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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.

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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