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West Lombok’s Balinese Heritage Print E-mail
BaliWest Lombok’s Balinese HeritageText by Madé WijayaIn the 16th Century the great Javanese pilgrim priest, Dang Hyang Dwijendra, architect of Hindu-Bali as it remains today, travelled to West Lombok. There he established a new religious order amongst the Javanese Mahayana Buddhists who had settled in the fertile hills of Gumi Seleparang, the ancient Javanese name for her colony.

In Bali, Dwijendra (Nirartha) had left a legacy of temples – Pura Tanah Lot, Pura Sakenan, Pura Peti Tenget, to name but a few – which remain today as amongst the most revered and beautiful in the land. Dwijendra was renowned for his appreciation of grand temple architecture, combined with a showman's sense for site: this way he appealed to the art-loving people of Bali and Lombok, who quickly adopted his new religious disciplines.

In the water-rich hills of West Lombok, Dwijendra founded the Pura Suranadi temple whose walls enclosed five separate natural springs, symbolic of the five Panca Tirta waters of Hindu cosmology. From there the priest preached his religion of the holy waters, Agama Tirta – the name still used by many of the Lombok Hindu community in referring to their water-worshipping religious lifestyle. It is most probable that Dwijendra encouraged the 16th century Raja of Karangasem to annex the western quarter of Lombok so as to provide the new community with the essential Ksatria (princely) element for their Hindu-Balinese colony.  It was not until the 17th century, however, that the then Raja sent his younger brother across the Lombok Strait to colonize the fertile hills and vales of this sparsely-populated land. Since medieval times the royal family of Karangasem, Bali's eastern most regency, have been an artistic clan – building palaces and water gardens that remain today as the pride and joy of all Hindu Indonesia. Some Balinese settlements already existed in West Lombok – in particular a group of fishermen near present Senggigi Beach, who were descended from a village on Nusa Penida island – but West Lombok's era as a Balinese vassal state only really started with the arrival of the Karangasem prince, his small army, and a large party of immigrants representing over 30 east Balinese villages. Keen to exercise his artistic bent on relatively 'virgin' land, the new Raja soon established an architectural style and court pageantry similar to that of Karangasem, Bali's most exotic kingdom. Already existing temples were given Karangasem 'facelifts.' The Raja, Anak Agung Made Gede Ngurah, built a new capitol at Cakra Negara. In 1810, a mighty state temple, the Pura Meru, was built, and, to its north, the Raja built a vast water garden complex, the Taman Mayura, reminiscent of the Taman Kerta Gosa pleasure garden and floating pavilion in the Klungkung Palace in Bali. The garden courts were of a spaciousness one would expect to find in the rambling kraton palaces of Central Java, rather than in the relatively compact, ornate temples and palaces of Bali.

In 1824, the Kingdom of Buleleng, North Bali, conquered East Bali and the Karangasem royal family moved to Lombok where they set up a court in exile with their cousins. The next 50 years, during which the family shuffled back and forth across the strait, was a renaissance period for West Lombok, no doubt due to the presence of two great Raja-architects. The Rajah Lombok of this period, Anak Agung Gede Ngurah Karangasem, desired a summer palace in the cool hilllands above Cakranegara. Influenced by rich Dutch merchants and their tales of the great palaces of Europe, the Rajah set to designing a complex of arbours, imitation lakes, fountain ponds, rotunda and man-made hills topped with temples. The new palace was called Taman Narmada.**Garuda Magazine.

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