasada and behind it a square pedestal with 54 little stone seats. These are shrine for the satya, the servants, and facing them one shrine together in the south are the three mekel satya, their leaders.

The following story is connected with them: A long time ago, when a king Majapahit in East Java died, he was cremated and his ashes were carried by 54 men towards the sea in a bamboo tower (bukur) with a tiered roof. The tower was placed on a little boat (kapal), on which were seated 54 followers (patih) of the deceased three leaders (mekel). The boat however was stranded at sea.

This episode has been transposed to the temple and is symbolized in the stone tower at the center and in the pedestals with the 45 and 3 stone seats. The tower is, in fact a replica of the bamboo cremation structure. Close to it, to the south, is a shrine with 11-tiered roof, called "little garden with pond" (Taman). During the temple festival Tumpek Kuningan, its "water" is used to bathe the god of the tower. This is in fact very convenient, because then a long tour outside the temple to a bathing place is not necessary.

Replicas of mountains which are important for south Bali (Agung, Batur and Batukaru) are found in north shrines in the no and the east of the inner court. They are always provided with tiered roofs, Called meru. The number of tiers should be odd, the highest being able for the most important peak. In this case it represents Mt Agung.

The main purpose of placing a replica of a mountain or lake in a temple is to save the time and effort needed to actually visit them. This is necessary if one needs holy water for a ritual.

There are more shrines in the north and the east devoted to various divine kings, including a padmasana seat in which the god Siwa in his manifestation as Surya is venerated, and a little building in which a barong mask is kept.

Kapal to Mengwi

Along the northern side of the main road in Kapal, a grand pura puseh temple has relief panels on its outer wall depicting scenes from the Ramayana. The eyes of the monkeys and the demons are painted white, which was the fashion in the '20s and '30s in south Bali. The long bale gede pavilion, which is clearly visible from the road, was provided with fresh paint early in 1989. Shiny black-and-white and red-and-white checkered patterns dominate.

The cattle market in Bringkit just past Kapal is held once every three days. Here, herds of buffaloes and cows crowd the road and often block traffic along the DenpasarTabanan thoroughfare. To watch the traders bargaining over these beasts is as exciting as watching a cockfight in the old days.

The village of Mengwi, the former political center of the region, is reached via a turnoff to the right just past Bringkit. Traveling north for 3 km, one soon enters the town, and just west of the main crossroads, the palace of the present Cokorda is to be found. It is surrounded by grey walls and in the northern corner stands a large, square bell tower with lovely carvings.

A hundred meters east of the crossroads lay the fabulous state temple of Mengwi, Pura Taman Ayun. Taman Ayun refers to a huge open space (ayun) representing a garden (Taman). It was constructed under Cokorda Munggu around 1740, and was restored and enlarged in 1937. It "floats," as it were, surrounded by a moat with lotuses. Ibis represents the heavens, where divine nymphs and ancestors relax in floating pavilions and enjoy themselves. At present, one may row round the sanctuary in a little rented boat.

The temple consists of a forecourt, a central court and a spacious inner court. A tall stone gateway with wooden doors leads into it. The inner court has rows of shrines on the north and east sides and carved stone pedestals with wooden pavilions the west. The total number of structures is 27. Apart from the divine ancestor of the dynasty the mountains so important to Mengwi (Agung, Batur, Batukaru, and Pengelengan) are represented here by means of shrines with slender tiered roofs in the north and the east. Replicas of temples founded by the rulers of Mengwi atop these mountains (Pura Pucak) and bordering the sea (Pura Ulun Siwi), and of state temples built by former Mengwi rulers (Pura Sada, Pura Bekak) are to be found as well.

The basement of a pavilion in which the Brahman priest prepares holy water during temple festivals (bale pawedan) is provided with a relief series on Arjuna, who meditated to receive a grant from the gods and was tested by means of nymphs who tried to seduce him. A recent addition is a colorful painting on the wooden wall of the bale murda pavilion. The barong from Seseh is displayed during its visit to the temple a month after Galungan. It represents Siwa's demonic son Kala, who after having stolen the magic elixir (amreta), is chased by the host of gods.

Folktales in stone

Continuing the east and then north from Mengwi towards to the Monkey Forest at Sangeh, passes along the quiet beautiful road through the villages of Sibanggede, Abiansemal, Mambal and Blahkiuh. This area is famous for its stone sculptors, and all the temples, kulkul towers and palaces along this road provided with beautiful sculptures, relief and stone ornaments.

Many temples in this area were restored, or renewed after the earthquake of 1917, and then during the 1930s there was another restoration boom. Relief's with scenes from the Tantri stories were favorite subjects. In these stories, which are of Indian origin, animals teach people how to live and about the good and evil they can expect from life, depending on their behavior.

There is the story, for example, of the lion king of the forest and the bull, the ruler to be. They either have a peaceful conversation, face to face, or are engaged in a fight to the death. Then there are the two thoughtful geese holding a pole with a tortoise while flying away to a safe place, and the two jackals devouring an absent-minded tortoise who fell off the pole.

There is the story of the wicked heron Baka, surrounded by the bones of fish he promised to bring to a better lake, but then ate instead. Baka wanted to take a crab also, but this clever creature discovered the wickedness of the heron and pinched its neck off. And there is the story of the grateful crab and the Brahman who rescued it. Later the crab rescued the Brahman from a wicked bird and snake by pinching their necks off

A few kms before Sangeh one passes Blahkiuh. This village possesses a huge and holy waringin tree on the eastern side of the crossroads. In 1989 the temporary stalls of the market at the foot of this tree were replaced by a concrete structure. In order to do this, part of the aerial roots had to be cut, which could only be done by a specialist with enough magic power to protect him self.

The monkey forest temple

In Sangeh, 15 km beyond Mengwi, lays the famous Monkey Forest and Pura Bukit Sari temple. This small temple may date from the founding of Mengwi, although it is also said that it existed in the 17th century. There is an old statue here of Garuda, the mount of Wisnu, who is also associated with the search for the magic elixir (amreta) to release his parents from their torments in hell.

The temple is surrounded by tall nutmeg trees with grayish-white trunks. These are very rare in Bali, and it is clear that they have been planted deliberately. Many monkeys roam about in the forest. They are quite a nuisance, for they attack visitors and steal their spectacles, jewellery, watches and handbags, and make life impossible for souvenir vendors in little shops closely. It is said that some of Hanoman's monkey troops fell down with the top of Mt Mahameru on Sangeh when he tried to crush the evil demon king Rawana with it.

Far to the north of here on the slopes of Mt Pengelengan, to the east of Lake Bratan, is the Pura Pucak or sacred "Peak Temple" of Mengwi. It has various names - Pura Pucak Tiingan, Pura Panataran Agung - and marked the northernmost point of the realm under I Gusti Agung Nyoman Mayun in the first half of the 19th century.







Getting to and Around Bali




'Beach Blanket Babylon' of the East

Rice, slaves and booty

A tourist caravansary

Kuta's reincarnation

Surf-Wracked Shores of Southern Bali

A glimpse of the past


Lesser-known temples

Pura Ulun Siwi

South to Uluwatu

A Well- Manicured Paradise

Genesis of a beach resort

The early days

Tanjung Benoa: revamped port

Bualu village

Former Kingdom of Mengwi

The Realm of Royal Architects

Kapal to Mengwi

Folktales in stone

The monkey forest temple

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