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Thursday, 18 December 2008

The Subak of Bali : Still Exist or Extinct

Talking about Subak, our memories certainly turn to Bali, an island as the most favourite worldwide tourist destination. But what in fact is a Subak? Subak was firstly introduced in the eleventh century (1071 A.D.), as was shown on the Pandak Bandung epigraphy. On this epigraphy, the word “Kasuwakan” was found, which it changed to “Kasubakan” and is now the term of “Subak”. It may be possible that the Subak existed in 882 A.D.since there was a water tunnel built for farming purposes (Mandia et. Al. 2002).

Subak and the Concept of Tri Hita Karana

According to Provincial Decree of Bali No.02/PD/DPRD/1972, a Subak is defined as being a legal custom of the Balinese people of Socio-agricultural religious character which has been established and developed over a long period as a landowners organization for the purpose of controlling water from water resources and other factors relating to the operation of rice fields in a specific area. (Provincial Public Works Service of Bali, 1997).

It should be said that subak is communal organization specially formed to control the distribution of water for rice fields in Bali. Under the subak system, a group of farmers joins together to build and control the distribution of water for irrigation and farming in their area in an autonomous and democratic manner (Semada, 2003). The control of irrigation is lead by a cultural leader who is also a farmer.
At a glance, a subak is similar to any other group of farmers belonging to water cooperative (Perkumpulan Petani Pemakai Air – P3A). However, according to Mania . (2002), a subak has some specific characters as follows:

1. A Subak is an organization of farmers, which manages water supply amongst its members. AS an organization, subak has organizers and basic rules (awig-awig) both written and unwritten ones.
2. The members have water resources of their own i.e. river, spring, ground water, dam or main water ditches for irrigation systems.
3. Having its own area of rice fields.
4. Having internal and external autonomy.
5. Having one or more Bedugul temples, which have relationship to subak affairs.

Basically, subak is a community-based irrigation system, which is carried out the concept of Tri Hita Karana for its cooperation and management. The concept is applied both in subak and in subak abian (dry field).

Tri Hita Karana is composes of three words i.e. Tri= 3, Hita=welfare and Karana= cause. These three words interpret to the understanding of three principal for welfare that are provided that from the harmonious relationship of mankind with God (parhyangan), mankind with his environment (pelemahan) and man with man (pawongan).

To keep the harmonization of three factors, the subak was awig-awig (basic rule) and paswara/pararem (Rules for performing to complete the awig-awig principles). Below are some examples of how the Tri Hita Karana Concept in Cekungan Tukad Daya Barat, Jembrana Regency being applied:

1. Ritual Sub-system of parhyangan: Performance of rituals ceremonies at temples related to water sources and farming such as at Ulun Subak Temple and Ulun Danu Temple.

2. Social organization sub-system of pawongan: a) meeting of members and official activities of the ground water subak; b) Subak administration and financial report; c) Transportation for subak needs.

3. Physical sub-system of palemahan : a) Maintenance of parhyangan; b) Operation and Maintenance of generator and pump, farming machinery and tools of subak; c) Operation and maintenance of ground water irrigation ditch network.

Organization and Irrigation System of Subak

As an organization, a subak consists of Paruman subak , Prajuru subak and Krama subak. Paruman subak is a consensus forum and it is the highest authority within the subak.

Secondly, Prajuru subak (the subak organizers) consist of Pakaseh/Kelian/Ketua or Head of the Subak. Juru tulis/Penyarikan or Secretary, Juru Raksa/Bendahara or Treasurer, Juru Arah/Kasinoman as the spokesman responsible for passing the massages to all members. In larger scale of subak, the prajuru subak are supported by pekaseh/kelihan tempek, which is like a special adviser for the group or block.

Thirdly, Krama Subak is the members of subak, which are the farmers. Members of the subak have the same responsibility regarding the amount of water used in their rice fields. Therefore, they are obligated to be active or ngayah in subak activities, such as actively taking part in ritual ceremonies, meetings and maintenance of subak facilities. If they receive a portion or tektek of water but are not active in subak activities, they are able to fines set by subak.

According to Provincial Public Works Services of Bali (1997), the irrigation system of Subak comprises four physical aspects:

1. Man construction i.e. an intake water until located at the water source.
2. A waterway network i.e. ducts or ditches designed to flow the irrigation water from source to the rice fields area.
3. Area if rice fields according to topographic conditions with systems of water distribution and collective drainage.
4. The drainage system, either natural or manmade ditches that are located out of the subak irrigation area drain excess water.

Source: Indonesian Geographical expedition of Bali 2007, Badan Koordinasi Survei dan Pemetaan Nasional (National Coordinating Agency for Survey and Mapping)

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