- Bali, Hinduism in
- Bali, an island in the Indian Ocean immediately east of Java, is today a part of the country of INDONESIA. Unlike the rest of predominantly Muslim Indonesia, however, Bali is overwhelming Hindu. Its unique history reaches back to the spread of Hinduism to Java in the fourth century C.E., the rise of Hindu rulers on Java by the seventh century, and the spread of Hinduism to Bali in the 11th century. The Hindu Majapahit kingdom, which emerged in eastern Java in the 13th century. at its peak ruled all of Java, Bali, and Madura. However, its upward trajectory was stymied by the arrival and spread of Islam into the Indone-sian islands. In the 15th century, Islam pushed the Majapahits out of Java and the once-powerful kingdom retreated to Bali, where it survived while Java was divided among rival Muslim sultans.Hindu rule of Bali lasted until the mid-19th century, when the Dutch conquered the island. They held it only until the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia after World War II. Much of the Hindu leadership remained in place under Dutch rule. After the Dutch relinquished administration of the island the Hindu culture remained protected by the Indonesian govern-ment. A government-sponsored organization, the Parishad Hindu Dharma Indonesia (PHDI), or Hindu Council of Religious Affairs, is the high-est religious body on Bali and has been given the power to make decisions on all spiritual matters.Since the 16th century, Hinduism in Bali has developed somewhat in isolation from its roots in India, at the same time absorbing a variety of elements from the pre-Hindu indigenous religion of the island. These two factors shaped a distinc-tive form of Hindu life and practice in the islands, whose Hinduism is a blend of SHAIVISM, Bud-dhism, and ancient ancestor worship. The deity SHIVA is primarily associated with the ancestors of kings; consistently with the indigenous religion of Bali, Hindus there do not distinguish between the ancestors of rulers and the gods. The Balinese do not hold to the vegetarian dietary practices of India; instead, they eat such foods as beef, pork, and dog.Balinese Hindus believe in Sanghyang Widhi, the omnipotent Supreme Being, who manifests in three main forms as BRAHMA the Creator, VISHNU the Preserver, and SHIVA the Destroyer. However, this deity is not directly worshipped through cult or prayer, and none of the Balinese temples is dedicated to him. Among the deities to whom worship is directed, Shiva is the most prominent. He is usually worshipped in associa-tion with one or more local deities whose gender is indicated by their name—Dewa (male) or Dewi (female). The deities are acknowledged through Hinduism indaily offerings and participation in village and temple events. Bali has become known in the wider Hindu world for its frequent and dramatic ceremonies, rather than for any intellectual or spiritual leadership.Unlike in India, the gods of Balinese Hinduism are not seen as dwelling in their images; they live atop the great volcano Gunung Agung, which is identified with Mt. Meru, considered the axis of the world in many stories of traditional Hindu-ism. During worship and festivals the gods are called down from the mountain to enter their statues and the masks worn by celebrants. When the worship or festival ends, the gods return to their abode.The Balinese generally bury their dead; crema-tion is performed only for the more significant members of society. When a cremation is per-formed, corpses of commoners who have died since the last cremation are dug up and burned along with the newly deceased. These crema-tions are elaborate events; a grandly built tower is burned as part of the rite. The cremation is con-sidered to purify the souls of the deceased.Although the images of the gods are not considered sacred, the temple sites are. Bali has more than 20,000 temples. Each village usually has three main temples: the Village Temple, the Temple of Death (in memory of dead royalty), and the Shrine of the Beginning.At the Village Temple villagers congregate for worship and meetings, which center on shared sacred communal meals. The Temple of Death is associated with the nether world and is dedicated to the ancestors of rulers. In Bali, the dead are perceived as dangerous until they are purified by cremation; the temple keeps these negative forces in check.The most important temple is the Shrine of the