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Kintamani, Bangli Regency, Bali

The History of Bali


Although Bali has inhabited for millenia, its written history does not begin until the 8th century, when the Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms of Java began journeying to the island. The Javanese spread their religious teachings to Bali, along with the knowledge of writing in the old Javanese language, which soon become the medium of communication for Bali's elites. By the 10th century, Balinese art, religion and culture had taken on decidedly Indian appearance.

One important relic of this era is found in the village of Sanur, the Prasasti Belanjong, an inscribed monument dated 913 A.D, making it Bali's oldest dated artifact.


Many contemporary Balinese trace their history back to the 14th century, when the Javanese kingdom of Majapahit sent an army to the island led by the famed general Gajah Mada. The arrival of the Majapahit Empire brought vast changes to the cultural, religious and political landscape of Bali. Only the people known as the Bali Aga, living in their isolated mountain villages, remained unaffected by the new social order.

Under the rule of Majapahit, Balinese culture flourished around the royal courts. Elaborate rituals were stayed, and art, dance and music thrived with the patronage of Bali's kings.

Although neighbouing Java was already under Dutch colonial control by the 1600s, Bali remained free. In 1846, the Dutch led a military force against North Bali, but they met with stunning defeat when they faced down a fear some army led by a Balinese commander, Gusti Ketut Djelantik. To the great embarrassment of the Dutch until 1849, when the Balinese were defeated by an army from neighbouring Lombok, who saw a chance to take control of Bali as themselves.


Eventually, the Dutch and the Balinese signed a treaty giving the colonial powers to rule over the North of Bali, and a tense peace held until the turn of the 20th century. It was not until 1908, when the Dutch destroyed the kingdoms of South Bali in the infamous PUPUTAN, or fight to the death, that the island fell under European control.

The Dutch rule Bali until the World War II, when the Japanese occupied the Indonesian archipelago. In 1945, the nation of Indonesia proclaimed its independence and Bali was granted the status of a province since August 14, 1958.

Although Bali is now a part of modern state, hosting hundreds of thousands of foreign tourist every year, in many ways it is still very traditional. In matter of culture and religion, Balinese take care to preserve their ancient way of life for generations to come.

(Source : Bali Interactive CD-Rom "Bali, the Island of Peace" by Bali Tourism Authority, 2000)


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