It appears on many advertisements and campaigns, from tour companies to the national airline. It is comfortably located in central Bali, off the main road connecting Bali’s capital to the western port of Gilimanuk, and easily accessed by anyone who’s visiting Ubud. Yet, Taman Ayun remains a largely tranquil place that draws a moderate number of people to come and see its iconic meru (multi-tiered sanctums).
Taman Ayun, built in 1634, was constructed as the mother temple for the Kingdom of Mengwi, one of many small kingdoms on the island. Historical accounts on the temple, however, are limited and most stories on Taman Ayun are based on the Babad Mengwi (Mengwi Chronicles) and folklores.
By the late 19th century the kingdom fell and its area was divided and controlled by its neighboring, more powerful kingdoms. Mengwi’s most notable heritage, the temple of Taman Ayun itself, was later damaged by the 6.6 earthquake that struck Bali in 1917, the same earthquake that closed off the purported underground tunnel between Besakih and Goa Lawah in eastern part of the island.
Major restoration work was conducted in 1937, and further in 1949 which focused on the temple’s kori agung (mountain-shaped gateway) and candi bentar (split gate). Its multiple meru have been restored to its former elegance with the tallest as high as eleven tiers.
More than 2,000 Hindu temples were destroyed by the 1917 earthquake on the island, but Taman Ayun sees relatively better days today. Despite its central location, tourism has not overrun the temple as it has on Pura Tanah Lot and Ulun Danu, chiefly during peak tourist season. That and Taman Ayun’s location at one of the most prolific regions found on the island have assured UNESCO to grant the coveted World Heritage Status to Bali’s cultural landscape in 2012.