The last great King of Karangasem, I Gusti Bagus Djelantik, also known by his noble title, Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem was the original architect of the Taman Ujung Water Palace. The King, who was extremely learned and philosophical, was a strong believer in good leadership, such that a good King should be. From the Niti Sastra literature, which contained the sacred ancient Sanskrit texts of Hinduism, he dissected and delved deep into topics regarding ethics, virtue, morality, harmony, justice, right & wrong and moral etiquettes.
It was the King’s hope to portray this valuable knowledge to his Kingdom and the world through the creation of the Taman Ujung Water Palace. In 1919, he designed and oversaw the development of the entire water palace with the following architects; Van Den Hentz from the Netherlands and Loto Ang, who hails from China. Together, they worked with a traditional Balinese architect also called the Undagi who was renowned in the traditional Balinese fengshui matters, also known as the Asta Kosala Kosali.
Before there was a Taman Ujung, there was only a single pool called the Dirah Pool. Legend has it that this pool was used to punish perpetrators of black magic and witchcraft. This pool exists to this day and was built in 1901 by one of the Kings of Karangasem while he was in power. Located in the southeast corner of today’s extensive layout, the Dirah pool was named after the witch queen of the Calonarang legend. With his vision, King I Gusti Bagus Djelantik expanded the water palace to become what is today – an extension of the Dirah pool, expanded to include two additional pools, several pavilions, meandering pathways, stairways, resting areas and meditation quarters.
Before the Dutch occupation, the Taman Ujung Water Palace was only for the exclusive use of the Karangasem royalty, their entourage and their families. In 1921, it was officially opened to the public. The land on which the water palace sits on today still belongs to the descendants of the Karangasem royal family. The original site encompassed hundreds of acres but today only 10 acres of private land remains.
In 1963, tragedy struck when Mount Agung erupted and the water palace was almost completely destroyed. Tragedy struck again during the earthquake of 1973 when most of the original buildings crumbled to the ground. Restoration efforts ensued towards rebuilding and reconstruction of the water palace. Due to this, much of its buildings and features do not date back to the original date of when it was first built.
In 1999, Taman Ujung Water Palace caught the attention of the World Bank through efforts from the Culture Heritage and Conservation (under the auspices of the Bali Provincial Culture Office) while conducting conservation studies. In 2002 the World Bank provided financial assistance for the restoration of Taman Ujung, which was used for the construction of the fence, gate and pond repair. In 2003, construction continued for Bale Warak, Bale Gili, Bale Kambang, Bale Lunjuk, Bale Kapal, and others. Conservation work was completed in May 2004, with a total spend of IDR 10 billion in aid provided by the World Bank.
In July 7, 2004, Taman Ujung Water Palace was officially re-opened to the public with a tremendous Balinese Hindu ritual called Melaspas. It was attended by the Karangasem royal family, local authority from Karangasem and the surrounding districts as well as the Governor of Bali.