Information before you go
What is a Subak and how important is it for the Balinese Farmer?
One of Bali's greatest assets is its stunning rice fields. Just by looking at those fields you can imagine that maintaining all of them is pretty complicated. The Balinese farmers had to come up with a cooperative irrigation management system and together with their priests and local banjar organization called it the Subak system.
Every Balinese village has one of these subak systems and all rice field farmers are obliged to join and do what this water management system asks them to do.
Bali is a mountainous volcanic island and to get the water supply from the mountains onto the rice fields below isn't an easy job. It takes a complex system of canals, tunnels, pipes, dams and dikes to flood or drain the rice fields at the right time.
If a Balinese rice farmer had to do this by himself it would be mission impossible and the cultural landscape of Bali would have looked completely different.
The organization plans the distribution of water to all the rice field farmers and ensures that there is no shortage. It also does repairs on the many canals, dams and dikes and helps to prevent that sand or waste clogs the rice fields.
Everybody helps with the harvesting process
The head of the organization is called the 'Kliang' and the headmen are called 'Penyarikan Subak' who have assistants called 'Pangliman'.
Comparable to meetings which we are used to the 'Kliang' can be seen as the chairman who opens the meetings and he is the one together with the 'Penyarikan Subak' that takes important decisions by majority vote regarding everything that has to do with irrigation and agriculture
They also keep records of all of its members and when necessary even hand out fines to those members who do not abide to the rules of the irrigation organization. Every rice farmer has to join these meetings otherwise he gets fined.
During these meetings the chairman talks about the repairs which have to be done, the money already spent, communication with government officials and agreements made with other irrigation organizations.
When repairs have to be done all of the members have to be present but they don't have to do it themselves, they can hire other workers to do the job for them.
Stunning terraces towards Jatiluwih, Central Bali
When you take a walk around one of the paddy fields in Ubud or the UNESCO world heritage site of Jatiluwih you can see the rice farmers working on the maintenance of the dams and canals while you see other farmers harvesting or planting rice seedlings which only happens on certain days according to the religious calendar.
Even though the sight of a rice farmer planting seedlings is already a Kodak moment, before even allowing to plant his first seedlings many rituals have already taken place according to the ancient Indian Tri Hita Karana philosophy. This philosophy is a manifestation of the relationship between humans, the gods and the earth.
The start of these important rituals takes place at the temple compound of the water temples of Pura Ulun Danu Batur or Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.
In east Bali you can't get enough of the amazing rice field terraces
Here the 'Kliang' together with the 'Pemangku' (village priest) and four of five members of the irrigation organization place offerings at these sacred places to get a blessing from the deities of the lake. They then carry some water from these water sources in a bamboo container and place it at the shrine in the middle of the rice fields. They believe that the deities are manifested inside the container and therefore a feast is given to honor them.
The members of the irrigation organization will entertain the deities by performing dances so the deities will not leave the area.
The rice fields are then sprinkled with some of this sacred water and the rest of the water is given to the main canal which brings it to the rest of the rice fields.
If you're interested in how the cycle of rice works you can have a look at the Subak Museum in Tabanan in Banjar Senggulan which is open from Monday to Thursday and Saturday from 8 AM to 4.30 PM and Friday from 8 AM to 1 PM.
The Banjar is of great significance for every Balinese village as it ensures that all the events and other important daily activities take place smoothly and together.Read more
Besides the rice fields of Ceking, which is listed as an UNESCO world heritage site, the rice fields of Jatiluwih are also definitely not to be missed.Read more
Why just stand on the side of the fields and take pictures, if you can also follow a path through the stunning rice fields. Head to Ubud and follow this trail.Read more
Now and then people send us inspiring emails and this generates even more enthusiasm to share all of the things we know about this lovely island in the hope that you can plan your tropical holiday properly and have as such a great time as we always have. Hope to see you there!
When I wrote the mail I never really expected a reply. I might have expected a computer generated but never a personally written one. The information you provided is invaluable, thank you so very much. I have been using your website as a bible through Bali. Through your recommendation, I will be heading to Ubud then follow the sightseeing route to the coast of Candidasa.
WOW...what an awesome website. I could only dream that there would be a website like this for all our travel destinations! You guys have done an fabulous job and now, I am sooo excited about our upcoming trip to Bali. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure Bali was the place for us considering some of the travel warnings (we are Americans). But I can tell from your experiences that the Bali people are so very kind and peaceful.
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