Beginning, dedicated to the Original Ances-tor (the equivalent of Shiva) and His Consort. Other temples are dedicated to specific functions: water temples are responsible for irrigation and adequate water supply, sea temples hold back the forces of the underworld, and harvest temples secure abundance of food. Temples are built with inner courts containing shrines to the deities and platforms for offerings, and outer courtyards for more mundane purposes, such as the prepara-tion of food. The inner courts also contain one or more towers that represent Mt. MERU. Outside most temples are sacred groves, usually banyan trees, where demonic forces are propitiated. Each household also contains a shrine known as the “shrine of origin,” dedicated to ancestors and to the Sun god SURYA. Shiva, in the form of Bhattara Guru, the Divine Teacher, is included.According to the Balinese, the Hindu gods migrated to Bali. Indigenous deities such as Ranga and Barong also have an extensive mythol-ogy, which has been grafted onto the tales of the imported gods. Many Balinese live in a lively world inhabited by spirits of all varieties and ghostly entities, many of whom inhabit vari-ous animals, all existing alongside the deities of the Hindu pantheon. They also fear witches (malevolent sorcerers) who live among them more or less openly. Evil spirits are still looked upon as causes of illness and misfortune. Daily offerings are designed, in part, to appease angry spirit entities.Balinese Hinduism distinguishes between two types of priests: the pedandas and local pemang-kus, or temple priests. The pedandas are always male BRAHMINS; they perform duties and rituals primarily for the higher castes. The pemangkus are in charge of specific temples and daily rituals and serve as priests for commoners. Pemangkus are primarily men but can be women and can be either of caste or without caste. Unlike pedandas, pemangku priests are allowed to be possessed by the gods.Uma, sometimes called PARVATI, is the prin-cipal goddess of Bali; she is the Goddess of the Mountain Gunung Agung, where she dwells as the consort of Shiva, the Great Ancestor. She has many manifestations. As Uma, she nourishes and causes seeds to germinate. As DURGA, she is the Goddess of Death and the Mistress of Demons. As Devi Ganga and Devi Danu, she is the goddess of both the lake Bator (the site of her chief temple) and the second largest volcano, Gunung Bator. As Sri, she is worshipped at the temples in the rice paddies. As Ibu Petri, she is the Goddess of the Earth. Her most wrathful form is that of Ranga, goddess of the cemeteries.Among the important temples on Bali is Gunug Kawi, one of the island’s oldest, dating to the 11th century. Carved out of local rock, it is located in the Gianyar Regency. The most sacred site on the island is the shrine Pura Besakih, located on the slope of Mt. Agung.Today, over 90 percent of Bali’s three million inhabitants are Hindu, making the island the larg-est community of Hindus outside India.Further reading: Jane Belo, Bali: Temple Festival (New York: American Ethnological Society, 1953); ———, Traditional Balinese Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970); ———, Trance in Bali (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960); James A. Boon, The Anthropological Romance of Bali, 1597–1972: Dynamic Perspectives in Marriage and Caste Politics and Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977); R. Friederich, The Civilization and Culture of Bali (Kolkatta: Sushil Gupta, 1959); Clifford Geertz, Person, Time, and Conduct in Bali. South East Asia Studies (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1966); Hildred Geertz and Clifford Geertz, Kinship in Bali (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975); Christiaan Hooykaas, Agama Tirtha, Five Studies in Hindu-Balinese Religion (Amsterdam: Noord-Hol-landsche Uitgaverij, 1964); ———, Cosmogony and Creation in Balinese Tradition (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1974); Leo Howe, Hinduism and Hierarchy in Bali (Santa Fe, N. Mex.: School of American Research Press, 2001); J. L. Swellengrebel, Bali: Further Stud-ies in Life, Thought, and Ritual (The Hague: W. van Hoeve, 1969); ———, Bali: Life, Thought, and Ritual (The Hague: W. van Hoeve, 1960); Walter F. Vella, The Indianized States of Southeast Asia (Honolulu: East-West Center Press, 1968).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.