Walking amongst the manicured lawns, pools and beastly statuary of the Tirta Gangaa water temple, it is hard to imagine the ruined state they were in not that long ago.
Construction on the gardens began in 1948, led by the last Raja of Karangasem (under the Dutch colonial rule). Built as a labor of love, the raja could often be seen getting his hands dirty with the local workers, creating a carefully arranged garden out of the rough hillside surrounding a holy natural spring.
Everything came to a dramatic halt in February 1963, when Mount Agung erupted explosively. Although spared from the lava flow, earthquakes and smothering ash devastated the gardens, killing the plants and trees. In the wake of the eruption the property was abandoned, and by the time the staff returned the gardens had been looted, the plants dead and covered in ash. For the next decade and a half, the gardens declined into further ruin.
An ambitious restoration process began in 1979, and was extended by the raja’s grandson until the gardens were returned to their former glory.