Subak is a unique and ancient system of irrigation that has been used by the Balinese people for over a thousand years.

It is a way of distributing water from the mountains to the rice fields below, and is an essential part of the island’s agricultural tradition.

Story of Subak - Plowing
Story of Subak - Delivering Seeds

The story of Subak begins with the Hindu Majapahit Empire, which ruled over much of Indonesia in the 14th century.

At that time, Bali was a small kingdom known as the Kingdom of Gelgel, which was ruled by a king named Dalem Waturenggong.

Dalem Waturenggong was a wise and just ruler who recognized the importance of irrigation for his people’s survival.

He ordered the construction of a series of canals and tunnels to distribute water from the mountains to the rice fields in the valleys.

Story of Subak - Planting
Story of Subak - Green Paddy

Over time, these canals and tunnels became known as Subak, which means “cooperation” or “mutual assistance” in the Balinese language.

The system was not only a way of distributing water, but also a way of managing the complex social and religious relationships between the farmers who relied on it.

Each village had its own Subak organization, which was responsible for managing the distribution of water to its members’ rice fields.

The organization was led by a priest, known as the Subak guru, who was responsible for ensuring that the irrigation system was maintained and operated in accordance with Balinese Hindu traditions.

Story of Subak - Yellow Paddy
Story of Subak - Harvesting

The Subak system was so successful that it allowed Bali to support a much larger population than its natural resources would otherwise have allowed.

It also helped to create a sense of community and shared responsibility among the Balinese people.

The Subak system’s success has earned it the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site and recognition as one of the world’s most sophisticated and sustainable irrigation systems.

Even today, it remains a crucial aspect of Balinese culture and agriculture, serving as a testament to the intelligence and wisdom of the island’s inhabitants.

  • “The rice fields and the Subak irrigation system in Jasan Village that encircle Stanagiri are also part of their ancestral heritage. Their forefathers’ wisdom advised them that the crops harvested from these fields are reserved solely for personal consumption and are forbidden from being traded or sold in the market.”