Sunday, January 1, 2023

About Bali Island

About Bali Island

Bali which is referred also as The Island of Gods, The Paradise Island, or The Island of A Thousand Temples, is located between Java and Lombok. The larger Java is located to the west while Lombok is situated to the east of Bali. Geographically, Bali is the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands. Administratively, Bali is one of the 33 provinces of Indonesia with Denpasar at the southern part of the island as its capital.

About Bali Island

Bali is home for small Hindu community. In 2010, 92.29% of the total population of 3.891,000 adheres to Balinese Hindu. The rest of the number adheres to Islam, Buddhism and Christianity. Bali is famous as the largest tourist destination in Indonesia and also well known all over the world. The popular image of the island is that it is rich with sophisticated arts like traditional and modern sculpture, leather, painting, dance, music, and metalworking.

History of Bali

The first inhabitants of Bali are Austronesian peoples who came in 2000 BC. They came from Taiwan through the South China Sea. Thus these peoples are closer to the peoples of the Philippines, Oceania and Indonesian Archipelago in terms of linguistic and culture. The historical artifacts dated from this time are stone tools found not too far from Cekik village at the western part of the island. There are nine Hindu sects in the ancient Bali with each has its own personal Godhead, namely Ganapatya, Resi, Brahma, Sora, Waisnawa, Siwa Sidharta, Bodha, Bhairawa and Pasupata.

Various inscriptions show that the name Bali Dwipa or Bali Island had appeared since the first ages of the first millennium. One of the inscriptions that mentioned the island is the Blanjong pillar which was created by Sri Kesari Warmadewa in 914. The inscription in the pillar mentioned the island as Walidwipa. Subak, the complex irrigation system for which Bali is well known, was developed during this time. Some of the cultural and religious traditions that can be seen until today have their roots from this period too although much older Indian influence is believed to had been present since 1 AD. In 1343, the big Hindu Majapahit Empire from East Java founded a colony in here. Bali became the final destination for the exodus of artists, priests, musicians and priests when the empire eventually declined in the 15th century.

Portuguese was the first European who made a contact with the island. In 1585, a Portuguese ship is believed to be foundered off the Bukit Peninsula. A few Portuguese were then left to serve Dewa Agung. Cornelis de Houtman, the Dutch explorer who had previously made a contact with Banten at the West Java, arrived in Bali in 1597. However, it is only since 1840s that the Dutch held political and economic control over Bali, especially on the northern part. That was the time when Balinese kingdoms fought against each other which was pitted further by the Dutch. The Dutch also exploited the Balinese kingdoms of the southern part since the late 1890s.

The year 1906 saw a massive unbalanced fight at Sanur region between the Dutch forces against thousands of Balinese royal family members and their followers. At that time, the Dutch launched naval and ground campaign to gain control over the southern part of the island. The Balinese responded with suicidal defensive resistance because they did not want to be humiliated for surrender. The same fight, which is known as puputan, also broke in 1908 at Klungkung region. After those unbalanced fights, the Dutch eventually able to take the administrative control over Bali, although culture and religion are generally still maintained at full level by the local powers. However, the Dutch control never succeeded in obtaining total control over the island like the control it had on Ambon and Java.

The popular image of Bali as “an enchanted land of aesthetes at peace with themselves and nature” was first created in the 1930s. The works of musicologist Colin McPhee, the artists Walter Spies and Miguel Covarrubias, and the anthropologists Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead, collaborated to build the image which further developed the first western tourism on Bali.

Bali was occupied by the Imperial Japan during the World War II. It was during this time that Gusti Ngurah Rai formed the Freedom Army. However, the Japanese did not able to exert effective control over the administrative matters due to the harshness of the war time and the difficult institutional change from the Dutch rule. After Japan surrendered in August 1945, the Dutch came back to regain control over the entire Indonesia, including Bali. However, this movement met heavy resistance. In Bali, the resistance against the Dutch was launched using the weapons obtained from Japan. Colonel I Gusti Ngurah Rai, 29 years old at that time, led his army to Marga Rana in Tabanan, central Bali, to launch a suicidal assault, or puputan, against the heavily armored Dutch power. The battle was fought on 29 November 1946 with the Balinese army entirely eliminated and hence ended the military resistance against the Dutch.

In 1946, the Dutch included Bali as one of the 13 administrative districts of the State of East Indonesia. This state was founded by the Dutch to rival Republic of Indonesia which was proclaimed by Soekarno and Hatta in 17 August 1945. When the Republic of the United States of Indonesia was created in the Round Table Conference on 29 December 1949, Bali was included in the new state that was recognized by the Dutch.

