Just another WordPress weblog
sawah

About Bali Island

BALI, ‘island of the gods’…

Ever since a first curious “white man” stepped of a sailboat and onto this island sometime in the late 16th century, Bali has been regarded as more of a dream – a state of mind – than a place. Even today, in an impersonal, aerospace age when shiny jets cross vast seas in mere hours and shudder to a noisy halt on this Indonesian’s island international airport, the island of Bali still retains a special, otherworldly charm. Moments after you walk through the airport’s white split-gate entrance, and clear customs under the tinkling of recorded gamelan music, you find yourself motoring past pristine rice fields, sculpted temples and stately street people, and wondering why you’ve never visited this place before. Or, if you’ve been to Bali before, you ask yourself why you ever left.

Bali, the famed Island of the Gods, with its varied landscape of hills and mountains, rugged coastlines and sandy beaches, lush rice terraces and barren volcanic hillsides all providing a picturesque backdrop to its colourful, deeply spiritual and unique culture, stakes a serious claim to be paradise on earth.

With world-class surfing and diving, a large number of cultural, historical and archaeological attractions, and an enormous range of accommodations, this is one of the world’s most popular island destinations and one which consistently wins travel awards. Bali has something to offer a very broad market of visitors from young back-packers right through to the super-rich. Visit this website for extended information on Bali’s accommodation.

geography-map-indonesia-630

geography

Geographically, Bali is situated between the islands of Java and Lombok. Bali is small, stretching approximately 140 km from east to west, and 80 km from north to south. The tallest of a string of volcanic mountains that run from the east to the west is Gunung Agung, which last erupted in 1963. Located just 8º south of the Equator, Bali boasts a tropical climate with just two seasons (wet & dry) a year with an average temperature of around 28ºC. The wide and gently sloping southern regions play host to Bali’s famed rice terraces, which are among some of the most spectacular in the world. In the hilly, northern coastal regions, the main produce is coffee, copra, spices, vegetables, cattle and rice.

history of Bali

history

Although there are no artifacts or records dating back to the Stone Age, it is believed that the first settlers on Bali migrated from China around 2500 B.C. By the Bronze era, around 300 B.C., a fairly evolved culture already existed on Bali. The complex system of irrigation and rice production, still in use today, was established around this time.

It appears that the main religion around 500 A.D. was predominantly Buddhist in influence. In 670 A.D., a Chinese scholar (Yi-Tsing), on a trip to India, reported that he had visited a Buddhist country called Bali.

It wasn’t until the 11th century that Bali received the first strong influx of Hindu and Javanese cultures. With the death of his father around AD 1011, the Balinese Prince, Airlanggha, moved to East Java and set about uniting it under one principality. Having succeeded, he then appointed his brother, Anak Wungsu, as ruler of Bali. During the ensuing period there was a reciprocation of political and artistic ideas. The old Javanese language, Kawi, became the language used by the aristocracy, one of the many Javanese traits and customs adopted by the cause.

With the death of Airlanggha, in the middle of the 11th century, Bali enjoyed a period of autonomy. However, this proved to be short-lived, as in 1284 the East Javanese King Kertanegara, conquered Bali and ruled over it from Java. In 1292, Kertanegara was murdered and Bali took the opportunity to liberate itself once again. However, in 1343, Bali was brought back under Javanese control by its defeat at the hands of Gajah Mada, a general in the last of the great Hindu-Javanese empires, the Majapahit.

With the spread of Islam throughout Sumatra and Java during the 16th century, the Majapahit empire began to collapse and a large exodus of aristocracy, priests, artists and artisans to Bali ensued. For a while Bali flourished and the following centuries were considered the Golden Age of Bali’s cultural history. The principality of Gelgel, near Klungkung, became a major centre for the Arts, and Bali became the major power of the region, taking control of neighbouring Lombok and parts of East Java.

