Ubud is the artistic and cultural center of Bali, famed for its rich history in the performing arts, its spectacular island temple culture, and its talented community of artists and craftsmen. In many ways, its history is the very history of Bali itself.
Activity in the area dates back to the eighth century when the Javanese Hindu priest Rsi Marhandya came to the island from Java and meditated at the confluence of the two Wos rivers at Campuan, just west of the modern-day town center.
A shrine was established and later expanded by Nirartha, the Javanese priest regarded as the founder of Bali’s religious practices, and the area grew over the following centuries to become known as a center of natural medicine and healing, hence its name. Ubad is the ancient Balinese word for medicine.
Further temples were built over the next 400 hundred years and many of the dances, drama and rituals still practiced in Ubud today originated at this time.
The Javanese Majapahit kingdom conquered Bali in 1343, leading to a great flowering of Balinese culture which remains in place today. The ancestry of Ubud’s current day aristocratic families can be traced back to this period.
In 1900, Ubud became a Dutch protectorate, allowing the traditional arts and culture of the area to remain relatively unchanged. The modern era of Ubud began in the 1930s when foreign artists were encouraged by the royal family to take up residence in the town.
From their Ubud base, the likes of Walter Spies and Rudolph Bonnet were instrumental in promoting an understanding of Balinese art and culture around the world.
From the 1960s onwards, travelers started to arrive in earnest, mostly intrepid types as the infrastructure was still very limited. Since then, Ubud has developed rapidly into a high-profile, top-class international destination, while still maintaining its integrity as the center of Balinese art and culture.