The Subak (farmers' organisation) has been an important
organisation in Bali for nearly 1,000 years, as is amply
demonstrated in the Subak Mandala Mathika Museum in Sungulan
Village of the Tabanan Regency - about an hour's drive from
Denpasar. While the main function of the subak is to maintain
the irrigation system for the abundant padi fields in each
locality, the museum also shows the variety of ceremonies
commonly conducted at various stages of the cultivation
cycle. A host of traditional tools and kitchen equipment
is also on display.
The museum came into existence due to the growing realization
that the subak system was gradually being eroded as padi
fields become unfertile and land is increasingly sold for
other purposes (building, usually). While the subak system
is still a central part of much of traditional Balinese
village life, it would be a shame if it were steam-rolled
in the pursuit of modern lifestyles and the tourist dollar.
Artifacts demonstrating the depth of the tradition include
manuscripts written on palm leaves and carvings in copper
plate, such as the manuscript of Purnama Sri which gives
depicts early rice farming techniques. These fascinating
documents reveal that rice farming is not just the day's
work, but is also intertwined inextricably with Balinese
social norms and sprituality.