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The South:
Badung Regency

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Badung, the southernmost regency of Bali, is the most heavily populated area of the island - with an average density of more than 1,000 persons per square km. Partly this is because Denpasar, the island's capital and principal metropolis is here. Also, Bali's major tourist resorts are all in Badung, and the tourist boom of the past two decades has fueled a rapid economic expansion and population influx to this traditional southern court center.

Extending north-south from the lofty central volcanic ridge of the island to the rich rice-growing plains around Denpasar, the regency of Badung is geographically defined by a distributor network of rivers and streams fed from the Plaga rain-catchments area in the north. The clubfoot-shaped Bukit Peninsula in the far south stands apart - its limestone formations, thin topsoil and lack of water make it poor and sparsely populated.

Ill-favored as it is, the Bukit peninsula nevertheless demarcates the Benoa bay and harbor area through which southern Bali traditionally maintained contacts with the outside world. Ships coming from the Bali Strait would sail along the white beaches of the western shore, round the inhospitable cliffs of the Bukit, and anchor in the reef-sheltered cove behind Kuta. Alluvium now clogs up the back channel to Kuta, but a land bridge has been built out into the bay to create the new Port of Benoa here. Having reverted to marshlands, the coast is now being developed into fishponds.

Badung's historical role is due to its pivotal position, allowing control over the three major elements of Balinese economic life: irrigation, rice and the sea. Indianization took Place early here, as evidenced by the Prasasti Blaniong inscription, dating from the 10th century. Besides Bugis settlements, there are also Chinese tombs and dances named after the Chinese - such as the famed baris cina of Semawang and Renon.

The town of Denpasar, also known as Badung, did not enter the limelight until the last century. The early island kingdoms were all farther east, in Gianyar and Klungkung. But soon after the Javanese conquest of the 14th century, western princes arose and for a time Mengwi held sway over the whole of western Bali. After the 18th century, as foreign merchants and warships became more intrusive, power shifted to the sea. This was an historic opportunity for Badung's Pemecutan clan, who defeated Mengwi in 1891.

Pemecutan's rule was short-lived. The Dutch were at this time expanding their territories, and having subdued northern Bali in the mid-19th century, they pushed their claims of suzerainty south with increasing confidence. Many pretexts were used rights of trade, recognition of the Dutch crown and flag, ritual suicide of widows (suttee). One eventually drew blood.

It started as a common event a ship ran aground on the reef off Sanur. The Chinese crew survived, but the cargoes disappeared. The Dutch demanded reparations but the raja refused and two years later, in 1906, Dutch troops landed at Sanur. The king chose death over surrender. Dressed in white loincloths, row after row of kris and spearwielding Balinese hurled themselves into the Dutch gunfire. For them, this was an honorable road to Indra's heaven, abode of fallen warriors.

Its palaces destroyed, its king and warriors dead, Badung surrendered. From the ruins of the palace, a young boy was saved the last survivor of the proud royal house of Pemecutan. Today, the royal line continues. On July 15th, 1989, the boy's grandson was installed as the new Cokorda or King of Pemecutan. The new king is a businessman, his palace a hotel.

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Peta Badung



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