The eruption of Mount Agung in 1963 killed thousands of people. Economic situation was at havoc and thus forced most of the survivors to transmigrate to other areas of the Republic Indonesia. During the 1950s and 1960s, Bali saw the conflict between the supporters of caste system and those that rejected the traditional values. The conflict was typical for that time in Indonesia and had been politicized by Indonesian Communist Party or PKI which rejected the caste system and the Indonesian Nationalist Party of PNI which supported the traditional system. The tension was culminated in Land Reform which was launched by PKI. However, when the coup, which was associated with PKI broke in Jakarta, was followed by the elimination of PKI and its supporters by General Soeharto, Bali was also affected. In Bali alone, at least 80,000 people died because of the anti-communist purge, which is equivalent to 5 percent of the total population of the island at that time. There is no Islamic force in the island so that PNI landlords were rather easy when taking the lead in the purge in Bali.

After General Soeharto took the presidency from President Soekarno in 1966, his New Order regime re-established the relations with the Western countries. The renewed relation resulted in the growth of tourism, with Bali promoted as the Paradise Island. Foreign exchanges and living standard in Bali were dramatically changed with the tourism boom. However, when a massive bombing by militant Islamists in 2002 destroyed the Kuta tourist area and killed 202 people, most of which are foreigners, economic boom ended abruptly. Another bomb attack in 2005 put the tourism industry at hardship. However, the tourist numbers per 2010 had returned to the level before the bomb attacks.

The Geography of Bali

Bali Island is located 3.2 km or 2 mi easy of Java, 8 degrees south of the equator. Java and Bali are separated by the narrow Bali Strait. Its length from east to west is about 153 km or 95 mi while from north to south it spans up to 112 km or 69 mi. The total measure of the land area is 5,632 km2.

The highest elevation at the central of the main land reaches up to around 3,000 meters above the sea level, the highest of which is Mount Agung which reaches 3,142 meters. This active volcano is also referred as the mother mountain. Form central region to the east runs the mountainous range with Mount Agung as the easternmost highest point. The volcanic nature of the main land, combined with the high mountains which encourage rainfalls, makes Bali extremely fertile for agricultural crop. The most fertile area is located in the center of the main land to the south. Meanwhile, the northern side of the mountains slopes steeply toward the sea. This area becomes the main producer area for coffee, vegetables, rice and cattle. The longest river of the island is Ayung River, which flows as long as approximately 75 km.

Most areas of the island are surrounded by coral reefs and the northern and the western beaches tend to have black sand while those of the southern tend to have white sand. There are not any major waterways in the mainland. However, sampan boats can navigate the Ho River. There are some beaches in the area between Klatingdukuh and Pasut and these beaches are being developed for tourism. However, the most significant tourist spot until today in the area is still the seaside temple Tanah Lot.

Denpasar, located near the southern coast, is the biggest city in the mainland with a total population of approximately 491,500 according to the estimate in 2002. Singaraja, the old colonial capital, home for 100,000 people and situated at the northern coast, is Bali’s second-largest city. Other major cities include Kuta and Ubud. There are three small islands at the southeast of the mainland. They are administratively parts of the Klungkung Regency. They are Nusa Penida, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan. The three of them are separated from the main land by Badung Strait.

Lombok Strait at the east separates Bali and the rest of the Lesser Sunda Islands. This strait also marks the bio-geographical division between the fauna of Australasia and the fauna of Indo-Malayan eco-zone. The imaginary separating line is called the Wallace Line, which is named after the biologist Alfred Russell Wallace. Bali was connected to Sumatra, Java and the mainland of Asia during the Pleistocene Ice Age, during which period the levels dropped. Hence Bali at that time shared the same Asian fauna. However, the Lombok Strait at that time had been deep water so that the rest of the Lesser Sunda Islands kept isolated.

Bali Ecology

Located at the western side of the Wallace Line, Bali’s fauna has Asian in character and the influence of Australasia is too small to be perceived. Hence the fauna has less in common with Lombok’s fauna than Java’s fauna. However, there are some exceptions, like Yellow-crested cockatoo which is a member or Australian family of the primary species. There are about 280 bird species in Bali, one of which is the endemic, endangered Bali Starling. Other species include Yellow-vented Bulbul, Great Egret, White Heron, Black Racket-tailed Treepie, Barn Swallow, Black-naped Oriole, Crested Treeswift, Dollarbird, Crested Serpent-Eagle, Lesser Adjutant, Long-tailed Shrike, Java Sparrows, Red-rumped Swallow, Sacred Kingfisher, Pacific Swallow, Milky Stork and Sea Eagle.

