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Jakarta Post

Lasting heritage Tampak Siring

  • Trisha Sertori

    The Jakarta Post

Tampak siring   /   Thu, February 5, 2015   /  09:43 am
Lasting heritage Tampak Siring

Feeding the nation: The world heritage listed rice fields of Pulagan stretch over 110 hectares producing more than 620 tons of rice annually.

Just a few kilometers north of Ubud is an off-the-beaten-track UNESCO-recognized rice field site that offers visitors an almost solo experience.


Turn right at Tampak Siring'€™s traditional market and head out of the quaint town. About a kilometer away is the 110-hectare protected site of Subak Pulagan. Set against a backdrop of Mount Batur and Mount Agung '€” and with fields surrounded by coconut palms Pulagan is a rural paradise.

The area received a UNESCO listing just three years ago, which has saved it from development, says the head of the local subak, or irrigation group, Sang Nyoman Astika.

'€œFive years ago there was a lot of developers coming here wanting to buy up the land, but we cannot sell the land. This land is from our ancestors and must go down to our descendants. We are really proud to have the world heritage listing. It was given because our ceremonies for the fields are still strong and our partially organic fields support 240 families,'€ says the 44 year old.

A paved track winds for more than a kilometer through the fields, offering visitors a sublime walk with views of the yellowing rice and twin volcanoes in the distance

Eden: There are beautiful quiet walks through the world-heritage-listed rice fields of Pulagan in Tampak Siring.Eden: There are beautiful quiet walks through the world-heritage-listed rice fields of Pulagan in Tampak Siring.


Importantly, there are no dogs wandering the path, says Nyoman. Discovering the walk was a delight for one regular Bali visitor, Kerry from Australia.


'€œI have been wanting to go for a walk and I had asked on Ubud Community Facebook if there were other walks than the Champuan Ridge walk. All that came back were expensive tours. Learning there is this lovely quiet walk is fantastic and I plan on making the trip to Tampak Siring before I return to Australia,'€ the 42-year-old said. Kerry added that the once beautiful Champuan Ridge walk had been sullied by high volumes of trash in the gorge.

Despite its heritage listing, the Pulagan fields, which produce 620 tons of rice from two annual plantings, are under threat '€” not from developers but nature itself.

Protecting the future: Subak head Sang Nyoman Astika discusses the world heritage status of his village'€™s rice fields.Protecting the future: Subak head Sang Nyoman Astika discusses the world heritage status of his village'€™s rice fields.


Nyoman says that the area falls under two different subak, one receiving some government funding to maintain aqueducts. The second is left out in the cold and its rice fields could dry out.

'€œThe problem is Kulus Batas, which adjoins Pulagan, does not have a subak head, and therefore does not receive funding. So the threat is that the fields could dry out. What we would have then is a concrete garden, because people would have to sell their land,'€ says Nyoman.

The aqueducts that serve the field need regular repair, as they collapse during the landslides common in the area. '€œThe solution is to repair the irrigation channels,'€ Nyoman says.

He hopes the world heritage listing will bring greater support and protection for fields where red, black and traditional Balinese rice strains are still grown, along with new varieties.

'€œWe don'€™t sell our Bali rice crop or the red and black. These grains we keep as medicine and for our ceremonies. Also we only plant twice a year, as three plantings is too harsh on the soil,'€ says the farmer.

Timeless: A farmer plants rice seedlings into his world-heritage-listed rice fields in Tampak Siring, just as his ancestors have for hundreds of years.Timeless: A farmer plants rice seedlings into his world-heritage-listed rice fields in Tampak Siring, just as his ancestors have for hundreds of years.

He and members of his family also work part time to carve souvenirs made of bone. The money helps fund the six rituals needed to ensure prosperous harvests.

'€œThere is a ceremony when we begin to prepare the fields, then a second after all the farms have been planted out '€” that is to rid the area of evil spirits. The third is to call for healthy crops. The fourth is held just as the rice begins to bend over at the head. The fifth we do as a fertility rite and the last is just before harvest to thank the Gods for our yield,'€ says Nyoman.

The farming families of Pulagan and Kulas Batas are happy to consecrate their fields. In former years, the subak temple on the edge of the fields was left unattended. For years no ceremonies were held there.

'€œIn the past, no one was carrying out these rites for the temple and the fields were full of rats and other vermin. Also back then we were doing three plantings each year and all failed. That was when the new rice first came in. Planting so often kills the soils so we made a rule of only harvesting twice a year and reinstating the ceremonies,'€ says Nyoman.

'€œNot all of our children can be farmers, he says. '€œI didn'€™t want to be a farmer. I was a craftsman. But when my parents grew old, one of us '€” the kids '€” had to go to the fields. I found I grew healthier and enjoy my
life much more. And I make more money.'€

He continues, '€œAs a craftsman I could not afford a motor bike. As a farmer I grew on two cows and that earned enough for my bike,'€ says Nyoman of the rice fields his community believe will still be there a century from now.


 '€” Photos by JP/JB Djwan

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