BINUS International Office

Subak of Bali as a World Cultural Heritage of Ancient Democratic and Sustainable Rice Cultivation System


If you or your students come visit us, you must travel to Bali to see the indigenous cooperative water management systems of rice growing inspired by Balinese Hinduism. Balinese are effective rice producers thanks to their subaks founded on Tri Hita Karana principles of Balinese hinduism. Subak, cooperative water management system, originating in the 9th century, includes organizing committees, maintenance teams, the physical system of rice terraces, water temples, and supporting forests, and the spiritual rituals to invoke good fortune and fertility. The benefits and obligations are distributed based on the membership status equitably, while ensuring the gods are happy and the system sustainable.

Bali has over 1000 such water collectives managed by groups of 50-400 farmers. Five sites have been recognized as a world cultural heritage, the best known being the Royal Water Temple of Pura Taman Ayun. In these locations one can experience examples of Tri Hita Karana philosophy teaching harmonious relationship between the human and the divine, fellow humans, and nature as three basic principles of a fulfilling life. Visiting these architectural masterpieces and witnessing rituals illustrating the good life as practiced by subak agricultural communities inspires with spirituality and the belief in democratic and environmentally conscious practices.

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