Since the 8th century, Ubud, on the island of Bali, has been a destination for Hindu pilgrims. The Gunung Lebah Temple still to this day remains a destination for Hindu pilgrims but now Ubud has a different sort of pilgrim. This pilgrim comes looking for Hindu culture, relaxation, romance, yoga and Balinese art.
I have been living in Bali for a long time and have come to really appreciate the non-intrusive nature of Balinese Hinduism. The main stories that hold Balinese Hinduism together, such as Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita and Mahabharata, come from ancient Indian Sanskrit. Hinduism is considered the oldest organised religion.
The Balinese combined these ancient stories with their existing religion, what scholars call animism. The Balinese believe the mountains, rivers and beaches have a living spirit. The Balinese of times past painted, danced, played music and designed architecture to celebrate the love they have for Krishna and the other Hindu gods. This is the tradition that is being built upon and the tradition being kept alive in paintings, sculpture, wood-craft and the exterior and interior design of private luxury villas.
Ubud has become a popular tourist destination for people all over the world during the last 40 years. What is it about this romantic setting in Bali that has seen the quick development of so many private and luxury villas and hotels.
Located near the centre of Bali, west of the Ginayar Regency, Ubud is the cultural home of the Balinese people. Ubud exists as an anti-thesis to the ego driven Kuta, the shopping parade of Seminyak, traffic on the Sunset Road and the general hectic life on the south coast of Bali. Ubud is an escape from all of this; it is a place where you can chill-out in a relaxing and romantic setting, amongst glorious natural beauty.
A testament to the tolerant nature of the Balinese people can be shown in a story from 80 years ago. In the 1930 the royal family in Ubud encouraged foreign artists to live, learn and paint amongst the local people. This meant such pioneering artists as Walter Spies and Rudolph Bonnet could expose the world to this type of romantic art. A two way symbiosis occurred allowing the foreign artists to learn form the locals and the locals being able to unlock the creativity that was restricted by the traditional ways.
Ubud is surrounded by stepped rice paddies, deep ravines and breath-taking tropical beauty. This is the real inspiration for the artists and luxury villa developers in Ubud.
Wellness Bali, yoga, healing are all words that you will hear often in Ubud. Many tourists choose to go on private villa retreats to help mind, body and soul. This is certainly in keeping with the name of Ubud which comes from the Balinese word ‘ubad’ meaning medicine, as Ubud was originally an important source for medicinal herbs and plants.
Bali is a changing place and the truth is Ubud is becoming more and more busy. The tourists, expats and locals alike must do what they can to keep the spirit of Ubud alive and stop it from becoming another run-down tourist destination. As long as Ubud small businesses continue to focus on Balinese dance and art; and not focus on nightclubs and surfing Ubud should be able to remain as the cultural home it is.