Large mammals are known to be present at Bali until the early 20th century, including Leopard, the endemic Bali Tiger and the wild Banteng. Banteng still has its domestic form but Bali Tiger is totally extinct while the leopards can only be found in Java. A record shows that there was a Bali Tiger shot in 1937 but the subspecies is believed to survive at least until 1940s or 1950s. The causes of the extinction of the tiger are believed to be the conflict with humans, the small size of the island, habitat reduction and poaching. The tiger had never been displayed in zoos or filmed however some bones or skins remain can be found in museums around the world. Bali Tiger is known to be the rarest and smallest of the subspecies. Largest mammals that can be seen until today is the wild boar and the Javan Rusa deer while Indian Muntjac, a smaller species of deer, still can be seen too.

Fauna that is rather commonly seen is the squirrels. Asian Palm Civet is domesticated to produce Kopi Luwak. Bats are preserved, especially in Goa Lawah or the Temple of the Bats. In this temple, which becomes a famous tourist destination, the locals worship the bats. Bats can also be found in other cave temples like the temple at the Gangga Beach. There are two monkey species that are easily encountered. The first species is the Crab-eating Macaque. The locals called this species as “kera”. They are often found in temples and settlements and humans can feed them safely, especially in the three “monkey temples”, the most popular of which is located in Ubud. Some local people domesticated kera as their pets. The second species of monkey, the Silver Leaf Monkey, is more elusive and fare rarer. Locals called it “lutung”. They are encountered at Bali Barat National Park. Other mammals that are also rare include the Sunda Pangolin, Black Giant Squirrel and the Leopard Cat. Snake species includes Reticulated Python and King Cobra while the Water Monitor is believed to be able to move quickly and to grow to a bigger size.

There is rich marine life in the coral reefs around the shores, especially in the diving spots like Amed, Nusa Penida, Menjangan and Tulamben. Some of the recorded species are Giant Sunfish, Giant Moray Eel, Giant Manta Ray, Hawksbill Turtle, Hammerhead Shark, Bumphead Parrotfish, barracudas, Reef Shark and sea snakes. Dolphins are found in the northern coast, particularly near Lovina Beach and Singaraja.

Especially since the 20th century, humans introduced many new plants which make it rather difficult to distinguish the native plants from the newer plants. Larger native trees include bamboo, Jackfruit, coconuts, banyan trees and acacia. Flowers include frangipani, poinsettia, jasmine, hibiscus, bougainvillea, roses, water lily, lotus, orchids, hydrangeas and begonias. Higher grounds like Kintamani which receives more moisture host certain species like mushrooms, fern trees and pine trees. There are a lot of varieties of rice. Other agricultural plants include mangosteen, Kintamani orange, water spinach, coffee, corn and salak.

Environment in Bali

Lebih Beach sees the worst sea wave erosion. Up to 7 meters of the island is lost every year. Decades before, the beach is the pilgrimage destination for more than 10,000 people but now the destination had been moved to the Masceti Beach.

Bali Administrative Divisions

The Province of Bali is divided into 8 regencies or kabupaten and 1 city or kota. They are:
  • Badung, capital Mangupura
  • Bangli, capital Bangli
  • Buleleng, capital Singaraja
  • Denpasar (city)
  • Gianyar, capital Gianyar
  • Jembrana, capital Negara
  • Karangasem, capital Amlapura
  • Klungkung, capital Semarapura
  • Tabanan, capital Tabanan
Economy of Bali

Bali economy three decades ago was based largely on agriculture both for the employment and the products. The single largest industry in the Bali has been tourism. Because of the highly developed tourism industry, the island is one of the wealthiest regions in Indonesia. Now, 80 percent of the economy here relies upon tourism. After the shocking bomb attacks on 2002 and 2005, tourism industry is recovering slowly.

Balinese Agriculture

Most of Balinese are still working in the agricultural field although the GDP’s largest output is produced by tourism. The most notable agricultural effort is the rice cultivation. Smaller crops that are also grown in the island include vegetables, fruits, Coffea aracbica and other subsistence and cash crops.

Kintamani, a region near Mount Batur, is the region where Arabica coffee is produced. Producers generally process Balinese coffee using the wet method which results in a soft, sweet coffee. Flavors that can be integrated are lemon and other citrus notes. The majority of the coffee farmers in the region are members of Subak Abian which is based on the Hindu Tri Hita Karana philosophy. The philosophy teaches that there are three causes for the happiness, namely the relation with God, other people and the environment. The system of the Subak is the best suited for the production of organic coffee and fair trade. The Arabica coffee produced in Kintamani region is the first product in Indonesia that receives a geographical indication.

