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Kerta Gosa Bali: A Historic Justice Court Palace Turned Tourist Attraction

The venerable Kerta Gosa Bali, located within the verdant Klungkung Regency, was once an august palace of judicial proceedings in the bygone kingdom. Nowadays, it stands as a veritable haven of tourism, with one of its most prominent features being the beguiling Taman Gili within the hallowed Kerta Gosa, a monument of cultural heritage in the illustrious Semarapura Klungkung Palace.

Route to Kerta Gosa from Denpasar

Erected circa 1686 by the esteemed Ida I Dewa Agung Jambe, the visionary founder and original occupant of the Klungkung throne, the Kerta Gosa is a grandiose bale or edifice that constitutes an indispensable constituent of the larger Semarapura Palace ensemble. It represents an ideal destination for the discerning individual seeking to savor the grandeur and antiquity of the Klungkung kingdom. In addition to the resplendent Bale Kambang edifice, visitors can behold the astonishingly picturesque beauty of the Gili pool. Within the confines of Bale Kambang, traditional paintings present an intriguing insight into the rich cultural past of the Klungkung kingdom.

The Kerta Gosa building, as evidenced by the numbers above its entrance in the andra angkala year system, dates back to the year 1700 AD. These numbers correspond to the Chakra, Yuyu, and Paksi, having a value of 1661 Saka, which coincides with the reign of King Dewa Agung Jambe.

The fundamental objective behind the construction of Kerta Gosa was to furnish a platform for discussions and deliberations pertaining to matters of security, justice, and prosperity in the Klungkung kingdom. During the colonial era, spanning from 1908 to 1942, it functioned as a court of law. The exquisite furniture in the building, such as the intricately carved chairs and tables, was decorated with glistening gold paint or prada.

For those yearning to explore the multifaceted cultural heritage and historical allure of Bali, a sojourn to the Kerta Gosa is nothing short of indispensable. The palace’s superlative blend of timeless elegance and historical significance promises to enrapture and engross visitors hailing from every corner of the world.

The Kerta Gosa Complex of the Klungkung Kingdom

The Kerta Gosa constitutes an assemblage of structures that comprises a prestigious court hall, inherited from the rich legacy of the Klungkung Kingdom that ruled supreme from 1686 to 1908. During the Dutch colonial period, which spanned from 1908 to 1942, the Kerta Gosa building continued to function in its customary capacity. Within the confines of the Kerta Gosa complex, there are several other structures that serve to complement the overarching architectural scheme. These include the ethereal Bale Kambang, which is situated in the heart of a pond called Taman Gili, and the Royal Gate. On the western side of the complex lies a structure that functions as the Klungkung Museum, boasting a European architectural style or Balisering, which was once used as a Dutch school. The court made use of various furnishings, such as chairs and tables, wood carvings, and gold paint, which all serve as an enduring testament to the enduring heritage of the court, as well as the traditional customs that obtained in Klungkung during the colonial period spanning from 1908 to 1942, and the period of Japanese occupation from 1043 to 1945.

The Meaning of Kerta Gosa

Kerta Gosa is a name made up of two Sanskrit syllables, “Kerta” and “Gosa.” “Kerta” means good, noble, safe, peaceful, happy, and prosperous, while “Gosa” means to be called, announced, and broadcasted. This implies that Kerta Gosa is a place where one can attain peace and prosperity. It can also be seen as a venue where the king can deliberate on matters concerning the kingdom’s peace and prosperity, including security and justice. The Kerta Gosa building is closely related to the royal palace and includes elements of recreation, joy, luxury, and monumental art that characterize a kingdom. It was used as a venue for court proceedings from the royal era to the colonial period. Based on available information, the judicial procedures and officials present during the Colonial Period trial continued with the previous customary court procedures. As such, Kerta Gosa, as a venue for open justice, reflects the existence of local wisdom in the field of justice values and openness in the legal system. It provides us with an overview of the judicial process that occurred in the past.

The Kerta Gosa Building comprises two bale or buildings, the Kerta Gosa Bale and the Bale Kambang. The Bale Kambang is named after the Gili Park pond that surrounds it. What sets Kerta Gosa apart from the Bale Kambang is the ceiling or roof of the bale, which is adorned with traditional paintings in the style of Kamasan, a village in Klungkung, or the puppet style that is popular in the Bali community. The paintings that decorate the ceiling were initially made of cloth and parba but were replaced in 1930 and recreated on top of the plasterboard. The restoration was done according to the original image, which is still intact until now. As cultural heritage of the Semarapura Kingdom, the Gosa and Kerta Bale Kambang are enabled to be used for judicial matters and religious ceremonies, especially yadnya cut teeth (mepandes) like for the children of the king.

