• Seedlings

    The rice fields go through various stages. Once the fields are ploughed, the seedlings are
    ready to be planted in neat rows.

  • East Bali Rice Fields

    If you are in Candidasa and take the road up the hills to Manggis, not only will you
    be treated with beautiful ocean views but the rice terraces here are just a gorgeous.

  • Rice fields of Sidemen

    Another wonderful area to take in the amazing rice fields is at Sidemen. Here you can
    follow the small narrow roads and enjoy rural life.

  • Famous rice field terraces

    The rice fields of Jatiluwih are exactly those you see in the picture books of Bali. If you've
    been there before, make sure you go again as the fields always look different.

The Birth of the Subak system in Bali

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.


irriagation system bali ricefields


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.


working in the ricefields bali
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.


ricefields bali
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.


rice terrace bali indonesia
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.

Home > Bali Culture > Subak

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