The direction “east” is greatly revered by the Balinese, as the realm of the Hindu god Siwa in his manifestations as Surya, the sun god. Balinese myth tells how the gods set towering Mt. Agung in the east and palaced their thrones upon it. Some millennia later, divine providence and a sense for properties led a party of East-Janaese nobles, prietests, architects and craftsmen to establish the sanctuary of Besakih, Where all Balinese castes and creeds coukd worship, high on the slopes of this sacred mountain.
East Bali was also the home of Bali’s most powerful kingdoms. Courts at Gelgel, and later at Klungkung and Karangasem, were places where rajas and noblemen patronized the arts and created traditions of music and dance that flourish today. And ad the only area where the aristocratic high Balinese dialect still survives as the lingua franca, the Golden East is somehow in a class by itselft.
The gramd tour of the eastern realm begins in the palace of Klungkung, leads up to the “mother” temple of Besakih, follows the coastline past the Gowa Lawah (bat cave) to the isolated village of Tenganan and the water palaces of Karangasem, and ends with a breathtaking return drive across the emerald foothills of Mt. Agung. You’ll need at least two days (with an overnight in Candi Dasa) to see everything.
Heaven and Hill in Kelungkung: Comming from Ubud or the south, all roads to Klungkung pass trough Gianyar, the centre for Bali’s famous weaving industry. Many workshops and factories still produce a variety of beautiful hand-woven and handdyed textiles, although the use of machine-spun cotton thread, quick chemical dyes and tinsel foil cannot possibly match the quality of the older cloths, with their hand-spun threads, elaborate vegetable dyes and gold an dsilver ornamentations.
Beside the town square of Gianyar is the royal palace, one of the few that is still inhabited by a royal family. The intricately carved wooden pillars, the stone work and generous proportions of its various courtyards are representative of the style to which all Balinese rulers were once accustomed. The Gianyar amrket has many shops selling traditional gold jewellry, and a food-stall of natinwide acclaim specializing in babi guling gianyar, a local version of roast suckling pig.
The town of Klungkung, 20 kms (12.5 miles) to the east, was once the political centre of Bali. The descendants of the great Hindu-Javanese Majapahit court settled in this area fleeing Java in the 15th century. Their first capital was at Gelgel, 3 kms (1.9 miles) to the south, but in 1710 the palace was moved to Klungkung. the raja of Klungkung was regarded, by virtue of his illustratrious genealogy, as the most senior of all Balinese rulers, and played an influential role in government and the arts.
At the very centre of modern Klungkung sits the 18th century Kerta Gosa hall of justice and the Bale Kambang floating pavilion. The Kerta Gosa is known for its concentric ceiling murals, painted in the traditional wayang style.
The lower panels depict gory scenes of retribution in hell, while higher up, the virtuous are shown reaping their heavenly reward. These murals were once used by judges to influence witnesses and defendants during hearings.
While in Klungkung, visit the central market, where a great variety of baskets and other housewares are sold. Four kms (2.5 miles) to the south, past Gelgel, the villagers of Kamasan produce gold and silver work and wayang-style paintings like those in the Kerta Gosa, illustrations from the Hindu-Javanese classics.
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