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History of Hindus of Bali

About 92 percent of the population of Bali located amidst the world’s most populous Islamic nation practice Agama Hindu Dharma.

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Map of Bali
Map of Bali, Wikimedia Commons
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By Akanksha Sharma

Bali is an island and province of Indonesia. It is part of the coral triangle, the area with the highest diversity of marine species. This famous island of Indonesia is located at the westernmost end of Lesser Sunda Island. It blends spectacular mountain scenery and beautiful beaches with warm and friendly people, and also unique for its cultural tradition. About 92 percent of the population of Bali located amidst the world’s most populous Islamic nation practice Agama Hindu Dharma.

History

Hinduism which ruled Bali a millennium ago was originated from India via Java.  The Balinese version was formulated when priests and rulers from the powerful Majaphit Hindu Kingdom that ruled Java and beyond fled to Bali in the 15th century as Islam encroached.

Nowadays, Balinese Hinduism embraces the elements of Buddhism which flourished in Bali during the 8th and 9th century and animist belief that predate the introduction of Hinduism.

A procession with offerings entering a Hindu temple Bali
A procession with offerings entering a Hindu temple Bali, Wikimedia Commons

Beliefs of Balinese Hinduism

i) Balinese Hinduism differs dramatically from Indian and Nepalese Hinduism . The theological beliefs of Hindus of Bali originated from Indian philosophy while the indigenous beliefs stem from the backbone of rituals.

ii) Balinese Hinduism divides the cosmos into three layers: Highest level is Heaven or Swarga, home of gods. Next is the world of man, Buwah. Below is the Hell or Bhur, where the demons live. This tripartite division is reflected in the human body (head, body and feet) and the shrines found outside the Balinese buildings.

A Hindu shrine, or Padmasana outside a house in Bali
A Hindu shrine, or Padmasana outside a house in Bali , Wikipedia Commons

iii) The key belief of Balinese Hindus is that the elements nature are influenced by the spirit. Hence, offerings (sesajen) made from agriculture are offered to this spirit. It is believed that Mount Agung (the highest mountain on Bali) is the house of gods. Their main symbol is ‘Swasthika’, an equatorial cross with its arms bent at right angles.

Deities of Balinese Hinduism

File:Ganesha statue in Bali Safari Park, Indonesia Hindu sculpture.jpg
Ganesha statue in Bali Safari Park, Wikimedia Commons

a) Along with the Hindu gods Shiva and Brahma, Hindus of Bali worship deities which are unique to their branch of religion.
b) Sang Hang Widhi is the designation for one god in Balinese Hindus .
c) The empty chair at the top of the padmasana shrine found outside houses and temples is for Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa.
d) According to Balinese Hindu precepts, there are many manifestations of Sang Hyang Wasa Widhi in the form of gods such as Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice, and many other gods associated with mountains, lakes, and the sea.

Festivals

Galungan and Kuningan
This is one of the most important festivals of Bali. Galungan celebrates the death of a legendary tyrant called Mayadenawa. During this 10 day period, all the gods come down to earth for the festivities. The celebrations culminated with the Kuningan festival, Balinese say thanks and goodbye to Gods.

Related Article: Hinduism in Bali: Galungan and Kuningan

PenjorKuningan.jpg
Penjor lining a road in Bali, Indonesia at Galungan, Wikimedia Commons

Nyepi
Nyepi also known as the Day of silence signifies the start of Balinese Hindu New Year at the New Moon in March or April. The aim of the day before Nyepi is to cleanse Bali of demons so that the next year can start afresh. Nyepi is a day of complete silence, everyone including tourists, remain confined to their homes or hotels and special police ensures that everything is closed including the airports, ( although the hospitals and hotels stay open); that the streets are empty (except for ambulances); that no electricity or lights are being used. The day after (ngembak Nyepi) is celebrated with various rituals, including kissing and water-throwing ceremony in Denpasar, and roads become even more jam-packed than normal as people visit families, friends and temples.

A deserted street at Nyep
A deserted street at Nyepi, Wikimedia Commons

Watugunug
The very last day of Pawukon, Saturday of the 30th week , Watugunug , is a special day devoted to Goddess of learning , Saraswati. Her festival day is a time for making the offering for books, especially the sacred lontar, commonly known as palm leaves. Schools organize early morning ceremonies and student jam the big temple- Pura Jagat Natha in Denpasar for to pray for success and knowledge.

Akanksha is a student of journalism in New Delhi, currently interning with NewsGram. Twitter: @Akanksha4117

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12 Interesting Facts About Somnath Temple Probably You Didn’t Know

The Somnath Temple is popular due to various legends connected to it. The place is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot.

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Somnath Temple is located in Veraval on the western coast of Gujarat, India. Wikimedia Commons
Somnath Temple is located in Veraval on the western coast of Gujarat, India. Wikimedia Commons
  • Somnath Temple is believed to be the place where Lord Krishna ended his Lila and thereafter left for heavenly abode
  • The first Siva temple at Somanath is believed to have been built at some unknown time in the past
  • Gujarat was raided by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024, plundering the Somnath temple and breaking its sacred jyotirlinga

Somnath Temple is a specimen of fine architecture of one of the 12 Jyotirlingas Shrines of Shiva. This place is believed to be the place where Lord Krishna ended his Lila and thereafter left for heavenly abode, therefore it is dubbed as Eternal Shrine. This legendary temple has been vandalized numerous times in the history but with the help of some Hindu Kings, the temple was reshaped each time.

Somnath Temple is located in Veraval on the western coast of Gujarat, India. The temple is popular due to various legends connected to it. The place is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot. Lord Shiva has a strong connection here and also known as shrine eternal.

