Bali has approximately
3,500,000 inhabitants of which probably 80% are Hindu Balinese.
The remaining having come from neighboring islands of Java, Lombok,
Madura in search of employment.
lies just 8.4° (375km) south of the equator. As such the weather
is tropical - consistently hot and sunny. Days are almost universally
12 hours long with sunrise is approximately 6:10 a.m.; sunset
at 6:30 p.m. depending on the time of year. The daytime temperature
averages between 27° C to 32° C ( 80°
F to 90° F) in the southern lowlands (the main
tourist venues). Humidity is quite high - a sticky 75% so often
times it feels much hotter. Average temperature in the mountains
is between 20° C to 25° C (70° F
to 80° F). At night the mountains can get downright
chilly - so bring a sweater if you plan to overnight there.
tropical monsoon climate has two distinct seasons; dry (May to
September) and wet (October to April). Monsoon refers to the wind,
not the rain. However even in the wet monsoon theres a better
than even chance that it will be sunny for a good part of the
day. Weather wise May, June and July are generally considered
was first settled by Chinese immigrants sometime around 2500 BC
and after working on it for 2,000 years the complex irrigation
system that is still the focal point of Balinese agriculture and
way of life today was established. Things remained pretty much
unchanged until the 11th century. Around 1010 AD a Balinese Prince
named Airlangha took over East Java intending to unite it with
Bali under his rule. Successful, he subsequently appointed his
brother, Anak Wungsu, to rule Bali. As such there was a great
deal of commerce between Bali and Java bringing with it an exchange
of politics and arts. It was at this time the Bali adopted the
Javanese language, Kawi that is still used today.
death brought on several wars waged by Javanese Kings to continue
the Javanese control of Bali. Finally in 1343 Bali succumbed to
Javanese control when it was defeated by a General by the name
of Gajah Mada from the Majapahit Empire, the last Hindu Javanese
Islam began spreading south from Sumatra into Java in the 16th
century, the Majapahit empire collapsed and a large number of
aristocrats, priests, and artists fled to Bali. From then until
the Dutch arrived in 1597 little changed except the culture continued
to be refined - which is where we pick up the story.
People of Bali
Balinese were not able to develop and sustain their extremely
complex agricultural economy for centuries on end without a very
organized community structure. The basis of this community structure
is the Subak and the Banjar. Everyone who owns a rice paddy must
join the Subak in their village. The Subak controls who will plant
rice and when (plantings are staggered so that pestilence is minimized).
As well and more importantly the Subak ensures that all farmers
receive their fair share of irrigation water since traditionally
the head the Subak was the farmer whose field was at the bottom
of the hill and water first had to pass through everybody else's
field before it was allowed to irrigate his.
other important community structure, the Banjar, organizes all
other aspects of Balinese life (i.e. marriages, cremations, community
service, festivals and the like). When a man marries he is expected
to join the village Banjar and must participate in community affairs.
Meetings are held at a large open air building called the Bale
Balinese are Hindu and worship the Hindu trinity Brahma, Shiva
and Vishnu, the Balinese religion is very different from the Indian
variety. The Balinese do have a caste system but there are no
untouchables. The caste system is most evident in the language
which has three levels: a low level for commoners, a mid level
to address strangers and a high level only used when addressing
Balinese are an unusual island people in that they have never
been sea faring people. They believe that good spirits dwell in
the mountains and that the seas are home to demons. Most villages
have at least three main temples: one of which is the Pura Puseh
or temple of origin, is dedicated to the village founders
and which faces to Mt Agung - home to Pura Besakih the mother
temple on Bali. Together with the other two village temples each
house may several temples and as well as rice fields, markets
etc. etc. etc. Now you can see why Bali is often referred to as
the Island of the Gods.
Balinese are extremely devout and no day goes by without making
offerings to the gods. These daily offerings - called Banten are
a major part of Balinese life. You will see these offerings nearly
everywhere in Bali. Made of flowers, cigarettes, cookies, rice
and even sometimes money (the actual items used are not as important
as the process of making and offering it to the spirits) these
offerings are given to the good spirits in hopes of continued
prosperity as well as to the evil spirits as an appeasement.
Balinese are inclusive by nature and take great pride in their
heritage and therefore do not mind visitors observing ceremonies
and traditional dances, just as long as you follow a few simple,
basic points of etiquette. (After all, how would you like a group
of foreign speaking tourists invading your wedding or funeral
of a close relative to snap a few photos?). First, dress appropriately
- smart casual is appropriate - swim wear is not appropriate.
Two, be quiet and respectful. Cameras and camcorders are ok -
but do be unobtrusive.
do not step in front of anyone to snap a photo and do not sit
higher than the local priest presiding over the ceremony. As well,
Do Not touch or pat anyone (including children) on the head.
When visiting temples be aware that you should wear long pants
or a sarong with a selendang tied around the waist (men and women).
Whilst you can take your own every major temple has selendangs
to borrow for a small donation. It is extremely bad form (in fact
its taboo) for women who are menstruating to enter a temple.
a word about being stuck in traffic. If you do find yourself stuck
in traffic for no apparent reason you may have come up on a Balinese
procession on the way to temple. Be patient. No amount of honking
the car's horn is going to speed things up and it's rude to try
one of some 13,000 islands comprising the Indonesian Archipelago,
had an auspicious start. According to legend, when the world
was formed Bali was put afloat on the back of a giant sea turtle
with fragrant skies above.
The gods have been generous ever since.
advised that the time in Bali is GMT + 8 hours.