Karangasem regency in east Bali is now facing huge challenges as it has been declared one of Indonesia's heritage sites and will be nominated as the country's candidate next year to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. On Nov. 8, in conjunction with National Spatial Planning Day, Deputy Regent of Karangasem I Made Sukerana signed an agreement with the Public Works Ministry in Jakarta committing to preserve historical and natural assets in the regency as part of its effort to make the regency a national heritage site.
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Karangasem won the heartsPrior to signing the agreement, Karangasem was among 10 nominees out of 48 candidates to become national heritage sites. Karangasem regency and Denpasar mayoralty were selected to represent Bali in the national nominations. Led by Azril Malaon, from the ministry's directorate general for spatial planning, and Lorena T. Adi Sakti from BPPI, Karangasem won the hearts of the jurors as it possesses extraordinary natural and cultural treasures.
Stretching over an area of 839.54 square kilometers in eastern Bali, Karangasem, with its capital Amlapura, is home to the island's most sacred mountain and most active volcano Mount Agung, which erupted in 1963. On the slopes of Mount Agung lies Pura Besakih, the sacred mother temple and largest temple in Bali.
Karangasem regency proposed several natural wonders, including Bukit Jambul, a narrow stretch of hilly land surrounded by stunning views of rice fields; Sibetan agricultural site; Taman Ujung Park; and Tirta Gangga water palace.
For its cultural heritage, the regency also proposed Besakih Temple, Puri Gede Agung Karangasem royal house, Sidemen traditional village and Budakeling village, a model of religious tolerance and where acculturation between Hindus and Muslims can be found.
The patriarch of Puri Gede Agung Karangasem, Anak Agung Bagus Ngurah Agung, titled Manggala Puri Gede Karangasem, said to Bali Daily that he was very proud of the rich legacy of his ancestors. His father, Anak Agung Gede Agung was the eldest grandson of the last king of the Karangasem kingdom, Anglurah Ketut Karangasem.
"The puri, or palace, was in the past a political, social and cultural nucleus. All royal members of the Karangasem kingdom paid close attention to the people. It is my duty to follow their legacy," noted the 48-year-old Ngurah Agung. As a direct descent of the Karangasem king, Ngurah Agung has meticulously preserved all the family heirlooms, sacred lontar (palm leaf manuscripts), kris, textiles, ceremonial paraphernalia and the physical building of the Puri Agung royal house.
"Every part of the architectural elements of the puri has remained unchanged for hundreds of years. I am hoping that this preservation will get full support from the provincial and central governments after we get national heritage status," he said.
Under the national heritage status, Karangasem will be entitled to financial and technical assistance provided by the central government to preserve the selected heritage and surrounding areas as an integrated heritage zoning location. Indonesia is planning to propose Karangasem for inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I Wayan Purna, head of Karangasem Cultural Office, was glad to receive the news and hoped that more visitors would come to the regency.
"We have tremendous natural and cultural assets that are not explored yet and we don't have money to develop them," Purna said. Located around 90 kilometers east of Bali's provincial capital of Denpasar, the quality of roads to the area has forced many tourists to skip their visits to Karangasem. "The construction of a toll road connecting Denpasar-Gianyar-Karangasem is expected to ease traffic to Karangasem," he said.