An island that goes by many names

Bali…… An island that goes by many names – The Island of the Gods, The Center of Universe, The Last Paradise, The Morning of The World. One thing is for sure though, Bali is a truly beautiful tropical island inhabited bu a remarkably artistic people who have created a dynamic society with unique arts and ceremonies.

Bali is extraordinarily blessed by nature. Lying between a narrow band of the tropics where wet and dry seasons fall roughly into balance, providing both adequate rainfall and long periods of sunshine. This is the only area of Indonesia that remains “Hindu” today – retaining elements of the great fusion of indigenous and Indian cultures which took place over a thousand years ago. When Bali was finally colonised by the Dutch, at turn of the 20th century, the European invaders were so fascinated by what they found here that a concerted effort was made to preserve and foster the island’s traditional culture.

Moreover, Balinese society today remains strong and vital because it promotes family and communal values. It is a self strengthening system in which religion, customs and art combine with age-old child-rearing techniques and deeply-entrenched village institutions to produce an exceptionally well-integrated society. Feelings of alienation from parents and peers, so common now in the West, are rare in Bali.

Bali’s geography and ecology is dominated by a towering range of volcanic peaks that dominate the island. They have created its landforms, periodically regenerated its soils and helped to produce the dramatic downpours of tropical rain which recognized these geophysical facts of life and the island’s many volcanoes, lakes and springs are considered by them to be scared.

Traditional Culture

Bali culture is unique and famous especially for its rich and vibrant arts. Various forms of dance and music have made Bali’s arts and culture scene one of the most diverse in the world. Hinduism as the main religion is the major influence behind its development, now known as Agama Hindu Dharma: a direct descendant of the religion brought to Bali by visiting Hindu gurus.

The rhythms of the Balinese religious calendar dictate island-wide days of obligation, temple-specific feast days, and daily personal rituals that connect every native Balinese to their families, communities, ancestors and gods. The religious needs of the populace ensures the preservation and continued popularity of thousands of temples and altars all around the island, ranging in size from simple family shrines to the “Mother Temple”, the Pura Besakih on Gunung Agung. And you’ll find their myths re-enacted in Balinese dances all over the island.

Music, drama, dance and costumes become a feast for the senses during temple festivities. Rites of passage at Balinese family households can almost be seen daily, celebrating the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Special cultural dates and highlights also mark the calendar, through annual art festivals and local revelries that visitors should check out to make the best of their visit.

The strong link between the Balinese and their religion ensures that Bali retains a unique identity among Southeast Asia’s island destinations. Thanks in no small part to its unique culture, Bali has successfully resisted (to some degree) the commercialisation and homogenisation suffered by islands like Boracay in the Philippines or Phuket in Thailand. Balinese temples, dances, and ceremonies define the Bali tourist experience as much as its beaches or its surfing.

Bali Spirituality

The omnipresent, enchanting, ancient temples and the culture, religions, traditions and hospitality that is uniquely Balinese make the island of Bali such a paradise.

This ‘island of the gods’ has a unique culture all of it’s own, the Hindu society here is the only one left in South East Asia and the religion differs from that found and practiced in India. Hinduism in Bali still has a strong focus on animism and a belief in the good and bad spirits, and positive and negative forces, that are omnipresent in the world. Religious activity still permeates almost every aspect of Balinese life, so much so that religious events apparently occupy a third of the average Balinese social calendar.

Daily life is still dominated by the rituals. Enchanting little offerings called canang are made from banana leaves for the gods appear all over Bali every morning, in every nook and cranny and on every weathered statue. Each canang is different. All that matters is that what ever you offer comes from the heart. Holy water is sprinkled on the offering and incense lit to let the deity know to come and get the offering.

Offerings are even tossed across the pavements and the beach as even the demons and bad spirits can also be appeased with offerings. The smell of sandalwood incense fills the air wafting up from ancient statues of mythical creatures wrapped in cloths sheltering under elaborate umbrellas

Completing the magic are the the penjor (ornamental bamboo poles) bowed down with garlands of flowers that wave in the breeze arching over the roads always pointing the the volcano Gunung Agung that is revered, feared and respected in equal measures.

Balinese Lifestyle

Bali is the most famous Indonesian island in the country. The island is filled with beautiful sceneries of rice paddies and beaches. Although Bali is known for its tourists status, the Balinese are actually more conservative. They have their own way of living. Moreover, they also have a specific structure to their society.

The Balinese have specific grouping for their social classes. Their people are divided into different castes. There are four known castes among the Balinese. These are the Brahmana, Satria, Wesia and Sudra. The people in the higher caste are treated with higher respect. People from different castes can now marry each other. However, the wife will follow the husband’s caste. Many of the recently married couple live with their parents until they are able to find a home and live on their own. But there must always be a son in the house to take care of the aging parents.

Balinese are known to be very polite. They are friendly and considerate to everyone they meet. They do not like to cause conflict or commotion because ever since they were kids, they were taught to be in harmony with their surroundings. The little Balinese children are also very polite. They play with the other children in the same age group without causing too many problems. They rarely shouts and fight with each other.

Moreover, Balinese are very respectful when being spoken to. Balinese follow through the Social Etiquette in Bali. They listen carefully to everything you say and give a humble reply of nggih which means yes when they agree with what you say.

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