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Bali Information: Balinese Culture

Bali Information

How much do you know about Bali?  

Bali Traditions and Hinduism.



Balinese Hinduism:

Though Bali is multi-religious, consisting of Christian, Muslim and Buddhist minorities, the predominant religion is Hinduism.
Balinese Hinduism, called Agama Hindu Dharma, originated from Java and is a blend of Shivaism and Buddhism. The theological foundation for the religion comes from Indian philosophy while indigenous beliefs form the backbone of the rituals. This blending is perfectly acceptable in Bali as the saying goes "The truth is one; the interpretation, multiple."
  In Balinese Hinduism, the indigenous beliefs manifest in the belief that nature is "power" and each element is subject to influence from spirits. Ancestor worship is also a part of the beliefs. Spirits and ancestors are treated with respect, and they are housed in a shrine and feted with offerings made from agricultural products ..........read more


Caste System:

Balinese society is founded on the Hindu caste system, although in a somewhat simpler form than that practiced in India. In Bali, there are four castes; Sundras, the peasants who comprise over 90% of the population, Wesias, the warrior caste, which also includes traders and some nobility, Satrias, the caste of kings, and Pedanas, the holy men and priests (brahman)......read more


The Bali Compound:

The pekarangan (compound) of the "kuren", the Balinese home, is made up of five basic elements: the doorway, with its screen and split arch, the main sleeping area, with its open verandah, a raised barn for storing rice, a kitchen and a bathing area. There may also be a workshop and a family temple.
Theoretically, but rarely in practice, the courtyard is divided up into nine equal parts. If kaja, the Mountainside direction, is taken as north, the family temple is always placed in the north-east corner of the courtyard. The adjacent south-west corner is considered to be the abode of evil and is always left empty......read more




Balinese Funerals, (Ngaben)

Even Hindu funerals in Bali are intensely suggestive ceremonies of great cultural and religious significance. Requiring a complex apparatus and characterized by a large following, funerals are centered on cremation of the body, known as ngaben or pelebon.
This practice is considered essentig if the 5 elements making up the microcosm of the human body are to be returned to their original residence, the universe's macrocosm.
The five elements, Panca Maha Bhuta, are the earth (pertivvi), water (apah), fire (teja), air (bayu), and ether (akasa). Since the primordial dimension can only be attained through water and fire, the ashes are dispersed in the waters of the sea or if the distance is too great, in a river......read more




The Cycle of a Balinese life:

According to Hindu religious beliefs, after death, a soul passes into another body. During its tenure in a body, the soul is in torment. Consequently, the soul is always seeking to free itself from incarnation so that it can attain enlightenment or moksa. Once enlightenment is achieved, both the body and soul can join their cosmic equivalents for ever. Therefore, when a person dies, but its soul fails to achieve moksa, it will continue with the cycle of life through incarnations.
The religious rites which are performed to accompany a soul through its journey in the cycle of life incorporate such cosmic notions. The intervening journey between life and death is given high importance in Balinese rituals. Such rituals consist of the human rites (manusa yadnya), the rites of the dead (pitra yadnya), rites of the gods or temple rites (dewa yadnya), rites of demonic forces (buta yadnya) and ordainment rites (rsi yadnya).......read more


Important Hindu Ceremonies:

In more than one way, Bali is the exact opposite of the West. While Westerners usher in the New Year in revelry, the Balinese greet their own New Year in silence. This is Nyepi Day, the Balinese day of Silence, which falls on the day following the dark moon of the spring equinox, and opens a new year of the Saka Hindu era which began in 78 A.D.


ogoh ogoh
The day before nyepi is Ogoh ogoh.


On Nyepi day, which starts with sunrise, don't expect to be able to do anything. You will have to stay in your hotel. No traffic is allowed, not only of cars, but also of people, who have to stay in their individual houses. Light is kept to a minimum, radio tuned down, and no one works, of course. Even love making, this ultimate activity of all leisure-timers, is not supposed to take place, nor even attempted. A whole day simply filled with the barking of a few dogs, the shrill of insects and simple long, long quiet day in the calendar of this hectic island......read more


Sekala & Niskala:

The Balinese live equally in the seen or conscious world called sekala and the unseen or spiritual world called niskala. It is believed to be truly healthy you must restore balance in both these worlds. Sometimes the help of a balian is sought as often the problem lies with the ancestors ( through Karma), who can cause problems or indeed real harm if not treated regularly to their favorite treats and offerings. The balian will go into a trance state to find the cause of the problem and either give the patient plant medicine, a massage or a list of offerings to be made.


Balinese Dance:



Balinese dance is inseparable from religion. A small offering of food and flowers must precede even dances for tourists. Before performing, many dancers pray at their family shrines, appealing for holy "taksu" (inspiration) from the gods.
  In this rural tradition, the people say that peace and harmony depend on protection by the gods and ancestors. Dance in this context may fulfil a number of specific functions:
  • as a channel for visiting gods or demonic gods, the dancers acting as a sort of living repository. These trance dances include the Sang Hyang Dedari, with little girls in trance, and the Sang Hyang Jaran, a fire dance.
  • as a welcome for visiting gods, such as the pendet, rejang and sutri dances
  • as entertainment for visiting gods, such as the topeng and the wayang. ............read more


The organisation of a Balinese Village:

The community revolves around family and religion. A man raises the family that worship common ancestors in the family shrine of each household. Within the family compound, the younger are indirectly educated to carry out any household chores and religious activities. The compound is walled around with brick or just simple fence with screened door-entrance to guard against dangerous influences. Outside the compound lies a fruit garden with a corner reserved for cattle stay.




Various families compose cooperative groups of neighbors bound called "Banjar" to assist one another in any field of work ( gotong royong). At the village house "Bali Banjar", they have kitchen, meeting pavilion, bell tower and communal temple. They usually own Gambelan orchestra and dance properties to train young generation to keep cultural value. Several "Banjar" are made up into a "Desa", at the central of which are public facilities such as village market, meeting hall drum tower, schools, public health center are available......read more

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