Subak : A System Behind The Beauty of Balinese Rice Terrace

text and photo: Titah Nareswari

Enjoying morning with a rice field landscape in Tegalalang feels absolutely amazing and it should be a must place to visit in Bali. It is not only an amazing landscape but also a suitable place to walk around the rice field. Furthermore the rice field has a wonderful background that is a big mountain. Let's take a look closer. 
Ceking Rice Terrace from above – photo: Titah Nareswari for Asa Film

Ceking Rice Terrace has a unique mechanism. A terrace mechanism applied in farming. Terrace is a conservation method for managing the irrigation in rice fields.  By making terrace, the farmers can reduce the length of mountain slopes, restrain the water, and maximize the land absorption.


     Besides the terrace mechanism, Ceking Rice Terrace has an organization to manage the irrigation. The unique irrigation management is called “subak”. The word “subak” is a balinese language that refers to a social institution and religion that have their own regulation and democratic associations of farmers in determining the use of irrigation for the rice growth. In this irrigation management, the water distribution is named “temuku”.  There are three types of “temuku”. “Temuku aya” is a water distribution system in the upper course of the river. “Temuku gede” in every “subak” region. “Temuku penasan” is the water distribution directly to the rice fields.

Temuku gede - photo: Titah Nareswari for Asa Film

Subak is not an ordinary irrigation system yet it embodies a “Tri Hita Karana” philosophy. That philosophy means three reasons in creating happiness and prosperity. The three reasons that applied in the “subak” system are Parahyangan (a harmonious relationship between God and human), pawongan (a harmonious relationship between human and others), and palemahan (a harmonious relationship between human and the environment). Parahyangan applied through giving the offerings in Subak Temple once every three months. Firstly, they give the offerings in Subak Temple named nyungsung then the offerings flowed into the water named mapag. Pawongan applied through the size of water flow in every rice field has not allowed to break the rules so that every rice field will get adequate irrigation. Palemahan manifested through the “subak” system doesn’t damage the environment and “subak” will help  nature preservation. Referring to the philosophy, “subak” is a method of living together structure recognized by UNESCO as a cultural heritage. Hence “subak” system has to be preserved although many investors offer to sell their ownership of the rice fields. But still, this is NOT FOR SALE.

Temuku penasan - photo: TItah Nareswari for Asa Film

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