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
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.
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.
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
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
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.