According to legend, the Balinese originally only had the juice of sugar cane as food. Out of pity for the human race, Wisnu, Lord of the Underworld, the god of fertility and water, came to earth in disguise, to provide them with better food. Wisnu made love to Mother Earth to fertilize her and give birth to rice, she became known as Sanghyang Ibu Pertiwi, the Smitten Grandmother. Then Wisnu went to war with Indra, Lord of the Heavens, to persuade him to teach men how to grow rice. Thus rice was born as a gift from the gods and the principal source of life and wealth. Rice was born from the cosmic union of the divine male and female creative forces represented by earth and water.
There are four sacred directions, each represented by a different colour, red, black, white and yellow. God intended to give the Balinese rice in all these colours, but when Siwa sent a bird to bring the rice to the Balinese, the bird ate the yellow rice --except for a little bit which was planted under the eaves of its home. From the seeds grew kunyit, turmeric. Thus yellow rice which doesn't grow in Bali, is prepared by mixing white rice with turmeric, and is the fourth type of rice. The other three are bras (white rice), bras barak (red rice) and injin (black rice). Yellow rice is essential for certain ceremonies and temple offerings, such as Kuningan, the last day of the harvest festival, Galungan.
The rice plant is considered a divine and animated female being which is treated with particular respect. Each stage of its growth is carried out on an auspicious day and accompanied by appropriate temple offerings, in the same way as other rites of passage ceremonies are conducted for human beings.
After planting --by hand over several days- the first yellow-green shoots of rice begin to appear, and their little seedlings can be seen reflected on the water. It is at this time that the rice is at its most vulnerable from the birds, and scarecrows, wind chimes, bamboo bird-scarers and cloth effigies are put up in the rice field, even people keep watch, and yell at the birds to send them away.
Two months later the rice will have grown taller and green, it takes about five months for the rice to mature and be ready for the harvest. After the harvest, the stubble in the fields is burnt or alternatively flooded, so that the old rice stalks slowly decompose under the water.