More about Bali - Culture, Temple, Religion

Geography of Bali
Lake Tamblingan in Bali The surface of Bali's island is dominated by volcanic mountains range that stretch across the north and scattered with lakes which flow into numerous rivers that allows rice to be grown all year round with centuries-old irrigation system. Much part of the island is under cultivation with some virgin rain forest in the central mountains, which are under government protection.

Location of Bali
Lying 8 south of the equator and 115 East longitudes in the central Indonesian archipelago with an area of about 5620 sq km, measuring approximately 140 km by 80 km. Bali is located in the Indian Ocean in the center of the Indonesian archipelago.

Climate of Bali
Near the equator, Bali has a tropical climate with temperature in the wet season range from 30-31C by daytime and 24-25C by nighttime. In the dry season range from 28-29C by day time and a pleasant 23C at night. Humidity various from 60% up to 100 %. Sporadic showers fall around the first month of the year.

History of Bali
Prehistory: There is evidence of the Stone Age people on Bali and it was certainly as a proof that Bali was inhabited very early in the prehistoric times. Fossil human remains (Homo Erectus) have been found and Bali was still joined to Java as a part of the land formation. Paleolithic stone tools that found on the Bali were indicating human presence on the island as early as 1500 BC, the ancestors of modern Indonesians arrived from southern India and introduced an agrarian concept of society centered on village units. Bronze Age: In the Bronze Age around 300 BC-100 AD was already well populated. Beautifully decorated axes, hoes, bracelets and rings from these ancient times are still preserved in the temples as sacred heirlooms. The most famous evidence of this time is the "Moon of Pejeng", a huge waisted drum that is kept in a temple in Pejeng village, central Bali.

* 9th century: The earliest written records are inscriptions on a stone pillar found in Sanur, south Bali dating back from around 9th century AD.

1019~1042: It is the period when Hindu Java began to penetrate Bali during the reign of King Airlangga. When he was 16th years old, his uncle Darma Wangsa was killed and lost his throne, Airlangga fled to the forest where he lived among religious hermits. With the help of the hermits he re-conquered village after village and he was crowned king over his old kingdom and reigned for 25 years as of the greatest monarchs in the history of Java. Airlangga's mother, Mahendradatta moved to Bali shortly after his birth and changed her name to Gunapriya Dharmapatni and remarried a Balinese entitled Udayana. Queen Gunapriya and Udayana ruled Bali as a vassal of East Java and were later succeeded by their two sons, half brothers of Airlangga. Because of the dynastic link between Bali and Java, Bali was enriched by Javanese culture. Royal edicts, first written in the language common to Bali at the time adopted old Javanese script. The style of the cliff Candis at Gunung Kawi, Tampaksiring honoring Gunapriya, Udayana and their two sons largely derives from eastern java architecture of the 11 century.

An old tree in Bali 1049: Airlangga was died, East Java was ruled by the Kediri dynasty and Bali remained undisturbed, governed by Airlangga's descendents. The semi-autonomy for Bali was ended when Kertanegara the most powerful prince of Javanese Singasari dynasty became king. In 1284, he took the last descendent of Airlangga to Java as a prisoner and ruled Bali from there. Within 8 years Kertanegara was murdered and his kingdom destroyed by the rising Majapahit dynasty of Java. With political dissension in Java, Bali regained its liberty and established the powerful Pejeng dynasty centered near modern day Ubud. The last king of Pejeng dynasty was the legendary Dalem Bedaulu a semi demonic ruler said to have had the head of a pig and the powers of magician refused to recognize Majapahit supremacy. He was defeated by Gajah Mada the great general of Majapahit in 1343, and brought back Bali under Javanese influence. After Majapahit was collapsed, Bali absorbed the influences of Hindu-Java. Many of Majapahit intelligentsia, including the priest Nirartha moved to Bali. Nirartha is credited with introducing many of the complexities of Balinese religion to the island. Artists, dancers, musicians and actors also fled to Bali and the island experienced an explosion of cultural activity.

1597: The Dutch arrived in Bali. Balinese aristocracy was enjoying unprecedented prosperity and at first relations were glorious friendly. Clemency ended when the Dutch East India Company was established whose policies excluded most things but hopes for profit. After two centuries of unscrupulous operation, the company attracted such unfavorable criticism that the Netherlands government was forced to assume control. Then the long struggle began for supremacy between the Dutch officials and the Balinese monarchy.

