Taman Ayun Temple is a landmark in the village of Mengwi, Badung regency, located 17km northwest of Denpasar. This temple complex boasts magnificent traditional architectural features throughout its courtyards and enclosures as well as expansive garden landscapes comprised of lotus and fish ponds.
The temple was built circa 1634 by the then ruler of the Mengwi kingdom, Tjokerda Sakti Blambangan, with Chinese architectural inspirations, and underwent a significant restoration project in 1937. Towering tiers from the temple shrines make up most of the profile of Taman Ayun and are a gesture of the people of Mengwi’s reverence to their deified noble ancestors, for the temple complex is considered the ‘mother temple’ of Mengwi.
The Taman Ayun Temple was to serve as a main site of worship among the Mengwi people who need not travel too far to the main large temples, the likes of the Besakih ‘mother temple’ in Karangasem, Batukaru Temple in Tabanan, or Batur Temple in Kintamani. It also served as a unifying symbol among the Mengwi royalty and the people.
The Taman Ayun Temple complex comprises four different divisions, one ranking higher than the other. The first is referred to as the ‘Jaba’ or outer division, accessible only through a single entrance and walkway over the ponds. Inside, near the entrance is a small guardian shrine and on the right is a large ‘wantilan’ hall where the communal gatherings take place. A tall fountain with spouts jutting up and out to the cardinal directions can be seen in this area.
Onto the next court, a small temple compound by the name of Pura Luhuring Purnama can be seen. The second and third terraces are slightly higher than the first. To enter, visitors must go through a second gate where a shelter called Bale Pengubengan greets them with ornamental features that depict the nine Hindu gods that guard the nine points of the compass, referred to as Dewata Nawa Sanga. East of this court is a small temple called Pura Dalem Bekak, while in its western corner is an eight metre-high wooden bell tower known to locals as ‘Bale Kulkul’. A climb up will reveal two hanging rectangular wooden bells, plus a high and spectacular view of the whole complex.
The fourth and last court is considered the most sacred, thus ranks the highest. It is referred to as the Utama Mandala. The intricately ornate central gate is open only during ceremonies, as the entryway for consecrated heirlooms and other ceremonial paraphernalia. Another gate at its east is for daily access. Several tiers of different outlines and sizes rise up into the temple’s skyline.
The temple’s three grounds denote the three cosmological levels known to Balinese Hinduism, namely the world of man, the realm of gods and deities, and the topmost divine level. As recounted in the ancient texts of the ‘Adhiparwa’, the whole complex of the Taman Ayun Temple represents Mount Mahameru in the so-called ‘churning of the sea of milk’ or the cosmic formation of the world.
The name ‘Taman Ayun’ translates as ‘beautiful garden’. The vast encircling pools were once royal recreational places for the palace maids who would sail small canoes. Now the pools and ponds are fenced and visitors are denied entrance.