Bali,  one of the approximately 14.000 islands that comprise the Indonesian archipelago, is part of the republic of Indonesia.  The island lies about 8 degrees south of the equator an measures only 140 km by 80 km (5.620 km).

Bali anchors east of Java, separated by the small Strait of Bali, and is surrounded by the Java Sea on the north, the Indian Ocean on the south, and the Strait of Lombok on the east.   A string of volcanic mountains crown the northern part of Bali, with Gunung Agung (Mount Divine) as the tallest (3.104 m.). 

In 1990, the population of Bali is 2.778.000 people;  93.18% are Hindus, with a density of 500 persons per sq km.  The national language is Bahasia Indonesia.

Bali, the fable "Island of the Gods", has been enchanting visitors for centuries with its rich cultural traditions and spectacular panoramas. It is one of the world's favorite holiday destinations. From lofty, misty volcanoes and cool mountain lakes down through terraced rice fields to a golden strand lapped by azure waters, every square inch of Bali offers a fresh and unforgettable image. There you can visit magnificent temples, ancient remains and traditional villages and meet some of the world's most culturally rich and fascinating people.



The island's view

Bali is continually being formed by volcanic action.  A violent eruption of Mt. Agung (3.142 m before the eruption; 3.104 m now) in 1963 showered the mountain's upper slopes with ash and debris that slid off as mud flows, killing thousands of people. Mt Batur (1.717 m) to the west is also active, with greater frequency but less violence. 

Extremely important to the agricultural life of Bali, especially for rice crop, are the rivers of Ayung, Unda, Sungsang, Balian, Yeh Sumi, Petanu, and Saban who carry the water from the highland to the seas. There are four major lakes: Lake Batur at the crater of Mount Batur, Lake Buyan, Lake Bratan, and Lake Temblingan.




Bali enjoys tropical weather, being only a few degrees south of the equator. It means that the sun rises at 6 AM in the morning and sets at 6 PM in the afternoon, every day of the year.

Bali has a short, hot wet season and a longer, cooler dry season. The mountains are wet year round, averaging 2.500 to 3.000 mm of rain annually, with warm days and cool nights. The lowlands are hotter and drier, but fresh and persistent winds make the climate less oppressive here then elsewhere in the equatorial zone.  The wet season lasts from November to March, this is also the hottest time of year (30-31C by day, 24-25C at night). Though here are seven or eight hours of sunshine a day, at the peak of the wet season you will only see about a half-hour to an hour serious downpour in the afternoon, The dry season is from April to October with nine or ten hours of sunshine daily and temperatures from 28-29C by day and an average of 24C at night.  The rest of the time: nice, warm temperature, especially with a twist of sea breeze on the beaches. 

This climate endows Bali with a number of unique vegetation, including waringin trees (banyan), salak Bali, and a multitude of flowers from a very fragrant cempaka (Michelia champaca) to literally thousand kinds of orchids. Its fauna is equally rich. Bali is the native land to the Bali Tiger, which is almost extinct; Bali cattle, graceful animals not like other cows; bats that haunt caves like the Bat Cave near Kusamba; sea turtles of Nusa Dua; Jalak Bali or Bali Sterling that has inspired countless number of painters and artists. The most holy of trees, the banyan, grows to a massive size, and may have hundreds of creepers hanging from its branches. They grow in many of the lowland rainforests, and are a feature of most temples. 
Palm trees line the beaches, yielding fruit such as coconuts as well as sugar, fiber, oil and fuel. In Bali, the coconut palm is said to be the most useful of all trees, providing food, drink, firewood, timber and leaves suitable for making a shelter.




Bali's economy is one of the most vivacious in Indonesia, fueled by constant flow of tourism dollars and supported by agricultural production and trade revenues. Balinese people are gifted artists, producing garment, and arts & crafts that are exported. In addition to gorgeous nature and enchanting people and culture, Bali is also endowed with fertile land.