By the early 1600s, the Dutch had established trade treaties with Javanese princes and controlled much of the spice trade, but they were interested in profit, not culture, and barely gave Bali a second glance.

1846: The question of the ancient right of the Balinese to claim cargo of wrecked ships which washed up on the shore, brought the first Dutch military expedition to north Bali. After a series of battles, the northern state of Buleleng and Jembrana were placed under the direct administration of the Netherlands East Indies government in 1882.

1894: The Dutch landed a large expedition in Lombok and an ultimatum to the old Rajah who agreed to pay a war indemnity of one million guilders. The younger prince rejected his decision and they launched a fierce attack on the Dutch encampments. The attack forced the enemy to retreat to the sea with a loss of nearly 100 men including the General Van Ham, second command. The Netherlands government immediately sent reinforcements and heavy artillery. A new Dutch offensive swept over the island, the young prince was killed and the old rajah was exiled but soon he died of a broken heart.

1904: A small Chinese steamer was shipwrecked in Sanur and looted off Sanur just three miles from Denpasar in the region of Badung. The owners held the Dutch government responsible who, in turn demanded the Rajah of Badung to pay damages of three thousand silver dollars and punish the culprits. The rajah refused it.

Figure Semarapura 1906: The Dutch anchored a fleet of warships off Sanur. Several days later, an army of Balinese equipped with golden spears made a surprise attack upon the fleet. Within few days, the Dutch were advancing to Denpasar while bombarding the city from their ships. The population fled, leaving the Rajah with only two thousands men. Realizing his army was outnumbered and his weapons no match for cannons, the Raja sought the only honorable solution, To Die a dignified death. Abiding by the tradition the Rajah scorched the earth by commanding that everything of value be destroyed and his palace set on fire. He told his people that anyone who wished to follow him into a Puputan, "a fight unto death". Thus the king, his priests and generals, and all his relatives, men and women, adorned themselves with jewels and the dress of warriors (short with loincloths caught between the legs) and set out amidst the flames. The procession was resplendent with the panoply of a great feudal lord. The Rajah, borne on the shoulders of a retainer and holding a golden Kris studded with rubies and diamonds, led his glittering retinue directly onto the rifles of the Dutch militia. The commanding officer, astonished by such a spectacle of chivalry, sent interpreters to beg the Balinese to halt, but their pleas had no effect on an entranced people wedded to a code of valor. The battle was suicidal. One by one, the satrias were gunned down at the enemy's feet. In the end the Dutch were left horrified at a cairn of bodies sprawled out before them. Wounded princes and princesses had crawled to die, piled upon their king's body.

1942: The Japanese occupied Indonesia after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

1945: On August 17, 1945 on behalf of all Indonesians, national leader Soekarno proclaimed Indonesia's independence.

1946: Te famous battle of Marga was led by I Gusti Ngurah Rai, Bali's revolutionary forces refused surrender to the Dutch government until national independence was won. The Balinese commander and all his soldiers were killed in a heroic battle against the Dutch in an air attack.

1949: The Dutch officially recognized Indonesia at the Hague Round Table Conference. And a constitutional republic headed by President Soekarno governed the nation.

1963: The great eruption of mount Agung killed thousands of people and destroyed thousands of houses and temples.

1965: The attempted communist coup brought about far-reaching consequences in Indonesia's political life.

1976: Tourism started to soar in Bali.

1979: The great ritual purification ceremony called Eka Dasa Ludra was held at the Mother temple Besakih. The ceremony takes place every 100 years.

Vegetation of Bali
Ricepaddies Bali Bali is rich with various tropical vegetation, palm tress, rice, spices and tropical fruits. The principal agricultural products are rice, coffee, clove and tropical fruits such as Mango, Papaya, Jackfruit, Durian, Salak/Snake fruit, etc.

Language in Bali
Balinese grow up with speaking two related languages based on Malay. Balinese language is spoken in the homes and among the villages and the national language Bahasa Indonesia is used exclusively. The people near tourist resorts and everyone who are related to the tourist industry speak English. Meanwhile those advancing in the tourism industry study other foreign languages like Japanese, German, French, and Italian.

