Bali Rice Terraces

The first example of Balinese landscape is the rice-field. This is a typical scene in Bali. The terraced rice-field is typical of the beauty of the Balinese countryside. Note the harmony of colors, the vivid green of the coconut groves and the pale blue of the sky. Wet rice agriculture (sawah) is the basic and most important activity of Balinese life; Rice is the major crop and the staple food.

The Balinese make maximum use of what the environment offers. The terraced fields extend for miles, up and down the hill, from mountains to the sea. Cows are a very important part of traditional rice farming. They are used for plowing and producing fertilizer. The Cow pulls a heavy wooden bar across the field, in the initial preparative of the soil, to flatten it into a smooth mud. The Cow does not work all day and are well cared for.

During the growth period of the rice, the fields are periodic flooded. The Subak or irrigation cooperatives, regulate the allow of water and maintenance of irrigation networks. The water from single dam may be divided into douses and even hundreds of channel to irrigate the terraced Sawah, note how many-terraced field are served by this one particular manual serves.

A big plate of steamed white rice (usually eaten at room temperature) is the usual way rice is presented, although it appears in countless other guises. The most common Balinese breakfast is a snack of boiled rice-flour dumplings sweetened with palm sugar syrup and freshly grated coconut. All types of rice are made into various other sweet desserts and cakes.

Dewi Sri, the Rice Goddess who personifies the life force, is undoubtedly the most worshiped deity in Bali. The symbol representing Dewi Sri seen time and again: an hourglass figure often made from rice stalks, woven from coconut leaves, engraved of painted onto wood, made out of old Chinese coins, or hammered out of metal. Shrines made of bamboo or stone honoring Dewi Sri are erected in every rice field.

Rice cultivation determines the rhythm of village life and daily work, as well as the division of labor between men and women. Every stage of rice cycle is accompanied by age-old rituals. The dry season, from April to October, makes irrigation essential for the two annual crops. An elaborate system channeling water from lakes, rivers and springs across countless paddies is controlled by irrigation cooperatives known as Subak.

Consisting of all the landowners of a particular district, the Subak is responsible not only for the construction and maintenance of canals, aqueducts and dams and the distribution of water, but also coordinates the planting organizes ritual offerings and festivals. The Subak system is extremely efficient and computer studies have found that, for Bali, its methods cannot be further improved.

The planning and responsiblity of the irrigation and planting schedule are arranged through subak, a Balinese system that ties together rice cultivation with its water temple system. Historical evidence dates this system to around the 11th century, yet the yield per acre of a Balinese rice field is about the highest in the world!

Before planting, throughout growing time, at harvesting, ceremonies are held and offerings are presented to Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice. In the middle of rice fields far from the village, you often find little shrines with netaly presented flowers, fruit, and offerings for Dewi Sri. And the vista of beautifully sculpted rice field terraces will always be in your memory…

Where to find the most photogenic rice terraces in Bali?

  • The emerald-green rice terraces in the river gorge north of Tegallalang village in central Bali (see photo) are generally considered to offer travelers the best photo opportunity. Other popular lush-green and well-tended Balinese rice paddy sites include those in the Ubud area (including Sayan) — and in Pupuan, Jatiluwih. Tabanan and Tirtagangga.

Cooperation is essential for rice terraces

Today’s individual rice terrace farmers, as did their ancestors, join a community cooperative.

  • Localized administration
    Each informal agricultural mini-society establishes firm regulations on a local level. This helps ensure that the limited irrigation water is fairly allocated and that only so many farmers tap into the limited-flowing water at the same time.
  • Communal spirit
    The community cooperative also makes sure that the complex irrigation system is jointly maintained and that a farmer does not block the water from flowing downward to rice terraces below his.

Rice terrace cooperatives are a major reason why a farmer is able to get up to three crops per year from his paddies.

Ulun Swi temple serves as aplace for farmers to ask for fertility and succesful harvest. It is a place where they pay homage to the deity of the land (Ida Bhatara Bhaka Bhumi) so the earth will yield good harvest and insects, mice, birds and other disturbances will not damage the crops.

Based on the sacred Usana Dewa manuscript, Ida Bhatara Bhaka Bhumi is resided in Ulun Swi Temple and serves as the soul of the land and worshiped by those whose livelihood are depend on the soil.

Pura Ulun Swi is maintained by subak (an autonomous socio-religious association which deals with matters related to the cultivation and irrigation of rice in certain area). Each subak has its own Ulun Swi Temple and the members of the subak are also the congregations of the temple.

For day or half day tour bookings to the Place please contact Ketut Maryana at
Phone/WhatsApp: +62 81 2397 7705 (Mr. Ketut Maryana)

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