The History Of Ubud

In many ways, the history of the Ubud area (not so much the modern day town) is the very history of Bali itself.

Ubud has a known history back to the eighth century, when the Javanese Buddhist priest Rsi Marhandya came to Bali from Java, and meditated at the confluence of the two rivers at Campuan, just west of the modern day town centre. Here he established Gunung Lebah Temple, the site of which remains a pilgrim destination. The shrine was later expanded by Nirartha, the Javanese priest who is regarded as the founder of Bali’s religious practices and rituals as we know them today. At this time the area was a centre of natural medicine and healing, and that is how the name Ubud originated: Ubad is ancient Bali language for medicine.

Further temples and monasteries were established over the next 400 hundred years or so. The temple complex at Gunung Kawi, and the cave temples at Goa Gajah (just east and northeast of Ubud), are architectural remains from this period. Many of the dances, drama and rituals still practised in Ubud today, originated at this time. King Airlangga ruled all of Java and Bali in this era, and his seat of government was located in what is now the village of Batuan, just southeast of Ubud.

The Javanese Majapahit kingdom conquered Bali in 1343, and the key final victory was against the Pejeng Dynasty centred at Bedulu, just to the east of Ubud. A great flowering of Balinese culture followed, and the ancestry of Ubud’s current day aristocratic families can be traced back to this period. In the sixteenth Century, there was a total transplantation of the Majapahit Kingdom to Bali as the Islamisation of Java forced them eastwards. Power flip-flopped between various dynasties and feudal lords, but the Ubud area remained a very important role in the various regencies which ruled the island.

In the late nineteenth century, Ubud became the seat of feudal lords who owed their allegiance to the king of Gianyar, at one time the most powerful of Bali’s southern states. The lords were members of the Satriya caste of Sukawati, and were significant supporters of the village’s increasingly renowned arts scene.

Tourism on the island developed after the arrival of Walter Spies, an ethnic German born in Russia who taught painting and music, and dabbled in dance. Spies and foreign painters Willem Hofker and Rudolf Bonnet entertained celebrities including Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward, Barbara Hutton, H.G. Wells and Vicki Baum. They brought in some of the greatest artists from all over Bali to teach and train the Balinese in arts, helping Ubud become the cultural centre of Bali.

A new burst of creative energy came in 1960s in the wake of Dutch painter Arie Smit (1916), and development of the Young Artists Movement. There are many museums in Ubud which show their works, including the Museum Puri Lukisan, Museum Neka and the Agung Rai Museum of Art.

The Bali tourist boom since the late 1960s has seen much development in the town; however, it remains a centre of artistic pursuit.

If you want to spend your holiday in Ubud, just make sure to stay at Dara Ayu Villas and Spa. Book your villa by contacting Dara Ayu’s staff by phone: 62 361 9000 797 or by email: info@daraayuvillas.com.