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Home > All About Bali > History

The arrival of the Hindu people marked the end of prehistoric period in Indonesia. The Hindu influence period was constituted from the first centuries AD until the fall of Majapahit Kingdom (around 1500 AD).

In the first century, a new religion, Hinduism, was introduced by Brahmin priests who traveled with Indian merchants in search of the fabulous wealth of these islands. Over the centuries, the kings of Bali adopted the new religion along with its offshoot, Buddhism. They blended it with elements of their old animist faith as they expanded their independent kingdoms.

In the end, all the kingdoms fell when the Majapahit's Gajah Mada expedition invaded and defeated Bali that marked the Ancient Balinese historical period between the 8th and the 14th century AD. Bali became an important province of Majapahit Empire. While Hindu and Buddhist spread out, the gradual fall of India to Islam broke direct contact between the Hindu motherland and Indonesia.

Isolated Java and Bali returned to their animistic roots, resulting in a syncretic faith combining these with tantric belief. Gamelan, dance, drama and the shadow puppet theatre developed their classical forms during this time.
Around the 16th century, the Majapahit Empire gradually disintegrated as the power of Islam grew. According to Balinese legends, many of the artists, the poets and the nobles fled to Bali, the last outpost of Hinduism.

As the fall of Java to Islam, the first Westerners led by the Dutch admiral, Cornelius Houtman, arrived off the coast of Bali in 1598 after a disastrous voyage plagued by diseases and attacks that cost the lives of half the crew. Bali was the first place that they were accorded a friendly reception by Watu Renggong, who then became the king of a united Bali.

The Dutch enthusiastically declared this island, New Holland. As power shifted in the coming years, the Dutch eclipsed the Portuguese in the war of spices. Bali, a small island with few harbors and no spices of note was forgotten. After the death of Watu Renggong, the power of Klungkung diminished and numerous local kings ruled independently. Often internecine warfare was incessant.

This changed in the 19th century when a series of confrontations resulted in the Dutch consolidating their hold on the peripheral regions of their far flung island empire. The Balinese developed a sordid reputation as being war-like barbarians. For a short moment the Balinese held their own under the command of the brilliant Gusti Djelantik and even managed to defeat the powerful colonial army on one occasion by feigning retreat only to lead the over confident troops up into the hills of Jagaraga in north Bali where they were ambushed. The Dutch, however, prevailed.

The end came in tragedy when on three occasions the kings of Denpasar in 1906 and Klungkung in 1908 chose death over surrender by mounting a hopeless attack against the modern weapons of the expeditionary forces in the belief that they would immediately gain glorious entrance into the paradise of their illustrious ancestors.

By the 1930s, the once primitive island was ringed with modern roads. The royal families that once fought foreigners now rented cars to visitors. Once a week, a large passenger ship arrived and dropped off tourists wanting to see the last paradise on earth, the island of the gods, the island of the bare breasted beauties, magic, and exotic dances.

Today, Bali is still experiencing rapid growth with numerous major resorts and hotels and plans for more. The quiet island is now one of the most economically dynamic region in Indonesia. Its original beauty and unique culture has made Bali more than just tourist destination.

After a few decades of golden era, tourism industry in Bali fell apart after the bombing attack in Legian area in October 2002 that killed hundreds of people, majority Australians. Numerous foreign governments warned their citizens to visit Bali after the bombing. But as the years went by, the tourism in Bali gradually bloomed.

Other bombing attacks took place in Kuta and Jimbaran recently in October 2005. The attacks were the latest of a series of bombings in Indonesia in recent years. The victims were not as many as the bombing victims in 2002 but still it brought negative impact on tourism industry in Bali.
Bali’s tourism industry has experienced its up and down era but with proper management and security, there is a good reason to hope for a brighter future.

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