The sound of splash water, the beauty of its ancient architecture, and its wonderful view make Taman Sari becomes very enchanting. Its alleys and buildings make Taman Sari has many secrets to reveal.
Prambanan and Borobudur are the names that always been mentioned with Yogyakarta. However, both of the temples are actually not located in the province of Yogya, but in Central Jawa. Our second day in Yogya, after spending 3 hours visiting Candi Borobudur in the morning, we went back to Yogya to visit two of the most historical sites within the city- Kraton Palace (or Karaton Ngayogyakarta by the locals) and Taman Sari Water Castle.
Kraton Palace was built in 1790. It is the symbol of the king and the sultanate of Yogyakarta, successor of Sultanate of Mataram. The palace was built facing Mount Merapi, with Tugu Monument stands in line between them. We read in an article, saying that the monument was served as a mark for the sultan to observe the condition of the volcano in early days. After the independence of Indonesia in 1949, Yogyakarta has been given the autonomous in administration under the king and formed the Special Region of Yogyakarta. The Palace is located at the southern end of Malioboro Road, and it is quite easy to be reached (20 minutes by foot from Dagen Road).
Taman Sari (or Tamansari) Water Castle is situated inside Kraton compound. The castle used to be the royal garden of the sultanate. Built around 1750, the castle is believed to be an area for the former kings to rest, meditate, defence, and even to escape from the enemies. The castle is believed to be a place for the kings to accommodate their concubines.
Taman Sari consists of four different area – the first in the middle is a large bathing area with 2 pools, to the west is an artificial lake (the water has been drained out), smaller bathing pool for the sultan at the east, and a compound for royal function at the south (just after the entrance).
According to our tour guide, most of the area of Taman Sari have been occupied by the village folks, whom many of them are working for Kraton. However, in future, all the village folks will have to move out of the area in order to give Taman Sari a place on the list of World Heritage Site.
There is a structure lay in ruin on the top of a hill (upper and lower left), which used to be the place where the concubines live. Looking down the hill, we can see a row of white structures lined in the middle of village cottages (upper right). The white structures serve as the ventilating holes for the underground tunnels. The water used to cover until just a few inches below the windows of the white buildings. The underground section, you will reach the dock where the sultans used to embark and sail to the hillside far behind (showed by the green arrow).
Tamansari means beautiful garden. It was badly damaged due to an earthquake in 1867. Some parts of it, for instance “Umbul Binangun” bathing pools have been restored.
Upon seeing the ruins of Taman Sari, some cultural experts say that it has multi purposed functions, such as:
1. A Rest house, in the form of water castle with beautiful park. The air is fresh due to:
- Artificial lakes and canals
- Bathing pools
- Large gardens with several kind of varieties of trees
2. A place for sport and entertainment
- Boating and swimming
- Deer hunting
- Classical dance Bedoyo and Srimpi
- Gamelan music
3. A place for meditation
4. An important palace and shelter for the Sultan. It was well protected. It had 2 Bastions with 12 and 6 Cannons.
In the main part of the palace, through the entrance gardens and down the steps beyond a large wall offering privacy, is the pool. The blue waters are still here today and – with the sun shining down into the area – they sparkle. The wind blows ripples across the surface and they softly collide into the gentle fountains poking out from the floor.
It was here the hunted would play, not unwittingly. Young ladies – chosen for their looks, their grace, their artistic talents – would swim in the water and stretch out by its edge. It’s probably not fair to say they would relax, though.
High in the tower at one end of the pool, the hunter would play. It was here that the Sultan would sit, peering out through a barred window down to the pool. He would watch the women and, when the time was right, choose one.
This was a great honour, though. The women were not being chosen for a quick bit of fun. The sultan was looking for wives and, once a lady had been chosen, she would be taken away to be styled, tested and taught – essentially a process for officials to make sure she would be appropriate for the sultan. This was the first step of her introduction in the royal court.
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