Peacefulness by the Water

Asia, Indonesia
The Pool of Statues

The Pool of Statues

A towering water fountain stands amid decorated pools, water flows from one pond to another, carps meander around beautifully-laid stepping stones, all under the beautiful morning sun and skies. As we enter the grounds of the water garden a pool welcomes us, rimmed by intricately sculpted statues of real and mythological beasts, and dotted with beautiful figures from the Hindu epic of Mahabharata. Meanwhile lush forest, rice paddies and springs surround the man-made garden, enveloping it with peace and serenity.

Tirta Gangga, named after tirta – blessed water – and Gangga – from the holy River Ganges in India, was another brainchild of I Gusti Gede Bagus Jelantik (Anak Agung Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem) who was also responsible for the construction of Taman Ujung Sukasada. Exploiting the abundance of water and picturesque landscape near the village of Ababi in eastern Bali, the last king of Karangasem who was fond of water gardens commissioned the work for Tirta Gangga in 1937. Not only supervising it, the king himself purportedly took part in the hard work, standing in mud digging out earth. It took eleven years for the new water garden to be completed.

Flowing water’s soothing sound has always been believed to help create a state of peaceful mind and body. This was probably the very same reason for the king to build multi-layered fountains in Tirta Gangga, apart from his penchant for the beauty of nature. Its centerpiece is Nawa Sanga, an 11-storeyed fountain tower at the heart of the water garden’s central pond, encircled by eight statues guarding the eight directions. At its bottom water flows down to a nearby pool often used today by children to swim and play.

Faced by the same wrath of Mount Agung that destroyed Taman Ujung in 1963, Tirta Gangga was then rebuilt many years later, even though the end result does not quite resemble its past look. New additions to the water garden include the Naga (dragon) bridge and barong statues, still adhering to Balinese and Hindu cultures and values nonetheless.

Today Tirta Gangga remains a peaceful sanctuary, not for Balinese royal families but rather for travelers who seek Bali’s more quiet setting, far from the center of mass tourism industry engulfing the southern part of the island. The locals, however, see Tirta Gangga in a different way. It provides the water they need for religious ceremonies, crucial to keep the universe in balance according to Balinese Hindu tradition, and keep their village safe from the exalted and unpredictable Mount Agung.


A Stone Buffalo


Multi-layered Fountains


A Character from Mahabharata


A Patterned Stepping Stone


A Carp Swimming around the Stepping Stones


Statues with Detailed Carvings


Water-Spilling Garuda


Nawa Sanga, the Main Fountain


Water in Abundance


The Naga (Dragon) Bridge


Twin Nagas


Reflections of Tranquility


A Barong Statue


A Place to Find Peace

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Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

38 thoughts on “Peacefulness by the Water”

  1. Hi Bama, it made me feel calm just looking at these photos. This multilayered fountain certainly is soothing to the soul. I amazed to imagine that the king himself digging through the mud to build this. He must be a great proponent of peace! He certainly left a beautiful and peaceful legacy. The more you post about Bali the more I’m eager to get there soon.


    • Hi Marisol. I try to write as many stories of Bali’s less-known places as possible, because some people won’t visit the island now just because they’ve been hearing about the touristy southern Bali where most people go. I’m glad the last king of Karangasem in eastern Bali was an art connoisseur – sort of – so he used his money well to build those water gardens that we can enjoy today.


    • Thanks, Sue. When you go to Bali, stay in the eastern part of the island then from there you can go cycling to many less-touristed places like this one.


  2. Seeing these photos brings me right back there… to visit both Taman Ujung and Tirta Gangga in the same morning was such a treat! You sure have a keen eye for detail Bama, somehow I managed to miss the Garuda sculpture entirely. 🙂


    • I’m glad Bli Komang arrived very early that morning, ‘forcing’ us to get ready and have our breakfast really fast. Both are now some of my favorite places to go in Bali. I can’t wait to explore more of the island this June! Haha, you know how I love taking photos of sculptures, especially when they are so intricate. 🙂


  3. There may be something to this idea that the fountains convey a sense of well being. The positive ions are released when the water splashes out. What an imagination with the statues. Their beauty is inspiring.


    • There is something about water that soothes us. That’s why the Japanese created raked sand in Zen gardens which supposedly resemble the flow of water in a river. I guess the last king of Karangasem built those water gardens to make him and his family more relaxed.


    • Thank you, Teguh. Iya, tempatnya enak untuk sekedar duduk-duduk santai. Jauh dari keramaian dan dikelilingi kolam-kolam yang bikin pikiran tenang.


    • I’m glad you enjoyed this post, Martina. And I never thought that the words could bring calmness just like the place itself. 🙂 Thank you.


    • Thanks Sindhu. It’s hard not to be inspired by such a serene place. I’m glad you enjoyed the story and photos.


  4. i always thought Bali was all about beaches..Thanks for such an informative post… Theres so much to see in BAli .


    • Indeed, Bali has so many to offer. Its cultural sights are unrivaled and it’s actually one of two main reasons why I never get bored of the island.


  5. Wow.. what a magnificent place. It seems each object represents a symbol and has a very deep philosophical meaning, making it all together in harmony. Outstanding, Bama.


    • That is exactly what makes Bali such an interesting place. Symbolism is ubiquitous, culture is truly the way of living, and harmony is the tenet people hold on to. Thank you!


    • Thanks Gregory and Maria! I’m going back to Bali this June and hopefully the weather will be nice again. 🙂


  6. Pingback: Tirta Gangga: Bali’s Water Palace | backpackerlee

  7. amazing pictures, Im taking time out from travel atm, just writing up on where I have been so far. But your blog inspires me to keep writing and keep wanting to get the most out of life


    • Thanks! Always make sure that you give time to yourself to do things you really love and enjoy, no matter how busy you might be. Keep writing and traveling!


    • Oh yes, me too. I took so many photos of dragons, also called naga, in my early years of traveling.
      Tirta Gangga has some of the most unique, at times comical, decorative statues in eastern Bali. 🙂


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