Taman Kertha Gosa

high-definition creative commons photographs from Taman Kertha Gosa, Semarapura, Bali together with further information.


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The Klungkung Palace

The palace was built by Dewa Agung (King) Gusti Sideman when he moved his capital of Klungkung to Semarapura. It conatins two old pavillions, the original south gate, and it now has a number of galleries in a museum of variable quality (the last is not shown here).

The Kertha Gosa is situated in the north-east segment of the park, which is the most auspicious area as it is closest to Mount Agung. In the 18th and 19th centuries the pavilion served as the King’s Hall of Justice. The ceremonial chairs and table where the King and his minsters would sit and cases were heard and decided is still within the pavilion.

When exactly the original paintings were made at the pavilion is unknown, but the present paintings were prepared in 1960 by Pan Semaris, whose father, Pan Seken, had done the previous restoration in 1930. It appears that both pavillions were restored at the same time.

The style is that named after the village Kamasan, which lies 3km south of Semarapura, which is still home to many great masters of this particular traditional style of painting. It is also known as Wayang style, because of the similarity between the style and the shadow-puppet (wayang) characters.

The Story of Bhima’s visit to Heaven

The King of the Pandawas was named Pandu and he had two wives, Kunti and Madri, but having accidentally killed a priest and his wife while they were lovemaking he was cursed that if he made love himself again he would also die.

However, his two wives, through a blessing managed to have children through the gods. The second child was born of Bayu, the God of Wind, and was called Bhīma. Later the good king overcome by desire for Madri made love to her and died, and Madri killed herself in remorse.

One day Kunti had a dream by which she came to know that Pandu and Madri had rearisen in hell, and after telling this to her family, Bhima declared he would go and save them. The panels show his journey first through hell and the torments there; and then to heaven where he got the elixer of life which enabled his parents to be reborn in heaven.

The ceiling has 267 panels, of which only 30 are shown in detail here. I benefitted greatly from Idanna Pucci’s book on the subject called Bhima swarga: the Balinese journey of the soul, with the help of which I was able to identify the panels.

Bale Kambang (Floating Pavillion)

The Bale Kambang (Floating Pavillion), which is also in the park, has another set of paintings made at the same time and by the same painter, showing the story of Bodhisattva Sutasoma.

The Story of Sutasoma and Purusada

These panels tell the story of King Puruṣāda, whose foot was pierced by a stone, and how he promised to sacrifice a hundred kings to the demon Kālawesma should he made well again. After capturing 100 kings Kālawesma then said he had no use for them and he just wanted King of Hastina, Sutasoma. When King Puruṣāda besieged Hastina, Sutasoma’s generals marched out and a great war ensued. No matter how much they tried to kill Sutasoma he always overcame his enemy.

They fought to a standstill, then Sutasoma asked Puruṣāda to take him to Kālawesma. Once arrived he asked for pardon for the 100 kings first, and instructed them in Dharma. Kālawesma tried to kill Sutasoma, but failed, so great was his virtue, and eventually he too asked for instruction in Dharma. The lord of Jinas brought the fallen armies back to life, and they all paid respects to Sutasoma.

The Udayana University Press published a book, Lukisan Sutasoma in 2012, which was a great help in identifying the stories. I also familiarised myself with the Balinese retelling of the story in Ensink’s translation of the Sutasoma episode in his book On the Old-Javanese Cantakaparwa and Its Tale of Sutasoma. Only the last 30 panels out of 137 panels are shown here.

Royal Gate of Klungkung

This is the southern gate to the Palace, beyond which you were in the Palace. It bears the date Saka Year 1622, which is our calendar was the year 1700. The other gates were destroyed by the Dutch when they raised the Palace to the ground following the Puputan (suicide rather than surrender) of the Royal Family in 1908.

Admiring Kertha Gosa

Admiring Kertha Gosa, Photograph by Vonny Salazar



Photographs by Anandajoti Bhikkhu

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