Stone carving is an essential art-form for the Balinese. Every kind of stone sculpture you can think of is produced on the island, from deities to demons, giant frogs to rearing stallions, and they line the roads outside the workshops all the way up from the airport.
Traditionally, stone carvers produced works for temple and palace gateways. Gateways represent the division between the inner and outer worlds, and even today it’s rare to see the entrance to any Balinese house, office or restaurant without at least one stone sculpture (normally in the form of a demon) to maintain security. The demon form is also designed to scare visitors into behaving well once inside.
The sandstone that’s used for carving, called ‘paras’, looks heavy, but in fact it’s light like pumice, and weathers quickly in the tropical climate – this means that statues in temples have to be constantly replaced. Moss also grows quickly in Bali, so in no time the carvings look as though they’ve been around for decades.
Purchasing Stone Statues
If you’re shopping for statues, be warned: some aren’t carved at all, but are produced from a mould and poured lava-stone concrete. One way to tell the real thing from a fake is from the lines a mould often creates, where two halves have been fitted together. The centre of stone-carving is the village of Batubulan, between Denpasar and Ubud, and also Singapadu, but there are several outlets in the immediate Ubud area.