Around Bedulu-Pejeng lies a 10-kilometer-long strip of earth known as The Land Between the Rivers. The Elephant Cave hermitage at Bedulu, the royal tombs at Gunung Kawi, rock carvings at Yeh Pulu, and the Moon of Pejeng bronze drum-some of Bali's holiest sites-are found there.
It's through this region the legendary river Petanu and Pakrisan flow. The Pakrisan is particularly rich in historic remains, having "magically" cut through rock cliffs and giant boulders. Its 'candi', monasteries, meditation cells, sacred watering places, shrine compounds, and Bronze Age statuettes, rock inscriptions, and bronze plates, all point to the existence of a once-powerful kingdom where religion, architecture, technology, and art flourished 400-600 years ago.
The irrigation tunnels north of Gianyar, the terracing of the slopes and the intricate rice field system are products of this kingdom. Many Balinese have no knowledge of the pre-Hindu kingdom, believing the masterpieces in rock were carved by the thumbnails of Kebo Iwo, a mythical giant.
Great mythological battles took place here between the gods and the evil King Mayadanawa of Bedulu. Details of these ancient conflicts have been passed down not only in spoken folk tales but also recorded in Bali's epic poem, the Usana Bali, composed in the mid-16th century during the golden age of Middle Javanese literature.
These stories depict the coming of Hinduism and the end of old customs. Historians thought the evil king may have simply been a rebel leader who opposed the Hinduism on Bali. The victory of the gods over the forces of evil is celebrated annually in the Galungan festival.
The sacred bathing place Tirta Empul was created by the gods to revive the dead warriors of this mythic conflict. Blood running from the bodies of the dead changed into the Petanu ("The Cursed One") and for over 1,000 years its waters weren't used for drinking, bathing, or irrigation. At last, in 1928, the curse was lifted in a special ceremony. Because of the curse, no ancient monuments are found along the banks of the Petanu (the Goa Gajah complex is an exception. It's on one of Petanu's tributaries).
Prior to the 18th century, the region now called Gianyar was divided among the kingdoms of Klungkung, Bangli, Mengwi and Badung. By the late 18th century, the raja of Klungkung had lost much of his prestige and power after suffering defeat at the hands of the armies of Karangasem. This left a power vacuum that was filled by the ambitious and ruthless 'punggawa' of the village of Gianyar, a distant relative of the Dewa Agung of Gelgel (Klungkung).
By deceit, poisonings, and war, this first raja of Gianyar emerged as the ruler of a new rajadom. His control extended over a vast area, including neighboring states. He took the name Dewa Manggis ("Sweet God") after the village in Klungkung where he was born. A confused series of wars between the kingdoms of southern Bali in the latter 19th century accelerated Dutch involvement in the area.
Because the sons of Dewa Manggis were pitted against the allied states of Badung, Bangli and Klungkung, they sought help from the Dutch in the 1880s. Since the Dutch were heavily engaged in the Aceh Wars during that time, they couldn't lend assistance and the Dewa Manggis and his family was captured.
A second appeal was made in 1899 by Dewa Gede Raka that proved successful. In 1900 the colonial army was sent to protect Gianyar, and this meant automatic takeover as a Regentschaap.
In the early part of this century, as the Dutch struggled to subdue the rest of southern Bali, Dewa Gede Raka's successors flourished because of their special status. Agung Ngurah Agung (1892-1960) considered one of the most flamboyant and autocratic of Balinese rajas, ruled from 1912 until 1943, when the Japanese forced him into exile in Lombok.
His son, Anak Agung, an accomplished linguist, became a prominent diplomat and statesman in the post-war republican government, serving as the Minister of the Interior and Ambassador to Belgium and France. He was imprisoned by Sukarno from 1962 to 1966, then under Suharto served as Ambassador to Austria. Tourism began in the regency in the 1930s when Tjokorda Agung Sukawati, of the old Sukawati line, established his 'puri' in Ubud as the center of a renaissance in Balinese arts.
In 1935 he sponsored the painter's cooperative Pita Maha, inviting foreign artists, musicians, anthropologists, and writers to stay at his palace. Among his first guests were the artists Walter Spies and Rudolf Bonnet, who influenced Balinese painting, and the first "Baliologists", Colin McPhee, Jane Belo, Miguel Covarrubias, Gregory Bateson, and Margaret Mead, who significantly influenced the way the West looked upon Bali.
The presence of foreigners in turn attracted more visitors, and a travelers' hostel opened in Campuan in 1937 (site of present-day Hotel Tjampuan). In the 1950s international tourism increased when dances and music recitals were staged, art shops opened, hotels built, antiquities excavated, and museums established. Although taking up only seven percent of the island's total land area, today Gianyar is Bali's most important region for cultural tourism.
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