Ubud is an important cultural centre in Bali.
It bustles with tourists from all over the world. Chinese and French, Japanese and Brazilian, Russian and Australian, Javanese and ... you name it, everyone is here. How do the locals cope with this? They sell services and goods. Transport by motorbike or taxi, bicycle tours, excursions to the rice fields, money exchange, massages, cooking classes and more. Goods range from the sublime work of art and high quality crafts to trinkets. I’m tempted to see the production of ’Ramayana’ at the Royal Palace.
The town derives its name from the Balinese word ubad – meaning medicine. In the past, Ubud village was supplying botanical medicine. The village was a location of a shrine associated with the work of Dang Hyang Nirartha, a Javanese priest who recasted the Balinese version of Hinduism in the 16th century. He promoted the worship of the god Shiva and the Shaivite priesthood, as well as the development of the Hindu temples with their Balinese architectural style. According to legend, Nirartha sailed from Java to Bali on a pumpkin and for this reason the Brahmins – members of a priestly class - should not eat pumpkin as it is considered taboo.
Just down the road you will find the Sacred Monkey Forest - a nature reserve with over one hundred species of trees. It is also a home to Crab-eating Macaque monkeys - sweet, pushy and nimble. The Temple of Death, the Holy Spring bathing temple and a ground for cremation are also there, for good measure.
The Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal - the Great Temple of Death - was founded in 14th century. It is dedicated to the Goddess of Death, Durga, who also incarnates as the monstrous witch Rangda – a scary character who appears in Balinese stories, theatre, paintings and Barong performances. The temple has some frightening carvings, such as children with fangs and other hideous characters, but it is beautifully ornamented - an oasis of tranquillity in a busy town.