Taman Ayun Temple is one of the most popular Bali Places of Interest 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. Towering tiers from the temple shrines make up most of the profile of the temple and are a gesture of the people of Mengwi reverence to their deified noble ancestors, for the temple complex is considered the mother temple of Mengwi.
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 Taman Ayun Temple 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 meter 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 skyline. The temple 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.
Entrance fee to the Taman Ayun Temple is a modest IDR 15,000. The temple shares the same anniversary day of the cliff-perched Uluwatu Temple on the island southern Bukit peninsula, which is celebrated on the 210 day Balinese Pawukon calendar system or on every Kliwon Medangsia Tuesday. The piodalan temple anniversary celebrations see pilgrims flock to the temple complex, day and night.
A trip to the Taman Ayun Temple complex is usually an included itinerary for long journeys up to the central or northern Bali regions. It is particularly a frequent stopover for visitors who opt to spend time up in Bedugul, as the site is conveniently en route from southern Bali. It is a great place to marvel at the early and traditional Balinese architectural features that prevail on the island.
Although the pools are far from what can be imagined during its days of glory in the distant past, the moss-lined walls and jade algae filled water add to the rustic charm of the whole scenery of this over three centuries-old temple site. North of the bell tower is a pavilion called Bale Loji. In old times, this was where priests and ceremonial attendants would make preparations and take a break. Nowadays, artists can be seen here busy at their art in the making.
Paintings are also available here for purchase. Museum Manusa Yadnya is located just across the road from the temple site. The museum showcases Balinese Hinduism rituals and human rites of passage, throughout their stages of life. It is an often convenient and additional highlight on each visit to Taman Ayun Temple.