Kerta Gosa is an ancient and important building that reflects the history of Bali’s justice system. Its meaning is closely related to the royal palace and includes elements of recreation, joy, luxury, and monumental art that characterize a kingdom. The building is still intact until now and has been restored according to its original image, making it a cultural heritage of the Semarapura Kingdom. As such, it serves as a venue for judicial matters and religious ceremonies, making it an important and relevant part of Bali’s cultural heritage.

Kerta Gosa and Bale Kambang

The educational significance of the two buildings is deeply entwined with the elaborate depictions adorning the ceilings of these structures. These paintings comprise a collection of narratives that revolve around prominent themes, namely Swargarokanaparwa and Parwa Bima Swarga. These themes offer insight into the consequences of Karma Phala (the result of one’s good or bad deeds during their lifetime) and the concept of reincarnation based on one’s deeds and sins. The paintings that adorn the ceiling of Kerta Gosa building are believed to be repositories of both educational and spiritual values. These paintings are divided into six distinct terraces. In the year 1930, the artists from Kamasan undertook the task of restoring and repainting the ceiling paintings of both Kerta Gosa and Bale Kambang. The most recent restoration of these paintings took place in 1960.

Visiting this location is highly recommended for those seeking to deepen their knowledge of the history of the Klungkung kingdom, especially in the realm of courts, as it affords an opportunity to witness firsthand the historical events that took place within the kingdom, both during the era of the kingdom’s rule and the subsequent colonial era.

Kerta Gosa Ceiling Paintings

The lowermost tier of paintings within the Kerta Gosa showcase the themes drawn from the Tantri story. The second row from the bottom delves into the Bimaswarga theme as depicted in Swargarakanaparwa. The next theme, Catenarian, finds its origins in the Bagawan Kasyapa story. The fourth row depicts the Palalindon theme, which delves into the significance of earthquakes as depicted in mythology. The fifth row continues the Bimaswarga story, as it reaches the top of the cone-shaped roof building. The final or sixth row provides a description of the Nirwana way of life.

In addition to the Kerta Gosa ceiling paintings, puppet paintings adorn the ceiling of Kerta Gosa Bale Kambang, which is situated in the west. These puppet paintings draw inspiration from the stories of Kakawin Ramayana and Sutasoma. These themes originate from a guide Kakawin, which serves as a religious site for Manusa Yadnya, a ceremony where children cut their teeth using the king of Klungkung’s belt.

The Kerta Gosa paintings are more alluring than the traditional Kamasan style of Bale Kambang and Bale Kerta Gosa. Another crucial heritage site that bears historical significance is the Pemedal (gate).

Cultural Heritage of Kerta Gosa

Located in the western part of Kerta Gosa, the Pemedal Court stands as a cultural gem of great significance to the Palace. With its traditional Balinese architecture, the court has been serving as the cantilever holder of the throne of power mechanisms (Dewa Agung) in Klungkung for over two centuries, from 1686 to 1908. Notably, the court played a pivotal role in the Dutch military expedition against the Balinese, also known as the Puputan Klungkung, on 28 April 1908, where the last holder of the throne, Dewa Agung Jambe, and his followers perished. A monument honoring their sacrifice now stands enshrined in the Puputan Klungkung, which is located across from Kerta Gosa.

After the crushing defeat, the core of the Palace in Semarapura, including the viscera, was destroyed, leaving only rubble. However, the highest remaining rubble of Kerta Gosa, Bale Kambang Taman Gili with its Portal Palace, proved to be of great interest to tourists and cultural history scholars alike.

The Pemedal Court, with its rich history and stunning Balinese architecture, is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Kerta Gosa. Its role in the Dutch military expedition and the subsequent fall of Dewa Agung Jambe only adds to its mystique and cultural importance. The Palace may be gone, but the Pemedal Court stands tall as a testament to the region’s cultural heritage and the bravery of those who fought for it. You could explore this spot as well as other vacation spots in East Bali using a Bali car rental with driver service.

Check also: Tenganan Village Bali

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