Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy

800px-bali_panorama
Bali rice terraces (Drew/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0).
 Indonesia
S8 15 33 E115 24 10
Date of Inscription: 2012
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(v)(vi)
Property : 19,519.9 ha
Buffer zone: 1,454.8 ha
Ref: 1194rev
pura_taman_ayun
Pura Taman Ayun (Muhd Rushdi Samsudin/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.0).

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 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.

Suggested base:

Denpasar is the largest city and capital of the island of Bali, Indonesia. It is located in South Bali. Denpasar is a bustling, multi-cultural city and although it can seem a little intimidating the first time you visit, just do not believe those travel guides which say it has nothing to offer. Denpasar is bristling with temples, palaces and museums and its occupants are outstandingly friendly. You will be off the beaten tourist track here, so bring lots of time for a chat with the locals and a decent map of town. You can see many of the main sights comfortably on foot. This is also a notable shopping city with options to please even the most jaded of world shoppers. Denpasar is the seat of government in Bali and is therefore home to the provincial governor’s office as well as the administration of the Regency of Badung. [read more]

Mataram is the largest city on Lombok with 420.000 inhabitants and the capital of West Nusa Tenggara (NTB=Nusa Tenggara Barat) province, Indonesia. Mataram is in fact an agglomeration of a number of villages that have grown together. The main ones are Ampenan, the harbour on the west coast and the site of the old airport; Mataram itself, in the center; and Cakranegara, the commercial hub to the east. See Mayura Garden. Taman Mayura is a water palace built in 1744. This was a location of some of the fierce battles that took place between Dutch and Balinese forces in 1894. Narmada Park (Taman Narmada). Located 10 km east of Mataram, this park was the relaxation place for the king during the time of feudalism. This park has a Hindu temple and swimming pool. [read more]

Probolinggo is a port city on the north coast of East Java, Indonesia. This port city has an extensive fishing industry and is the nearest town of any size to Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park. Since the National Park can be visited as a day trip from here, this tends to be the main draw for visitors since there is little else of interest. See Candi Jabung (Jabung Temple) (5km east of the village of Kraksaan, nr Probolinggo). A restored Buddhist temple which dates from 1354 and which is mentioned as one of the places visited by mighty King Hayam Wuruk in 1359. Do Rafting at Pekalen River. The location is about one hour drive from Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park where the Pekalen river cuts the town. Up to grade 3+, you will encounter many bat caves along its cliff and some small waterfalls. [read more]

CATEGORY:     INDONESIA
TAG:     ID – CULTURAL LANDSCAPE OF BALI PROVINCE: THE SUBAK SYSTEM AS A MANIFESTATION OF THE TRI HITA KARANA PHILOSOPHY

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One Reply to “Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy”

  1. I particularly enjoyed a visit to the Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud. I even walked through most of it for the perfect photo! Also in Ubud, the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is a must visit! You don’t have to spend tons of time here (but you will WANT to!). I truly enjoyed walking around and seeing the most amazing forest, complete with over 600 long-tailed Balinese macaques.

    I particularly enjoyed visiting the Royal Palace in Ubud and a few of the temples associated with the fascinating Hindu religion and culture. All in one day, I was able to visit the UNESCO world heritage site of Taman Ayun Temple and also the temple on by the sea – Tanah Lot Temple.

    Like

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