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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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The Other Side of “Hindu Pakistan”

Although, the mainstream parties stay away from nominating Hindus, this time there are many independent Hindu candidates contesting from general seats — mostly from the Sindh province

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Hinduism
The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures.

Sagarneel Sinha

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s remark that India would become a “Hindu Pakistan” if the BJP is elected again in 2019, sparked off a major debate among the political circles of the country. BJP didn’t let the opportunity go by launching a scathing attack on Tharoor and his party for insulting Hindus and Indian democracy, forcing the Congress party to distance itself from its own MP’s comment. Only one year is left for the next general elections and in a politically polarised environment such comments serve as masala for political battles where perception is an important factor among the electorates.

Actually, Tharoor, through his statement, is trying to convey that “India may become a
fundamentalist state just like its neighbour — Pakistan”. Tharoor is a shrewd politician and his remarks are mainly for political gains. The comments refer to our neighbour going to polls on 25 th of this month which has a long history of ignoring minorities where the state institutions serve as a tool for glorifying the religious majority bloc and ridiculing the minorities. This compelled me to ponder about the participation of the Hindus — the largest minority bloc of the country, in the upcoming polls.

There are total 37 reserved seats for minorities in Pakistan — 10 in the National Assembly
(Lower House), 4 in the Senate (Upper House) and 23 in various state legislatures — 9 in the Sindh assembly, 8 in Punjab and 3 each in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistani Hindus, like other minorities have the dual voting rights in principle. But the reality is they have no rights to vote for their own representatives as the seats are reserved — means the distribution of these seats are at the discretion of parties’ leadership. Practically speaking, these reserved seats are meant for political parties not for minorities. In case of general seats, it is almost impossible for a Hindu candidate to win until and unless supported by the mainstream parties of the country. The bitter truth is — the mainstream parties have always ignored the Hindus by hesitating to field them from general seats. In 2013, only one Hindu candidate — Mahesh Kumar from the Tharparkar district won from a general seat, also became the only minority candidate to make it to the National Assembly from a general seat. This time too, he is nominated by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) — a major centre-left party of Pakistan. However, there are no other Hindu candidates for a general seat from the two other significant centre-right parties — former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and cricketer turned politician Imran Khan’s Tehreek-E-Insaf (PTI). Although, there is a Hindu candidate named Sanjay Berwani from Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) — a Karachi (capital of Sindh province) based secular centrist party of Pakistan.

Shashi_tharoor
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s remark that India would become a “Hindu Pakistan” if the BJP is
elected again in 2019, sparked off a major debate among the political circles of the country.

The Hindu population in Pakistan is about 1.8% according to the 2018 census, 0.2% more than that of the 1998 and the 1951 figures. It means that despite the state’s hostile policies, Hindus have been able to remain stable in a highly Islamist polarised society. 90% of the Hindu population of the country lives in the Sindh province. Hindu population in Umerkot,Tharparkar and Mirpur Khas districts of the Sindh province stands at 49%, 46% and 33% respectively — making them the only three substantial Hindu districts of the country. The three districts have 5 National Assembly and 13 Provincial seats. However, Hindus have never well represented from these seats.

Although, the mainstream parties stay away from nominating Hindus, this time there are many independent Hindu candidates contesting from general seats — mostly from the Sindh province. Many of them belong to the Schedule caste — the Dalit community. A recent report based on Pakistan Election Commission’s data says that out of 2.5 lakh women of Tharparkar district, around 2 lakh of them are not included in the electoral list — means that they are not entitled to vote for the upcoming general elections. All over the country, there are about 1.21 crore women voters who will not be able to vote in the elections. The reason is the lack of an identity card. Most of them are poor who are unable to pay the expenses required for an identity card. This has made difficult for independent Hindu Dalit candidates like Sunita Parmar and Tulsi Balani as most of their supporters will not be voting in the upcoming polls. In Tharparkar district, around 33% percent are the Hindu Dalits — brushed aside by the mainstream parties. The reserved seat candidates are based on party nominations, where mainly the upper caste Hindus are preferred. Radha Bheel, a first time contestant and the chairperson of Dalit Suhaag Tehreek (DST), a Dalit organisation, says that the fight is for the rights of the lower socio-economic class and scheduled castes. Sunita, Tulsi, Radha and the other independent Hindu candidates know
that the possibility of winning from the general seats is bleak but for them the contest is for their own identity — an identity never recognised by the political parties and the establishment of Pakistan.