Bali Tourism

Southern part of the main land is where the tourism industry focused. The main tourist sports are the Kuta Beach, Legian, and Seminyak, Sanur which once was the sole tourist hub, Ubud at the center of the island, Jimbaran, and newly developed Pecatu and Nusa Dua. The Australia government still rates Bali at 4 danger level on a 5 scale level while the American government had earlier lifted its travel warnings in 2008.

Tourism in Bali

The real estate industry related to tourism has been thriving at the main tourist hubs. Bali hotels are built in the famous locations like Kuta, Seminyak, Oberoi and Legian. 5-star Bali hotels were started to be developed in 2010 at the southern part, namely at the Bukit Peninsula. Bali villas, totally worth millions of dollars, have been built at the cliff sides at the south and hence promise panoramic ocean view. Many Jakarta companies and individuals as well as foreign investment are active in the industry to develop other areas. But land prices have remained stable although there had been economic crisis throughout the world.

Indonesian Rupiah had dropped down to 30% against the US dollar in the last half of 2008. This result in the bigger value for the foreign currencies and triggered the flood of tourist into Bali. In 2009, visitor arrivals were dropped to 8% with economic crisis as the main cause and not the travel warnings.

Terrorist bombings in 2002 and 2005 made the tourism industry in Bali drastically turned into ruin. However, the industry had been recovering since the last bombing and in 2010 the target of 2.0-2.3 million tourists had been surpassed with 2.57 million foreign tourists. Bali accommodation as well as other support facilities like Bali spa contributes positively to the recovery. The average occupancy of Bali accommodation in 2010 is 65%, which was a positive trend compared to the previous year’s 60.8%. However, during the peak seasons, tourists will be difficult enough to find accommodation since all the rooms are usually had been fully booked.

In 2010, Bali received Travel and Leisure award which was presented at World’s Best Award 2010 in New York on 21 July 2010. The World Best Hotel Spas in Asia 2010 award had been awarded to a Bali hotel too, namely the Hotel Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran. The designation #1 Spa in the world was received by the Ayana Resort after a reader poll from Conde Naste’s Travel Magazine. The award was won by Bali because of its various tourist attractions, attractive coastal and mountain surroundings, friendliness of the local people and excellent local and international restaurants.

Transportation Around Bali

There are two airports in the island, namely the Lt. Col. Wisnu Airfield in the north-west and the more famous Ngurah Rai International Airport near Jimbaran at the southernmost region.

There are three major two-lane arteries that cross the mountainous regions in the center on which the passes can reach up to 1.750m, namely at Penelokan. A coastal road surrounds the island. The Ngurah Rai bypass was developed as a four-line expressway. Part of this expressway encircles the main city Denpasar.

The government of Indonesia invited investors to develop Tanah Ampo Cruise Terminal at Karangasem. The project is worth a total of $30 million. Bali does not have any railway lines but the Indonesian Train Company and the Governor of Bali as well as 2 ministers had signed a MOU to develop a railway along the coast for a total distance of 565 kilometers. The plan is projected to be realized in 2015 onwards. In the mid 2011, a toll road that connects Serangan and Tanjung Benoa will be built by Jasamarga. The Tanjung Benoa port received an award as a Best Port Welcome 2010 from Dream World Cruise Destination, a London-based magazine, on 16 March 2011.

Bali Demographics

As of 2005, there total population of Bali is 3,151,000. Expatriates living in the island are estimated at 30,000.

Religion in Bali

Bali is the home for a small community of people who adhere to Hindu. There is about 93.18% of the total population that adheres to Balinese Hinduism. The religion is a combination of Hindu influences fro the Southeast Asia and South Asia mainland with the existing local beliefs. Islam is the minority religion with only 4.79% followers, while Christianity scores 1.38% and Buddhism 0.64%. Immigrants from other parts of Indonesia have not yet included in these figures.

In 16th century, after Islam took the control over Java, many Hindu people took refuge in Bali. The believers of Balinese Hinduism worship gods and demigods, the spirit of ancestors, indigenous agricultural deities, Buddhist heroes and sacred places. Religion in Bali is a composite complex system which has theology, mythology and philosophy as well as ancestor worshipping, magic and animism and pervades all aspects of life. Although less strict than in India, caste system is observed with discipline in Bali. There are an estimated 20,000 pura and shrines all over the island which made it also known as the Island of a Thousand Temples.

