Y. Groneman wrote in his article about Taman Sari (“Het waterkasteel te Yogyakarta,” TBG. XXX 1885, page 414-436) that the instruction to build Taman Sari came from Hamengku Buwono I.
The Sultan appointed Raden Tumenggung Mangundipura to lead this project. Tumenggung Mangundipura travelled twice to Batavia (now Jakarta) to learn about European architecture. This explains why the architecture of Taman Sari also had marks of European style. And this doesn’t contradict the presence of Javanese philosophy in the architecture.
Taman Sari (above) shows architecture elements from Batavia (below).
Ancient manuscripts in Keraton Jogjakarta support this story, by stating that Prince Mangkubumi or Hamengku Buwono I was the man behind the construction. The manuscript also describes how how the Regent of Madiun participated in Taman Sari’s construction as an alternative way to pay taxes.
Do you know?
The original name of Sultan Hamengku Buwono I is Raden Mas Sujana. Pangeran Mangkubumi was his title before ascending to throne.
Raden Rangga Prawirasentika, the Regent of Madiun, beseeched the Sultan to be relieved of Madiun’s tax obligation. He offered other alternative ways of payment. The Sultan accepted his proposal.
In 1758, the Sultan commanded the Regent to supervise the making of bricks and various complements, which would be used to build a beautiful garden. Sultan wanted a place where he could spend some time to relax after long years of wars that he had just experienced. Raden Tumenggung Mangundipura, under supervision of Raden Arya Natakusuma (who later became Sri Pakualam II), was responsible for the construction. A sengkalan memet saying “Catur Naga Rasa Tunggal” was built, denoting the year when the command was issued (1684 Javanese year or 1758 A.D.).
The very first structures included Sultan’s bed and tunnels leading to keraton (also known as phantom cave), which were built in 1761 A.D. A candra sengkala marks the event. The relief symbolizes the sentence “Pujining Brahmana Ngobahake Pajungutan,” which represents the Javanese year 1687.
After finding out how large the complex was, Raden Rangga Prawirasentika realized that the cost would’ve been greater than the taxes. He then pleaded again before Sultan to relieve him from the project. Prince Natakusuma then continued the project to completion.
The building of Taman Sari ended upon completion of the gates and walls construction. A sengkalan memet placed on Gapura Agung still marks this event. The relief shows some birds siphoning honey from flowery trees. It symbolizes the sentence “Lajering Kembang Sinesep Peksi,” which denotes the 1691 Javanese year or 1765 A.D.