The primary export products are garments, handicrafts, and agricultural products such as fish, coffee, tuna, seaweed, and vanilla. The arable land of South Bali and a sophisticated irrigation mechanism arranged through the Water Temple system give Bali and its people two full crops of rice year after year. Corn and other horticulture are also planted.

The land is also an excellent grazing pasture for Balinese cattle's, water buffaloes, goats, sheep and horses. Pigs are also raised and consumed a lot in Bali, and chickens and ducks are raised by the farmers in their land. The rain forests in Bali produce cayuput oil, rattan, and incense, which is used ubiquitously in Balinese ceremony. There is about 8,535.05 ha of productive forest area. The Balinese are not too eager to explore the sea, because they believe that it is the place of evil spirits. However, tuna, baramundi, seaweed, and shrimp are quite abundant in the seas surrounding Bali. Balinese have about 841.37 ha of water fishery area.

Having been promoted by the Dutch during the colonialization period, Balinese tourism is the most advanced in Indonesia. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Bali's tourism is the fact that the Balinese people retain its own cultural identity, despite the exposure and intermingling of all kinds of people and culture from all over the world.




Hindu Bali is a religion which owes its origins to India, but which has developed independently from its forebear. Hindu Bali celebrates its rituals in a highly dramatized form, which can be witnessed by visitors in the form of dance and performance at traditional festivals, and at secular performances.

Hindu Dharma is held by almost 95% of the population. Its teaching is to reach peace and harmony of life guided by the wedas as Holy Scriptures. Hindu Dharma is a special blend of Hinduism, Budhism and ancestor worship that has been flourishing over centuries. They believe in One supreme God called Ida Sanghyang Widhi Wasa.

Sanghyang Widhi manifests himself to the Balinese in three main forms: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer. This three-in-one embodiment is called the Trisakti, the Holy Trinity. The average Balinese does not utter prayers or make offerings directly to Sanghyang Widhi.  Not one of the island's temples, altars, or shrines is dedicated to him.  Instead, three-seated temple pedestals enshrine the Trisakti. Before a ceremony temple guardians will decorate the pedestal with bright wraps of colored cloth: red for Brahma, white for Shiva, black for Vishnu. These three powerfully symbolic colors predominate in all religious processions.
Most Balinese concentrate their worship on Shiva, God's manifestation as destroyer, since it is he who is most often seen and felt by the people through suffering and sickness. The Balinese believe in taking care of the god first who can destroy you, not the god that creates or preserves you. Appeasing Shiva, as well as the local dewa, will bring prosperity, happiness, and liberation.  
Vishnu, connected with the creation of life, is particularly associated with the irrigation systems that nourish the rice fields and is the most important figure in the kampung.

In the hierarchy of the divine, below Sanghyang Widhi and the Trisakti, is a multitude of manifestations named and classified in great detail. These protective spirits are closely related to nature. God in his power to create the wind is Dewa Bayu, to create rice he is Dewi Sri, to create the ocean Dewa Baruna. God's gender is indicated by Dewa (male) and Dewi (female). 
Saraswati is the goddess of learning and knowledge. Shiva's consort is Durga, goddess of death, and ruler of demons, ghosts, and witches. Each god or goddess also has a mount or vehicle for transport. Shiva rides the bull Nandi, while Vishnu flies upon Garuda, a mythical bird.

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).  The caste of a person is indicated by their title; Ida Bagus for brahman, Anak Agung or Dewa for Satrias, and I Gusti for Wesias. Karma law prevents people from doing bad deeds because such thing will result in negative effect to the doer. While belief in Moska suggests positive attitude that eventually everybody or every soul, after series of reincarnation will be able to join the origin, the God head. 
Each caste has its own language, and a separate dialect exists to enable someone to address one of unknown caste to avoid disrespect. The national language, Bahasia Indonesia, which is taught in schools simplifies communication somewhat, although at the expense of cultural diversity.  