Somnath Temple History

According to popular tradition, the first Siva temple at Somanath is believed to have been built at some unknown time in the past. The second temple has been built at the same site by the “Yadava kings” of Vallabhi around 649 CE. In 725 CE, Al-Junayd, the Arab governor of Sindh destroyed the second temple as part of his invasions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. In 815 CE, the Gurjara-Pratihara king Nagabhata II constructed the third temple, a huge structure of red sandstone.

Also Read: Top 10 Famous Hindu Temples of Tamil Nadu

The Chaulukya (Solanki) king Mularaja possibly built the first temple at the site sometime before 997 CE, even though some historians believe that he may have renovated a smaller earlier temple.

Somnath Temple Attacks

Gujarat was raided by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024, plundering the Somnath temple and breaking its sacred jyotirlinga. Ghazni took away the wealth of almost 20 million dinars. As per historical records, the damage to the temple by was quite negligible because there are records of pilgrimages to the temple in 1038, which has no much mention of any damage to the temple.

In14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
In14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

But claims are there that Mahmud had killed 50,000 devotees who tried to defend the temple. The temple at the time of Ghazni’s attack appears to have been a wooden structure, which is said to have decayed in time.

According to an inscription of 1169, Kumarapala rebuilt it in “excellent stone and studded it with jewels,”

Also Read: Angkor Wat: History behind Cambodian Hindu temple

Then in 1299, the Somnath Temple was invaded by Alauddin Khalji’s army, led by Ulugh Khan. They defeated the Vaghela king Karna and sacked the Somnath temple. Legends state that the Jalore ruler Kanhadadeva later recovered the Somnath idol and freed the Hindu prisoners, after an attack on the Delhi army near Jalore. However, some other sources state that the idol was taken to Delhi, where it was thrown to be trampled under the feet of Muslims.

The Somnath Temple was rebuilt by Mahipala I, the Chudasama king of Saurashtra in 1308 and the lingam was installed by his son Khengara sometime between 1331 and 1351.

In14th century, Gujarati Muslim pilgrims were noted by Amir Khusrow to stop at that temple to pay their respects before departing for the Hajj pilgrimage.

In 1395, the temple was again destroyed for the third time by Zafar Khan, the last governor of Gujarat under the Delhi Sultanate and later founder of Gujarat Sultanate.

In 1546, the Portuguese who were based in Goa attacked ports and towns in Gujarat including Somnath Temple and destroyed several of its structures.

Somnath temple to Dwarka

Dwarka is an ancient city in the Indian state of Gujarat. It is very near to Somnath temple and due to its relevance to Hindu pilgrimage; people do tend to visit this place also.

Also Read: The Temple of Death: The Abode of Yamraj

The magnificent Temple of Dwarka has an elaborately tiered main shrine, a carved entrance and a black-marble idol of Lord Krishna.

Somnath Temple said to have been safely hiding the famous Syamantak Mani within the hollowness of Shivalinga. Wikimedia Commons
Somnath Temple said to have been safely hiding the famous Syamantak Mani within the hollowness of Shivalinga. Wikimedia Commons

The road distance between Dwarka and Somnath is 231 km and the aerial distance from Dwarka to Somnath is 210 km. One can also cover the distance through train which is almost 398km distant.

Here are some facts that are attached to this sacred and architecturally marvellous temple.

  1. The present-day Somnath Temple was built in five years, from 1947 to 1951 and was inaugurated by then President of India Dr Rajendra Prasad.
  2. Somnath Temple said to have been safely hiding the famous Syamantak Mani within the hollowness of Shivalinga, the Philosopher’s stone, which is associated with Lord Krishna. The stone is said to be magical, which was capable of producing gold. It is also believed that stone had alchemic and radioactive properties and thus it remains floating above the ground.
  3. The temple finds its reference in the sacred texts of Hindus like Shreemad Bhagavat, Skandpuran, Shivpuran and Rig-Veda. This signifies the importance of this temple as one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in India.
  4. According to records, the site of Somnath has been a pilgrimage site from ancient times as it was said to be the junction of three rivers, Kapila, Hiran and the mythical Saraswati. The meeting point was called as Triveni Sangam and is believed to be the place where Soma, the Moon-god bathed and regained his lustre.
  5. According to Swami Gajanand Saraswati (a Hindu scholar), the first temple was built 7, 99, 25,105 years ago as derived from the traditions of Prabhas Khand of Skanda Puran.
  6. The temple is said to be located at such a place that there is no straight-line land between Somnath seashore till Antarctica continent. In a Sanskrit inscription, found on the Arrow-Pillar called Baan-Stambh is stated that the temple stands at a point on the Indian piece of land, which happens to be the first point on land in the north to the south-pole on that particular longitude.

    The saga of Somnath temple is related to moon god and curse of his father in law Daksha Prajapati. Wikimedia Commons
    The saga of Somnath temple is related to moon god and curse of his father in law Daksha Prajapati. Wikimedia Commons
  7. According to the text of Skanda Purana, the name of Somnath Temple will change every time the world is reconstructed. It is believed when Lord Brahma will create a new world after ending the one we are living, Somnath will acquire a new name of Pran Nath Temple.
  8. On the walls of Somnath Temple, the sculptures of Lord Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu can be seen.
  9. According to another reference in the Skanda Purana, there are about 6 Brahmas. This is the era of 7thBrahma who is called Shatanand.
  10. The flag mast on the peak of Somnath Temple is 37 feet long and it changes 3 times a day.
  11. The saga of Somnath temple is related to moon god and curse of his father in law Daksha Prajapati.
  12. Non-Hindus doesn’t require any special permission to visit Somnath Temple. The decision was taken in view of security issues.Now, pack your bags and begin your journey to one of the most the sacred places of India.