Stone head of lord Buddha photographed during a dive at the Temple, near Pemuteran, Bali

The Underwater Temple Garden: A Unique Fusion of Bouyancy and Enlightenment

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The Underwater Temple Garden is a unique dive site located in Bali, Indonesia. This underwater garden was created in recent years, and contains a Balinese Hindu temple compound. A photo of the site circulated on the internet sparked excited rumours that this was an ancient archaeological site, and that more structures like it were to be found underwater. Furthermore, some even claimed that the ‘Atlantis of the East’ had been discovered. These speculative stories, however, came to an end, when the people responsible for the creation of the Underwater Temple Garden revealed that they were the ones who made the site.

The Underwater Temple Garden is known also as Taman Pura. ‘Taman’ means ‘garden’ in Indonesian, whilst a ‘Pura’ is a Balinese Hindu temple. This underwater temple is located in the Pemuteran Bay, on the northern coast of West Bali, and is the brainchild of Chris Brown, an Australian who has been living for years in the Pumeteran area. Another major contributor to the creation of this dive site is Paul Turley, a British who worked with Chris. The two, by the way, work to promote diving in the Pemuteran area.

The statues had been submerged for about 6 years when these pictures were taken in 2011

The statues had been submerged for about 6 years when these pictures were taken in 2011 ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

The idea of the Underwater Temple Garden had emerged in the conversation of the two men from time to time over the years. Nevertheless, this remained as a dream, and did not materialise, mainly due to the lack of funding for such a project. Furthermore, the problems that Indonesia had gone through, which negatively affected tourism in the country hampered the realisation of this dream. A suggestion came from a friend of Chris, which was to approach the Bali Rehabilitation Fund (Aus Aid). The result of this was the creation of the ‘Reef Gardeners’, a project that has a social and environmental dimension to it.

Statue of lord Buddha photographed during a dive at the Temple, near Pemuteran, Bali

Statue of lord Buddha photographed during a dive at the Temple, near Pemuteran, Bali ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

This project allowed Chris’ dream to materialise, and in 2005, the Underwater Temple Garden was built. One of the main elements of this underwater temple compound is its split gate, which is a one of the two main types of gates in traditional Balinese architecture (the other being the roofed tower gate). This gate is full-sized, and was transported piece by piece to the seabed by a team of professional divers. In addition, numerous statues carved from sandstone were placed in the Underwater Temple Garden. These include one depicting the Hindu god Ganesha, other deities, and turtles.

Statues standing on the sea-bed by the split gate to the temple

Statues standing on the sea-bed by the split gate to the temple (CC BY NA-NC 2.0 )

As the Underwater Temple Garden is located about 30 m under the sea, it was only accessible to divers with some experience. Therefore, in order to allow less experienced divers to explore this unique underwater temple, a second area was added in 2006, at a depth of 15 m under the sea. One of the highlights here are statues of the Buddha.

The statues were lowered 29 meters (95 ft) to rest on the seabed

The statues were lowered 29 meters (95 ft) to rest on the seabed ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

This underwater temple compound has since become a habitat for various marine creatures. The statues, for instance, have been colonised by corals, which in turn attract little fish to the area. The beauty of this temple under the sea has drawn divers to the site. These divers make donations to the Reef Gardeners project, which are then given to unemployed local fishermen, who are trained to maintain the corals around the temple garden. Therefore, the Underwater Temple Garden serves to raise awareness about marine conservation, as well as to create job opportunities for the locals in the area.

Buddha of the deep

Buddha of the deep ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

In 2010, a photo of the Underwater Temple Garden was circulated on the internet, resulting in rumours that an underwater archaeological site had been found off the coast of Bali. News of the ‘discovery’ of this alleged site was broadcast in the local media, and the speculations grew. Some claimed that another 10 more temples like this were to be found in the strait between Bali and Java, whilst others dubbed this the ‘Atlantis of the East’. A full investigation into the matter was even promised by Surya Helmi, director of undersea archaeological division at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The matter, however, was resolved, when Paul contacted the Jakarta Globe to inform them that the underwater temple was in fact a project carried out by Chris and himself, rather than an actual ancient site.

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