Subak Museum is one of the most popular Bali Places of Interest located in the village of Sanggulan along the main road to Kediri in Tabanan, which is frequented on touring routes to the western parts of the island, thus making for a convenient and insightful stopover along several itineraries. On June 2012, subak was eventually included on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, as the Cultural Landscape of Bali : the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophy. It identifies the island’s wealth of 19,500 hectares of paddies and associated temples.
The Balinese have embraced an agrarian way of life for centuries, and one of the most important aspects in the management of rice fields and its irrigation systems is the subak – a form of traditional community cooperative passed down through generations. It is an alliance among farmland owners or farmers who draw irrigation from a shared water source. Subak reflects economic, social, cultural and religious accord among its members.
Unique to Bali, the subak as well as the wealth of traditional agricultural methods and tools, have been collected, recorded and kept within a museum, aptly called the Museum Subak. The Subak Museum is located on Jalan Gatot Subroto in the district of Kediri, Tabanan. The museum is approximately an hour’s drive from Bali’s capital city Denpasar and only five minutes from the town centre of Tabanan.
Subak Museum is both a tourism and educational site divided into several sections. The main section is open to the public, there is also a holy complex that includes several shrines such as a Padmasana and a Bedugul, with layouts generally adhering to the traditional science of architectural spacing and measurement, known as Asta Kosala-Kosali.
An open museum section includes a miniaturised version of the subak system meant to exhibit the various agricultural activities involved, such as irrigation, pools and channeling into paddies. A main building acts as an information centre, housing an audio-visual room, study and exhibition room that displays various traditional agricultural tools used by Balinese farmers to tend the fields.
Visitors can view various wooden and metal harvesting tools, cattle-drawn ploughs, various fish and eel traps, nets for capturing dragonflies and locusts (the Balinese used to gather amounts of a large species of dragonfly known locally as capung jaran and locusts, and prepare a tasty meal from these), various mock-ups and miniatures of old farming village layouts, traditional Balinese kitchens, and others.
The establishment of such a museum was urged by the notion that traditional methods of agriculture may soon be replaced by modern machinery and methods. And Subak Museum became a reality in October, 1981, built in a verdant location in Tabanan, otherwise referred to as the island’s rice bowl for its vast stretches of rice paddies and terraces.
Subak Museum features public facilities for visitors such as restrooms, parking spaces and accommodation facilities. A visit to this site is a refreshing one, with large old trees and tropical plants providing ample shade and pleasant settings.