Photo: Once part of the Sultan of Yogyakarta's playground.

Taman Sari and Sumur Gumuling (Water Palace and Underground Mosque)

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Taman Sari (literally fragrant garden), or the “Water Castle” as it’s popularly known, was once an extensive playground for the Sultan of Yogyakarta. It encompassed a large artificial lake with islands complete with rare fruit trees, fragrant gardens, swimming pools and meditation areas as well as a network of secret underwater tunnels.





Today only the bathing pools and Sumur Gumuling, an eerie but fascinating underground mosque, are well preserved. Most of the former complex forms residential areas.

Life in Taman Sari. Photo taken in or around Taman Sari and Sumur Gumuling (Water Palace and Underground Mosque), Yogyakarta, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Life in Taman Sari. Photo: Sally Arnold

Built in the mid-1700s, it was partly destroyed by the British invasion in 1812, and an earthquake finished the job and drained the water in the mid-1800s. Local legend is that the architect was a Portuguese shipwreck survivor washed up on the southern ocean who eventually learnt Javanese and found favour with the Sultan. Although it may look like it has European influence, architectural experts tend to believe that it was a purely Javanese design. However, the area is abundant with such folklore, and there is even a tale that an underground tunnel here leads to the southern ocean to enable the Sultan to meet with his mystical consort Kanjeng Ratu Loro Kidul, the Queen of the southern seas.

Entering the complex through an arched gateway guarded by two nagas, paths lead through courtyards, and down stairs into a high-walled compound containing three bathing pools. The two larger pools were for the wives and concubines of the Sultan, and were separated by a building with a three-storey tower said to have contained a bed chamber from which the Sultan could “cuci mata” (as they say in Indonesian—literally “wash his eyes”). A third pool behind was reserved for the Sultan and his chosen partner. Today the atmosphere is calm and serene, with the slightly pinkish stonework reflected in the cool and inviting green pools.

The Water Castle in all its glory. Photo taken in or around Taman Sari and Sumur Gumuling (Water Palace and Underground Mosque), Yogyakarta, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

The Water Castle in all its glory. Photo: Sally Arnold

Among some of the fruiting trees from the former gardens, a rare Kepel fruit tree (stelechocarpus burahol) grows. It’s native to Central Java and the fruit is said to have deodorant properties; if eaten apparently your faeces smells like perfume. It was supposedly favoured by the Queen to keep her Sultan from running off with malodorous ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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Taman Sari and Sumur Gumuling (Water Palace and Underground Mosque)
Taman Sari daily 08:00-15:00, Sumur Gumuling daily 08:00-16:00
Admission: 15,000 rupiah

Location map for Taman Sari and Sumur Gumuling (Water Palace and Underground Mosque)

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