History of Bali

Bali is a small Island of 5.500 km2, 140 kms East-West and 80 kms North-South.

Its population is 3.500.000 people.

The Balinese have strong spiritual roots and they keep their culture very much alive. They are Hindu Dharma, originally from India and blended with Buddhism, Javanese and ancient animist beliefs.

It is believed that the first settlers on Bali migrated from China around 2.500 B.C. but before there was already an evolved culture like the complex irrigation system and rice production still in use today was established around that time.


Around 500 A.D. Bali was predominantly Buddhist and in 670, a Chinese scholar, Yi-Tsing, on his way to India reported that he visited a Buddhist country called Bali.

It was not before the 11th century that Bali received the strong influx of Hindu and Javanese cultures : around 1011, the Balinese prince, Airlangga, moved to East Java at his fathers’s death and united that area under one principality and he appointed his Brother, Anak Wingsu, as ruler of Bali.

At Airlangga’s death, Bali enjoyed a long period of autonomy but in 1284, Bali was conquered and ruled by the East Java king Kertanegara. He was murdered in 1292 and Bali became again autonomous until 1343 when Gajah Mada, a general of the last great Hindu-Javanese empire, the Majapahit, took control.

With the spread of Islam through Sumatra and Java, the Majapahit empire began to collapse and a large exodus of aristocracy, priests, artists and artisans to Bali ensued. Bali became the major power in the region, taking control of Lombok and parts of East Java.

The first Dutch seamen set foot on Bali in 1597 but it was not before the 1800’s that the Dutch showed an interest in colonising the island. In 1846, the Dutch government sent troops into northern Bali and in 1894, with the help of the Sasak people from Lombok, they decided to defeat their Balinese rulers. In 1911, the whole island was under Dutch control. During WWII, the Japanese expelled the Dutch as they occupied Indonesia from 1942 until 1945.

After the Japanese defeat, the Dutch tried to regain control but on August 17, 1945, Indonesia was declared independent by its first president, Sukarno whose mother was a Balinese.

After four years of fighting and strong criticism from the international community, the Dutch government finally ceded and in 1949, Indonesia was recognized as an independent country.

COMMUNITIES
Balinese people are organized in villages. The local government is responsible for schools, clinics, hospitals and roads but all the other aspects of life are placed in the hands of two traditional committees. The first is Subak that concerns the production of rice and organizes the complex irrigation system ; the other is the banjar that organizes all village festivals, marriage ceremonies and cremations. Most villages have at least one banjar with an average of 50 up to 100 families and all banjars have their own meeting place called the bale banjar.

AGAMA HINDU DHARMA
This is the name of Hindu religion. The Balinese worship the Hindu Trinity, Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu, manifestations of the Supreme God Sanghyang Widhi. Shrines associated with the many gods and spirits, uniquely Balinese, are found all over the Island. Balinese people strongly believe in magic and the power of spirits. The good spirits dwell in the mountains and the seven seas are home to demons. Most villages have 3 main temples : the Pura Puseh or temple of origin, facing the mountains, the Pura Desa, the temple of the village usually in the center and the Pura Dalem, aligned with the sea and dedicated to the spirits of the Dead.

Every day, small offerings are offered to the gods to appease them and ask for prosperity and good health to the family.

TEMPLES
TANAH LOT : built on a rock along the sea. Beautiful sunset sights.

ULUWATU : cliff-top temple with spectacular views.

PURA RAMBUT SIWI : cliff-top temple with views of Java and Mount Bromo on a clear day.

PURA BESAKIH : Bali’s mother temple at Mount Agung’s foot. There are 80 shrines to the various gods and spirits. Be prepared, the people at that temple are reported  aggressive.

PURA LUHUR BATUKARU : in the forest, haven for flowers and birds lovers.

PURA ULUN DANAU BATUR : the second most important temple housing more than 90 shrines. Stunning views on the lake Batur and the volcano.

PURA ULUN DANAU BRATAN : on the lake’s shore.

PURA GUNUNG KAWI : the temples are carved into the rock.

PURA KEHEN : in Bangli, spectacular temple and its huge banyan tree.

PURA TIRTA EMPUL : the holiest temple in Bali. There is a spring that can heal the mind and the body.

BRAHMA VIHARA ASHRAMA BUDDHIST MONASTERY : largest Buddhist temple in Bali set in beautiful surroundings.

PURA PASAR AGUNG : the highest temple in Bali at 2500 m on the Mount Agung flank. On a clear day, gorgeous landscape over the Island. Careful, the road is very, very steep.


PALACES
PURI SEMARAPURA (Klungkung) : Home to the Klungkung’s Kings. Remain 2 pavillions and the entrance gate.The bale Kerta Gosa was the hall of justice with beautiful painted ceilings and carved pillars.

TAMAN UJUNG (Karangasem/Amlapura) : water palace in a nicely landscaped park. It is a tribute to the slightly eccentric designs of King Anak Agung Ngurah.

PURI AGUNG KANGINAN (Karangasem) : built in different styles including Chinese, European and Javanese architecture. A monument to the ability of the Balinese to blend outside influences into their own culture.

TIRTA GANGGA ROYAL BATHING POOLS (Karangasem) : great views of Mount Agung, the countryside below and the Lombok strait. This palace was damaged during the 1963 eruption but it has been restored as the original and the pools still function. No pumps, just gravity.


VILLAGES
CELUK : silver and gold jewelry.
BATUBULAN : stone carving.
PAKUDUWI (TEGALLALANG) : garudas wood carving.
NEGARA : bull races.
SAWAN : gongs and gamelans making.
UBUD : paintings and handicraft.
TENGANAN : weaving in this village where the original Balinese Aga live.