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As the seat of the Dewa Agung, nominally the highest of the old Balinese rajas, Klungkung holds a special place in the island's history and culture. As artistic centers, the palaces of Klungkung's rajas and noblemen patronized and developed the styles of music, drama and the fine arts that flourish today.

The capital was shifted to Klungkung from nearby Gelgel in 1710, and a new palace built. Probably towards the end of that century the original Kerta Gosa, Hall of Justice, was erected. An exquisite example of the Klungkung style of painting and architecture, the present Kerta at the town's main intersection is beautifully laid out within its moat. Three Brahmana priests acting as judges presided over this royal court which continued in existence through Dutch times.

Cases were brought here only if they could not be settled among families or individual villages, as the Kerta was the island's highest court of justice and by far the strictest. Imagine a terrified defendant kneeling before the tribunal, his gaze chancing to wander to the ceiling on which were painted scenes of the horrors he would meet after death, were he guilty. If he dared to look higher, he found each punishment complemented by a reward in heaven. At that time, perjury could bring a curse upon three generations.

The Bale Kambang, the Floating Pavilion, likewise decorated, was used by the attending royal family. Pan Semaris and Mangku Mura directed the present paintings in 1945. Two kilometers south, between Klungkung and Gelgel, lies the village of Kamasan, the present-day center of the Klungkung - style painters. Indeed that style is often called the Kamasan or wayang style, as it draws its main themes from Old Javanese literary classics, brought here only if they could not be settled. Kamasan is also a famous center of gold and silver smithing. In the shops of Klungkung one can buy modern and antique Klunkung-style paintings, carvings, silverwork and silks.


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