Kolonial era

The first Dutch seamen set foot on Bali in 1597, yet it wasn’t until the 1800’s that the Dutch showed an interest in colonizing the island. In 1846, having had large areas of Indonesia under their control since the 1700’s, the Dutch government sent troops into northern Bali. In 1894, Dutch forces sided with the Sasak people of Lombok to defeat their Balinese rulers. By 1911, all the Balinese principalities had either been defeated in battle, or had capitulated, leaving the whole island under Dutch control. During World War II, the Dutch were expelled by the Japanese, who had occupied Indonesia from 1942 to 1945.

After the Japanese defeat, the Dutch tried to regain control of their former colonies, but on August 17, 1945, Indonesia was declared independent by its first President, Sukarno. 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.

The 1963 eruption of Mount Agung killed thousands, created economic havoc and forced many displaced Balinese to be transmigrated to other parts of Indonesia. Mirroring the widening of social divisions across Indonesia in the 1950s and early 1960s, Bali saw conflict between supporters of the traditional caste system, and those rejecting these traditional values. Politically, this was represented by opposing supporters of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and the Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI), with tensions and ill feeling further increased by the PKI’s land reform programs. An attempted coup in Jakarta was put down by forces led by General Suharto. The army became the dominant power as it instigated a violent anti-communist purge, in which the army blamed the PKI for the coup. Most estimates suggest that at least 500,000 people were killed across Indonesia, with an estimated 80,000 killed in Bali, equivalent to 5% of the island’s population. With no Islamic forces involved as in Java and Sumatra, upper-caste PNI landlords led the extermination of PKI members.

As a result of the 1965/66 upheavals, Suharto was able to maneuver Sukarno out of the presidency, and his “New Order” government reestablished relations with western countries. The pre-War Bali as “paradise” was revived in a modern form, and the resulting large growth in tourism has led to a dramatic increase in Balinese standards of living and significant foreign exchange earned for the country. A bombing in 2002 by militant Islamists in the tourist area of Kuta killed 202 people, mostly foreigners. This attack, and another in 2005, severely affected tourism, bringing much economic hardship to the island.

people of Bali

people

Life in Bali is very communal with the organization of villages, farming and even the creative arts being decided by the community. The local government is responsible for schools, clinics, hospitals and roads, but all other aspects of life are placed in the hands of two traditional committees, whose roots in Balinese culture stretch back centuries. The first, Subak, concerns the production of rice and organizes the complex irrigation system. Everyone who owns a sawah, or padi field, must join their local Subak, which then ensures that every member gets his fair distribution of irrigation water. The other community organization is the Banjar, which arranges all village festivals, marriage ceremonies and cremations. Most villages have at least one Banjar and all males have to join one when they marry. Banjars, on average, have a membership of between 50 to 100 families and each Banjar has its own meeting place called the Bale Banjar. As well as being used for regular meetings, the Bale (pavilion) is where the local gamelan orchestras and drama groups practice.

religion of Bali

religion

The Balinese are Hindu yet their religion is very different from that of the Indian variety. The Balinese worship the Hindu trinity Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu, who are seen as manifestations of the Supreme God Sanghyang Widhi. Other Indian gods like Ganesha (the elephant-headed god) also appear, but more commonly, one will see shrines to the many gods and spirits that are uniquely Balinese.

Balinese believe strongly in magic and the power of spirits, and much of their religion is based upon this. They believe that good spirits dwell in the mountains and that the seas are home to demons and ogres.

Most villages have at least three main temples, namely: the Pura Puseh, or ‘temple of origin’, facing the mountains; the Pura Desa, or village temple normally found in the centre; and the Pura Dalem, aligned with the sea and dedicated to the spirits of the dead. Aside from these ‘village temples’, almost every house has its own shrine. Some temples, for example, Pura Besakih on the slopes of Mount Agung, are considered especially important and people from all over Bali travel there to worship.