Bali Hindus are not obliged to study sacred texts, follow any set doctrine or scripture, practice celibacy or adhere to a puritan lifestyle. There are no prescribed prayers, no fixed moments of devotion.  The worshipper need only perform daily offerings and participate actively in village and temple events.  Ngedjot are placed in the courtyards of every house; these offerings consist of little squares of banana leaves holding a few grains of rice, a flower, salt, and a pinch of chili pepper. No one eats until ngedjot are placed at the cardinal points in the family courtyard and in front of each house. Though mangy dogs eat the offerings as soon as they touch the ground, their essence has already been consumed by the spirits. Every morning this quiet drama is carried out all over Bali, from inexpensive losmen courtyards to the lobbies of  the grandest and most lavish hotels.  Spectacular, colorful geboganor banten tegeh are enormous towers of up to three meters, embellished with glass, paintings, roast ducks or chickens, suckling pigs, pig entrails, garlands of white 'cempaka', and fragrant yellow jepun blossoms. They're carried on the heads of women to the temple, blessed by the pemangku and sprinkled with holy water. Since the high Brahmanic teachings are a mystery to most of the Balinese population, the emphasis has always been on frequent and visibly dramatic ceremonies and rituals rather than theology, on behavior and service rather than the fine points of belief. 




Temples are everywhere, especially in the mountains, where the Hindu Gods sought refuge from the Islamic invaders of Java. Inseparable from the religious rituals of the Balinese are the temples. The word for temple in Balinese is Pura, which comes from a Sanskrit word that literally translates into a place surrounded by walls. Just like cathedrals in Europe, temples are the most ubiquitous architecture in Bali.  Every house has its own little shrine, usually a dedication to their ancestors. The rice field has a little shrine dedicated to Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice. Each village usually has three temples. For the entire island, the Mother Temple of Besakih, situated on the slope of Mount Agung, is the most important of all temples.

To the Balinese, temples and their various structures are not worshipped. Temples are meant to be pleasant resting place for the gods on their stay on the island. As such, entertaining the gods or appeasing the goddesses or most of religious rituals through endless festivals will take place in the three village temples:
Pura Puseh: a temple dedicated to the ancestors of the village.
Pura Desa: a temple used for official celebrations of the village community.
Pura Dalem: or the temple of death, dedicated to the deities of death and of cremation

A Balinese Pura typically consists of walls surrounding two or three courtyards. The huge, elaborately carved entrance gate is usually a split gate, known also as Candi Bentar.  Candi Bentar is usually guarded on both sides by statues of temple guards. Sculptured figures can be found in various locations in a temple. The outer courtyard is separated from the inner courtyard by another wall, and the entrance is a covered gateway called Padu Raksa. The walls surrounding the courtyards are usually heavily decorated with bas-reliefs, depicting stories that can range from traditional Mahabrata mythology or as simple as daily events of a Balinese. In the middle of the inner court, usually imposingly stands a waringin or frangipani tree. Inside each courtyard you will find several interesting structures:
Bale : each courtyard may have several little pavilions called bale. These bale may be as simple as a roofed structure supported by four pillars with cement or stone floors. For a village temple, the orchestra will be housed in one of these bale.
Meru is the tiered roof structure that you can find atop a little pavilion dedicated to a god or goddess. You can only have an odd number of merus, and the highest is 11, signifying the greatest respect. The goddess of rice, Dewi Sri, for example, will have eleven-tiered merus dedicated to her.
Kulkul is a hollow log that functions similar to a church bell; it is used to call together the village community. In a village temple, it is usually housed in a tower whose base is elaborately decorated with carvings. Sounding the kulkul has its own language; different rhythms of hitting the kulkul will communicate different reasons for the gathering of the village.
Shrines : a temple may have a number of shrines dedicated to the various gods and goddesses. The village women will present their offerings on these shrines.