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The History of Ubud

Ubud is one familiar word when you think of Bali instantly.  This major tourism attraction in Asia has became the new icon of spiritual tourism landmark. The beauty of nature, the arts, and the peaceful atmosphere make many people fall in love with this place. This upland town is best known as the island’s artistic and cultural capital, and it’s where most visitors go to when they’ve had enough of the sun, sea and sand of Bali’s popular beaches. What Ubud lacks in coastlines, it makes up for with green valleys and adventures into nature, as well as vibrant historical sites and an eclectic shopping scene.

The Early History of Ubud

In many ways, the history of the Ubud is the very history of Bali itself. Ubud has a recognized history back to the 8th century, when the Javanese Hindu priest Rsi Markandya concerned Bali from Java, and meditated at the confluence of the 2 Wos rivers at Campuan, just west of the contemporary town center. A shrine was established and later broadened by Nirartha, the Javanese priest who is related to as the founder of Bali’s religious traditions and routines as we understand them today. At this time the area was a center of alternative medicine and healing, which is how the name Ubud started: Ubad is ancient Balinese for medicine.

Additional temples and abbeys were developed over the next 400 hundred years approximately. The temple complex at Gunung Kawi and the cave temples at Goa Gajah are architectural remains from this duration. Much of the dances, drama, and routines still practiced in Ubud today, came from at this time. King Airlangga ordered all of Java and Bali in this period, and his seat of federal government lay in exactly what is now the village of Batuan, simply 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.

In 1900, Ubud became a Dutch protectorate at its own request, and the colonialists interfered little, allowing the traditional arts and culture of the area to remain relatively unchanged. The modern era of Ubud perhaps began in the 1930s, when foreign artists were encouraged by the royal family to take up presence in the town. From the 1960s onwards, travellers started to arrive in earnest, mostly intrepid types as the infrastructure was still very limited indeed. Since then, Ubud has developed rapidly into a high-profile, top-class international destination, whilst still maintaining its integrity as the centre of Balinese art and culture.

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