Harvest moon in Bali

Walking around Bali, especially Ubud, around this time of year, you might notice empty rice fields or farmers burning crops. If so, consider yourself unlucky. You just missed the harvest moon in Bali!

Since the good old days, a majority of Balinese have chosen a life of agriculture. From tending rice fields to livestock, agriculture is an inseparable part of Balinese culture. The ceremonies that we have today came from this agricultural tradition.

Rice is a staple food for not only Balinese but also Indonesians. We even have a saying, “A meal’s not a meal without rice”. Hence, a large portion of farmland is rice fields.

Harvest moon used to come every six months, but now rice can be harvested every three months thanks to advancements in biotechnology. But, despite advances in farming technology, you can still see a fragment of an old tradition in Bali, where a little hard labour worked wonders.

Farmers organize themselves into several teams called sekaa when it’s time to harvest. Each sekaa has a specific duty: preparing equipment, cutting rice stalks, and so on. Everyone works together to get the job done. One crucial sekaa, yet almost extinct, is the sekaa manyi. Their job is to collect rice grains by grabbing a handful of stalks and then thrashing them onto a board until the grains scatter. A tarp below collects the grains. Nowadays, harvesting machines help ease the work. Once sacks of rice have been collected, another sekaa transports it to the market using either motorcycles or trucks. But sometimes, you might catch a farmer carrying rice using baskets.

Once the harvest is complete, all that’s left is celebrating the bounty by holding ceremonies and having a large feast with the neighbours!