If it’s spectacular stone carvings you’re after, either to buy or simply admire, then Batubulan is the place to set your sights. Situated about ten kilometers northeast of Denpasar (the capital city of the province of Bali), Batubulan is a large village boasting streets lined with statues, Buddha figures, demons and other mythical figures, all carved in stone.
Indeed, the art form of stone carving has a long tradition in the village. Earlier this century, the carvings were used only in temples and palaces but in recent years have grown extensively in popularity and become a common sight, adorning public buildings and homes.
Upon entering the village, one can witness craftsmen in workshops creating their masterpieces, all but oblivious to the noise from the nearby traffic the main road. Old men and young boys alike can be seen plying their craft, expertly chipping away at big blocks of volcanic stone or ‘paras’ – Bali’s omnipresent grey stone, which is actually volcanic tuff, quarried from river gorges.
Perhaps the best example of the use of paras can be found in the village’s temples, most notably, Pura Puseh. This temple, more than one thousand years old and restored in 1992, also sports sculptures of both deities and demons in its innermost courtyard. Indeed, paras’ soft texture makes it very easy to carve, which is why it is used in both sculpting and building in the village.
Batubulan – which, quite fittingly, means ‘moonstone’ – is also home to a number of celebrated Barong dance theatre troupes. Dance is hugely important to the Balinese people in terms of history and self-expression, with Barong – a story-telling dance that illustrates the fight between good and evil, blending myth and history – perhaps the most well-known type.