By Lt Col BM Thapa (Retd)
Bali (Indonesia) is a home in a moving culture. Itsarchaeological remnants show the ancient influences of Hinduism and Buddhism. The origins of Hinduism in Bali can be traced back to at least the 5th Century CE. It was gradually replaced by Buddhism, which was the main religion of Sumatra and Java until it, in turn, was displaced by the coming of Islam from 14th century CE.
In time, East Javanese rulers increased their spheres of influence. Ties were made through marriage and frequently, wars. From the 12th century, when the Java Dynasty influenced affairs, the relationship between Bali and Java was completed.
The development of a recognisable culture began. In 1597, the first Dutch expedition reached the shores of Bali. Through the 17th and 18th centuries, wars were fought with the Javanese and Bali exerting control over Lombok. At this time, the structure of control in Bali became more stable with the establishment of specific kingdoms but, by the middle of 19th Century, more concessions were made to the Dutch. By the early 20th century, colonial management was in place.
Following World War II, President Sokarno, born to a Balinese mother, proclaimed the Republic of Indonesia. In 1965, there was a coup and, in 1967, General Suharto replaced him as leader, introducing the New Order. Along with the new order came development of the tourism industry, which has come to dominate the daily lives of the Balinese.
In Bali, Hinduism dominates all aspects of daily life and it is the chosen faith of 90% of the Island’s inhabitants. The faith comes from Indian Shaivites combined with Buddhist traditions. Temples are visible throughout the Island, with the most revered being the “Mother Temple”. There are many ceremonies throughout the year, the most significant being Galungan and Kuningan, every six lunar cycles and Nyepi, the Balinese New Year. It is likely that, when you are exploring the island, as you pass through the villages, you will come upon one of these many colourful, noisy and happy ceremonies.
Existence and reincarnation, the continuous cycle of death, are the main elements of the faith. The giving of offerings is a regular part of daily life and evidence of the offerings may be seen throughout the resort and island at shops, crossroads and bridges.
Yoga sessions are also common here, additionally seen as a means of achieving spiritual enlightenment. Coconut trees are evident around Puri Ganga Resort, which takes great pleasure in introducing some coconut tree related handicraft. Ubud Village arguably Bali’s most famous crafts village is a centre for painting and wood carving.
Morning walks allow one to experience some scenic landscapes, paddy fields and alluring river valleys, with resting place at Sabato.
During my recent visit to Bali, we enjoyed rides in the rainforest’s fascinating reserve bird park, waterfalls at Tegenungan Village, Monkey Forest, active Batur volcano and lake. One can also enjoy and refresh the mind with full body Balinese massage, foot bath, body scrub with aromatic flower bath.
The Borobudur Buddhist temple is one of the wonders of the world. Bali has amazing Hindu culture and a beautiful landscape. The Blue Lagoon paradise, snorkeling and diving help one witness the many unique sea creatures and obtain a great view of the corals. The Uluwatu Temple is 250 feet above water, with huge waves rolling in from the Indian Ocean and crashing against the cliffs. It is amazing sight to see the beautiful sunset here over the deep blue ocean. The temple is also home to tribes of monkeys. The Sea food and a grill BBQ of Bali is unforgettable. Indeed, Bali is undoubtedly a major part of world heritage.