Offerings play a significant role in Balinese life as they appease the spirits and thus bring prosperity and good health to the family. Every day small offering trays (canang sari) containing symbolic food, flowers, cigarettes and money, are placed on shrines, in temples, outside houses and shops, and even at dangerous crossroads.

Festivals are another great occasion for appeasing the gods. The women bear huge, beautifully arranged, pyramids of food, fruit and flowers on their heads while the men might conduct a blood sacrifice through a cockfight. There are traditional dances and music and the gods are invited to come down to join in the festivities. The festivals are usually very exciting occasions and, if you are in the area, well worth observing.

culture of Bali, Balinese dans

culture

Bali is renowned for its diverse and sophisticated art forms, such as painting, sculpture, woodcarving, handcrafts, and performing arts. Balinese percussion orchestra music, known as gamelan, is highly developed and varied. Balinese performing arts often portray stories from Hindu epics such as the Ramayana but with heavy Balinese influence.

The Hindu New Year, Nyepi, is celebrated in the spring by a day of silence. On this day everyone stays at home and tourists are encouraged to remain in their hotels. But the day before that large, colourful sculptures of ogoh-ogoh monsters are paraded and finally burned in the evening to drive away evil spirits. Other festivals throughout the year are specified by the Balinese pawukon calendrical system.

Most temples have an inner courtyard and an outer courtyard. These spaces serve as performance venues since most Balinese rituals are accompanied by any combination of music, dance and drama. The performances that take place in the inner courtyard are classified as wali, the most sacred rituals which are offerings exclusively for the gods, while the outer courtyard is where bebali ceremonies are held, which are intended for gods and people. Lastly, performances meant solely for the entertainment of humans take place outside the walls of the temple and are called bali-balihan. This three-tiered system of classification was standardized in 1971 by a committee of Balinese officials and artists in order to better protect the sanctity of the oldest and most sacred Balinese rituals from being performed for a paying audience.

nature of Bali

nature

Gunung Agung, an active volcano, is the dominant feature of this island. The highest peak in Bali, Mount Agung stands tall at over 3100 meters. It’s a giver and taker of life and considered to be the center of the Balinese universe.

All homes are oriented towards it, and the Balinese people sleep with their heads pointing towards it, after all it is the abode of the gods and the goddesses…

On its slope, the Mother Temple of Besakih, with its uncountable steps, solemnly wait for the arrival of the gods and the goddesses, for when they step down from heaven, they come to Besakih by way of Mount Agung.

There are four lakes in Bali. Lake Batur, the old crater of Mount Batur, is the largest. Watching a sunrise here is an incredible spectacle.

The wide variety of tropical plants is surprising. You’ll see huge banyan trees in villages and temple grounds, tamarind trees in the North, clove trees in the highlands, acacia trees, flame trees, and mangroves in the South. In Bali grow a dozen species of coconut palms and even more varieties of bamboo.

And there are flowers, flowers everywhere. You’ll see (and smell the fragrance of) hibiscus, bougainvillea, jasmine, and water lilies. Magnolia, frangipani, and a variety of orchids are found in many front yards and gardens, along roads, and in temple grounds. Flowers are also used as decorations in temples, on statues, as offerings for the gods, and during prayers. Dancers wear blossoms in their crowns, and even the flower behind the ear of your waitress seems natural in Bali.

Elephants and tigers don’t exist any more in Bali since early this century. Wildlife, however, includes various species of monkeys, civets, barking deer and mouse deer, and 300 species of birds including wild fowl, dollar birds, blue kingfishers, sea eagles, sandpipers, white herons and egrets, cuckoos, wood swallows, sparrows, and starlings.

The Blog

Blog Archives

Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery

Trip Inquiry

aboutus-630
Dive Around Bali
Isabelle Hardeman & Michel De Ruyck
+ 62 361.727 354
+ 62 81.237 549 845
info@divearoundbali.com

Jalan Kesari 16b
Sanur, 80228 Bali, Indonesia

Trip Inquiry

 
Powered by Bali Web Design Studio