The roots of Balinese Hinduism are Indian Hinduism and Buddhism and it also adopts the local people’s indigenous traditions. Balinese Hinduism believes that gods and goddesses present in all things which makes every element in nature has its own power. Such power is believed to reflect the power of the goods. A dagger, woven cloth, rock or tree is believed to have their own power which can be directed for evil or good. The religion is interwoven deeply with ritual and art. All religious expressions are ritualized and shape the decorous and graceful behavior of the people.

There are also a small number of Chinese immigrants. The traditions of these immigrants meld with the local traditions. Therefore, Sino-Balinese harmonizes their original religion with the local traditions which makes it common to find a Sino-Balinese during an odalan in a local temple. Priests of Balinese Hindu are often invited also to perform necessary rites with a Chinese priest in a ceremony for the death of a Sino-Balinese. However, for administrative purpose, the Sino-Balinese has Buddhism as religion in their Identity Cards.

Language in Bali

The most widely spoken languages in Bali are Bali and Indonesian. Most of Bali people are bilingual or trilingual. Several indigenous Balinese languages are present but most Balinese use modern common Balinese to communicate. The caste system determines the usage of different Balinese language. The primary foreign language is English due to the thriving of tourism industry.

Balinese Culture

Bali is famous for its sophisticated art forms in sculpture, handcrafts, painting, woodcarving and performing arts. Gamelan, Balinese percussion orchestra music, is varied and highly developed. Stories from Hindu epic like Ramayana are often portrayed in performing arts with a lot of influences from Balinese traditions. Well known Balinese dance include legong, topeng, gong kebyar, pendet, baris, barong and kecak. There are innovative and diverse performing arts cultures in Bali. Due to tourism, there are traditional Balinese performance arts that are arranged as paid performance in temple festivals, public shows, or private ceremonies.

Balinese Hindu celebrates Nyepi, the Hindu New Year in the spring with a day of silence. Everyone stays at home and tourists are encouraged to stay in their hotels too during the day. However, colorful, large sculptures of ogoh-ogoh monsters were built and burned in the evening before the Nyepi day. This is a symbol to drive evil spirits away. The Balinese pawukon calendar system determines the other festivals throughout the year.

Balinese are fond of celebrations. There are celebrations for tooh filling or coming of age ritual, odalan or temple festival and cremation. The most important concept in Balinese ceremonies which is shared by most Balinese is desa kala patra. The concept refers to the appropriateness of ritual performances with the general and specific social context. Therefore, some of the ceremonial art forms like topeng or wayang kulit have high flexibility so that performers can adjust the event with the current situation.

Balinese celebrations are characterized by rame. Rame is an aesthetic concept which resulted from the loud and boisterous atmosphere of the celebrations. Often times, there are two or more gamelan ensembles will be performed within earshot. They often competes each other to attract more listeners. But the audience members usually also perform their own activities which may or may not have any relation with the ensembles. These activities add to the layers and liveliness of rame.

Balinese traditional compass is centered upon kaja and kelod, which equivalent with the north and south. The concept refers to the orientation toward the largest mountain, namely Mount Agung, as kaja and the seas kelod. However, the two elements also stand for the connotation of evil and good. Balinese Hindu believes that gods and their ancestors live on in the mountain while the demons and evil spirits live in the sea. Spatially, traditional Balinese buildings like residential homes and temples are oriented with the cleanest spaces face nearest to the mountain while the unclean spaces closest to the sea.

Most of the temples possess an outer yard and inner yard. The court yard is arranged to the furthest kaja. This is the space of the temple where the ritual that involved performance, dance and music takes place. The most sacred rituals exclusively performed for gods are held in the inner yard and known as wali while the performance for general public is held at the outer yard and known as bebali. Meanwhile, the performance that is performed as a form of entertainment are performed outside the temple walls and known as balih-balihan. In 1971, a committee of Balinese artists and officials standardized this three-tiered classification system. The purpose was to protect the sanctity of the most sacred and oldest rituals from becoming paid performance.

When tourism industry penetrated deeper into the life of the local Balinese, performances are changed. Tourism brought audience that is willing to pay to watch the traditional performances. This created an economic opportunity for many villages. There had been a controversy about this. However, some villages eventually develop new strategies for fulfilling the demands of the tourism. In some village, the sacred barong dance is performed with the mask that is specifically designed for entertainment purpose while the original, older barong mask is kept for the more sacred rituals.

Typical Balinese society is built around the ancestral village. The life cycle and religion is closely tied wit coercive aspects of the traditional intact. Some of the coercive society apparatus like customary, kasepekang of shunning is getting more effective especially since the decentralization and democratization in Indonesia since 1998. (
About Bali Island
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