Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy
- ID – Cultural Landscape Of Bali Province: The Subak System As A Manifestation Of The Tri Hita Karana Philosophy
The cultural landscape of Bali consists of five rice terraces and their water temples that cover 19,500 ha. The temples are the focus of a cooperative water management system of canals and weirs, known as subak, that dates back to the 9th century. Included in the landscape is the 18th-century Royal Water Temple of Pura Taman Ayun, the largest and most impressive architectural edifice of its type on the island. The subak reflects the philosophical concept of Tri Hita Karana, which brings together the realms of the spirit, the human world and nature. This philosophy was born of the cultural exchange between Bali and India over the past 2,000 years and has shaped the landscape of Bali. The subak system of democratic and egalitarian farming practices has enabled the Balinese to become the most prolific rice growers in the archipelago despite the challenge of supporting a dense population.
A line of volcanoes dominate the landscape of Bali and have provided it with fertile soil which, combined with a wet tropical climate, make it an ideal place for crop cultivation. Water from the rivers has been channelled into canals to irrigate the land, allowing the cultivation of rice on both flat land and mountain terraces.
Rice, the water that sustains it, and subak , the cooperative social system that controls the water, have together shaped the landscape over the past thousand years and are an integral part of religious life. Rice is seen as the gift of god, and the subaksystem is part of temple culture. Water from springs and canals flows through the temples and out onto the rice paddy fields. Water temples are the focus of a cooperative management of water resource by a group of subaks . Since the 11th century the water temple networks have managed the ecology of rice terraces at the scale of whole watersheds. They provide a unique response to the challenge of supporting a dense population on a rugged volcanic island.
The overall subak system exemplifies the Balinese philosophical principle of T ri Hita Karana that draws together the realms of the spirit, the human world and nature. Water temple rituals promote a harmonious relationship between people and their environment through the active engagement of people with ritual concepts that emphasise dependence on the life-sustaining forces of the natural world.
In total Bali has about 1,200 water collectives and between 50 and 400 farmers manage the water supply from one source of water. The property consists of five sites that exemplify the interconnected natural, religious, and cultural components of the traditional su b ak system, where the subak system is still fully functioning, where farmers still grow traditional Balinese rice without the aid of fertilisers or pesticides, and where the landscapes overall are seen to have sacred connotations.
The sites are the Supreme Water Temple of Pura Ulun Danu Batur on the edge of Lake Batur whose crater lake is regarded as the ultimate origin of every spring and river, the Subak Landscape of the Pakerisan Watershed the oldest known irrigation system in Bali, the Subak Landscape of Catur Angga Batukaru with terraces mentioned in a 10th century inscription making them amongst the oldest in Bali and prime examples of Classical Balinese temple architecture, and the Royal Water temple of Pura Taman Ayun, the largest and most architecturally distinguished regional water temple, exemplifying the fullest expansion of thesubak system under the largest Balinese kingdom of the 19th century.
Subak components are the forests that protect the water supply, terraced paddy landscape, rice fields connected by a system of canals, tunnels and weirs, villages, and temples of varying size and importance that mark either the source of water or its passage through the temple on its way downhill to irrigate subak land.
Criterion (iii): The cultural tradition that shaped the landscape of Bali, since at least the 12th century, is the ancient philosophical concept of Tri Hita Karana . The congregations of water temples, that underpin the water management of the subak landscape, aim to sustain an harmonious relationship with natural and spiritual world, through an intricate series of rituals, offerings and artistic performances.
Criterion (v): The five landscapes within Bali are an exceptional testimony to the subak system, a democratic and egalitarian system focused on water temples and the control of irrigation that has shaped the landscape over the past thousand years. Since the 11th century the water temple networks have managed the ecology of rice terraces at the scale of whole watersheds. They provide a unique response to the challenge of supporting a dense population on a rugged volcanic island that is only extant in Bali.
Criterion (vi): Balinese water temples are unique institutions, which for more than a thousand years have drawn inspiration from several ancient religious traditions, including Saivasiddhanta and Samkhyā Hinduism, Vajrayana Buddhism and Austronesian cosmology. The ceremonies associated with the temples and their role in the practical management of water together crystallise the ideas of the Tri Hita Karana philosophy that promotes the harmonious relationship between the realms of the spirit, the human world and nature. This conjunction of ideas can be said to be of outstanding significance and directly manifest in the way the landscape has developed and is managed by local communities within the subak system.
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