Although the population of Indonesia is mainly Muslims, Bali is over 96% Hindu, while 4% are Muslims, Christians, Catholics and Buddhists. Balinese Hinduism takes its basic from the Hinduism practiced in India, but blends it with a local history of ancestor worship, communal rituals and the abundant use of the holy water, earning it the name "AGAMA TIRTA" or the holy water religion.
Hinduism is based upon five philosophical tanets, the Panca Crada. The
first is existence of God, called Shang Hyang Widhi Wasa in Bali. While
God is one, He manifests in the world in many forms as Dewi Sri, the
Goddest of rice, as Dewi Ratih, the Goddest of beauty, as Dewa
Baruna, the Goddes of the sea, or as the three define forces : Brahma
the Creator, Wisnu the Preserver and Siwa the Dissolver.
The second principle is the existence of ATMAN, the eternal spirit in
every human being. The third principle is SAMSARA, the wheel of rebirth,
which leads all creatures to reincarnate until they are finally released from
the world. The fourth principle is KARMAPALA, the belief that one's
actions, negative or positive, have substance into the world and will have
results in this life or in our next lifetime. And the final principle is
MOKSA, the possibility of eventually, ussualy after many lifetimes,
reaching enlightenment and complete union with the God.
These principles are put into practice through colorful rituals to please the Gods and strengthen and purify the human spirit and the spirit of the community. Visitor who are lucky enough to witness an authentic Balinese ritual are sure never to forget the experience. From the spectacular creativity and complexity of the costumes worn by the worshippers, from the silvery tones of the gong orchestra to the melodious sound of the priests ringing the bells and chanting mantras, from the heavy perfume of the incense rising to the heavens, to the delicious aromas of the traditional delicacies being prepared for the ritual feast, a Balinese ceremony is a celebration of all the senses.
The intensity of the Balinese faith can be seen in the thousand of temples that dot Bali's landscapes. Most houses in Bali have small temples devoted to the Hindu Gods and the deified ancestors of the family. Each Balinese village has three temples, the temple of origin, the village temple and the temple of the ancestors. There are also temples belonging to the traditional irrigation associations and temples for the extended families. The most famous temple in Bali are those which serve the whole of the Balinese society. The best known of which is Besakih, the "Mother Temple" located on the slopes of the holy mount Agung.
(Source : Bali Interactive CD-Rom "Bali, the Island of Peace" by Bali Tourism Authority, 2000)