Bali is an island of incredible mystery,
beauty, enchantment, culture, hospitality, variety, and serenity; who
wouldn't fall under its irresistible spell?
beaches, volcanoes, lakes, temples, and terraced rice fields -- combined
with its deeply artistic roots and its legendary hospitality -- have
made it one of the most visited places on earth. The religion and
culture of Bali are unique in the world, and the Balinese have preserved
their traditions in spite of the island's growing tourist industry.
While many destinations offer beautiful
scenery, few have the variety of Bali, and none has its unique art,
culture, and natural hospitality.
Life : The strong
cultural identity of Bali is based on a combination of closely related
elements that include its unique religion, its language, its castes, its
community life, and its art.
Although the official language is
Indonesian, Balinese remains the everyday language of the people of the
The ancient caste
system -- still alive but no longer of any official or formal
significance -- divides the Balinese into four distinct castes: Priests
('Brahmana'), Rulers ('Ksatria'), Warriors ('Wesia'), and commoners ('Sudra').
Unlike India, Balinese Hinduism has no 'untouchable' caste. Ninety
percent of Balinese are commoners, while the remaining ten percent are
divided among the three higher castes.
Numerous ceremonies mark the
progression of life in Bali, starting, of course, with birth.
Children are treated with respect and gentleness; corporal punishment is
rare. In adulthood, marriage becomes compulsory and represents the
individual's official entry into the community as an adult.
Subsequently, participation in the meetings of the Banjar
(village association that manages village affairs) becomes obligatory.
The management of
the all-important water supply falls under another essential community
organization called the Subak, to which each village landowner
belongs. Bali's irrigation system, unique in the world, is managed by
these associations, which ensure the fair distribution of water and
carry out the traditional ceremonial rites to the gods of agriculture.
No discussion of Bali is complete
without mentioning Bali's native inhabitants, the so-called 'Bali Aga'.
They are the descendants of the first known inhabitants of Bali, and
their customs are of prehistoric origin -- long before the arrival of
Hinduism. Now their culture represents a unique combination of their
animistic origins and Balinese Hinduism. There are only a few villages
of Bali Aga left; the two best known are Tenganan in Karangasem and
Trunyan in Kintamani, Bangli.
It is believed that Bali's first inhabitants
came from China at the beginning of the Iron Age, around 3,000 BC. Some
Buddhist inscriptions date from the 9th century AD; it was only in the
11th century that Hindu influence from Java began to make its mark on
the island. The 13th century saw the emergence of the Majapahit dynasty
that ruled over Java and Bali for the next three centuries.
At the end of this
era, chased by the arrival of Islam, the Javanese aristocracy and its
priests and artisans fled to Bali. Bali then entered an intense period
of cultural development, the main traits of which are to be found today
in the caste system, the rituals, and certain artistic styles.
The first Dutch seamen landed in Bali
in 1597. Starting in 1800 in the north of Bali, the Dutch began a long
and troubled campaign to colonize the island. Their efforts climaxed
with the collective suicide of 14 September 1906, when 4,000 Balinese
killed themselves rather than capitulate. Dutch colonization lasted
until World War II, when they were ousted by Japanese forces.
The Japanese occupation lasted from
1942 to 1945. 0n 17 August 1945, Sukarno, the first President of the
Republic of Indonesia, proclaimed independence. After the end of World
War II, however, the Dutch tried to re-assert their colonial control
over Bali and Indonesia. At the battle of Marga (Bali) in 1946, the
Dutch faced a group of 94 Balinese soldiers led by Lt. Col. I Gusti
Ngurah Rai, all of whom died refusing to surrender. In 1949, the Dutch
finally relinquished their claims on Indonesia.
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