Religion in Bali
Bali is justly well known throughout the world for its unique Hindu culture, the splendor of its ritual arts, and the charm of its friendly people. The population is dominated by Balinese Hindu religion with some minority of Buddhist, Kristen and Moslem. Balinese Hindu Dharma is a blend of various sects of Hinduism, Buddhism, Animism and ancestral worship. The Hindu religion is strongly practiced by its followers with various unique ritual ceremonies and celebration throughout the year. Hindu is a monotheistic religion, but it is known many different Gods and Goddess as the manifestation of the Almighty God or the supreme God. The divine spirits are honored through worship and devotion and the evil spirits are placated through purification and exorcism. Both must be provided for since happiness and contentment come only to those who take both forces into consideration.

Temples
Temples are places for renewing contact with the divine spirits and the true centers of arts and the nexus of Balinese culture. Bali is often called as an island of thousands temples. Temples are spread all over the island from a very simple to elaborate ones. In every family compound they have a family temple as a place to renewing contact with holy ancestors, and in each village there are three temples, which are dedicated to the Trinity Gods (Brahma, Wisnu, Siwa) such as,

Pura Desa is the temple to honor the God in his manifestation as Dewa Brahma - the creator.
Pura Puseh is for honoring the manifestation as Dewa Wisnu - the protector. And,
Pura Dalem is dedicated to the Dewa Siwa - The Destroyer.

Besides that there are number of different temples which are built in special sites that is considered to be a holy spot such as holy spring, sacred trees, holy mountains, etc. the major temples are found almost all over the island that is annually visited during the festival day and other special occasion by the Hindu followers. Pura Besakih is the mother temple of Bali and located on the slope on of mount Agung on the northeast of the island and it is the biggest temple complex on the island.

Bali Festivals in Bali
Odalan Festival
It takes place every 210 days according to the Balinese lunar calendar. It is an annual joyful celebration where people renewing their ties to the Gods and also reinforce their relationship and friendship with each other through elaborate preparations and ceremonies. The villages from few days before the Odalan prepare offerings, temple area is cleaned and decorated for the festival. On the Odalan day, everyone arrives beautifully dressed, presenting the deities with food, music, prayer, devotions and the best entertainment to amuse them during their sojourn on earth. After three or four days, the deities return to heaven and the temple empties until the next holiday.

Galungan and Kuningan
One of the major Balinese Hindu festival which takes place every 210 days, which always falls on Wednesday of Dungulan week of Pawukon calendar to celebrate the victory of Dharma/the light forces against Adharma/the dark forces. Each day before Galungan is marked by a special activity, ripening fruits, making offerings and slaughtering animals. Temples are cleaned and decorated for the ceremony. On Galungan eve, Penjor bamboo poles are set up on front of house and temple arching over road with flowers, fruits and palm leaf ornaments hanging from them as symbols of fertility. Galungan is a holiday to celebrate the creation of the universe and a time to devote offerings to the ancestral spirits are thought to descend to the earth and visiting their living relatives. The celebrations last for 10 days, ending on Saturday- the Kuningan.

Nyepi Day
A celebration for the New Year of the Balinese calendar, which falls usually in March, is a day of silence and contemplation. On Nyepi day, people are not allowed to go out on the street, no fires are lit, no light at night, visiting and entertainment are not permitted, people stay at home to meditate. It continues until the following day when normal activities resumes. The ceremony actually starts from one day before Nyepi with a great purification ceremony and a parade of terrifying effigies named Ogoh-Ogoh to chase away demons.

Cock Fight
it is a blood sacrificial ceremony for the evil spirit but has been abused for a little gambling lately. It is mostly done to complete a religious ceremony in the villages around the island.

Cremations
is passage from this life to the next in the soul's journey to heaven. A death is the time for sharing one's feeling, when all the people gathered in the home of the deceased, night after night while the corpse is still kept in the house they stay up till late hours to keep the family company. Men and women help prepare refreshments and necessary offerings for the purification of the body. When the date of the cremation approaches, everybody in the village is engage in making the offerings, coffin, and huge tower, all beautifully decorated to emphasize the importance of the grand send-off. The Balinese people believe that the human body is made by the five elemental substances, solid, liquid, radiance, energy and ether. It is only when the body is destroyed the soul can be released and reincarnated. Of all the Balinese rituals, the cremation is the most complex and culminating with spectacular burning of the corpse and the vast quantities of valuable ritual objects especially created for the ceremony.




Wayan Sueta
Specialized in Countryside Adventure
Email: Sueta@hiddenbali.com
© 2000-2004





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