Taman Sari Ė The Water Castle

When a traveller is browsing in kraton, then she/he should not miss Tamansari, less than 1 Km west of Kraton. Everybody in this town knows where Tamansari is. It is just behind the Pasar Ngasem Bird Market. Although small and simple, this market sells several kinds of cute birds and pets, such as the favorite turtle-doves (perkutut), the more expensive yellow crowned bulbul (cucakrawa), poksays and other colorful birds such as canaries, parakeets, parrots, starlings etc.

Batik PrintingTraditional products and household earthenwares are also sold here. In this area Batik Painters do not only sell their products, but some also give instruction in this art. Art shops and galleries of medium quality can be found allong the alleys. Bargaining is interesting!

There are two ways to visit this place. The one is thru Pasar Ngasem Bird Market, just go inside and find an alley called KP III, turn left, walk about 200 m, there is the Pulo Kenongo rest house complex. The other is thru jalan Taman Sari, from Pasar Ngasem, go by becak to South Square, around 0,5 Km turn right, there is the East-main Entrance, leads the way to the Royal Swimming pools.

What is Taman Sari?

East Enter GateIt was build by Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono I in 1758 as a rest house and pleasure park for the Royal family. Tamansari means beautiful garden. It was badly damaged due to an eartquake 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.

There were royal soldiers, from the units of Suronoto, Bugisan and royal body guard, placed in the north side of the palace. They were sentry-boxes in front of almost every strategic gate.

The underground passages, could be used as a security system by flooding them with water. Probably, the Sultan was a warrior which explains high security precautions. In his days, the Sultan came here from Kraton by walking thru a special passage or by canoe.

"Umbul Binangun" swimming pool complex

A traveller shall enter thru East main Gate from Jl. Taman Sari. An entry ticket of Rp. 500 per person (US $ 1= Rp. 13.500) must be purchased in the right side of the gate. Passing the gate, there is a court yard for "gladen" classical dance training for ladies. After that, here is the swimming pool where only the Sultanís women can frolic. In this complex only women employees serve the Sultan.


A three story tower, with Sultan private bedroom stands south of the swimming pool. " No traveller is allowed to take picture of Sultan private bedroom" says a traditional rule. The Sultanís private bath-pool is behind the tower. It is said that he never took a bath, alone. It should be a royal glamorous life!.

Kanjeng Ratu Kidul's roomSomewhere in the south part of the palace, there is a special place, believed to be Sultanís meeting place, from time to time with the Goddess of the South Sea, Kanjeng Ratu Kidul.

Some says that Taman Sari just looks like the palace of the South Sea Goddess. She keeps her promise to Sultanís ancestor, Panembahan Senopati, to guard Mataram Kingdom, the Sultans and their family and people from evil calamity.

"Pulo Kenongo Ė Complex"

A traveller should come here thru Pasar Ngasem. When it was still intact, Pulo Kenongo, the Palace of Kenongo Island was found in the middle of Segaran Taman Sari. (Taman Sari artificial lake, which was connected by water canal to the other artificial lake nearby the kraton) Kenongo is a name of flower trees planted in the front yard, where the fragrance spread out in the palace.

Under Ground PassagewayJust like in a palace, there were living rooms, bedrooms, rooms to make Batik, a hall to perform classical sacred dance of Bedoyo and Srimpi, gates and sentry-boxes guarded strongly by the palace soldiers.

Sumur GumulingThe roof top was used to enjoy the beautiful view of the city and mount Merapi in the North. There is also the under ground passageway, which lead to Sumur Gumuling, a two story circular well mosque. Nearby, there is a place by the name of Pulo Cemethi, it was a place for meditation. The water used to purify, was from Rain water.

After the catastropical destruction in 1867, Tamansari had been abandoned. The kraton employees and their family were allowed to use the plot of land available. No wonder if in to-dayís Tamansari complex, batik painting and other craft home industry are flourishing, as most of the people living here are direct descendants from kraton artists.

(Suryo S. Negoro)

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