This month we present part one of a special on the history of the people of Bali and how this unique island came to be.
The Balinese people are the descendants of a prehistoric race who migrated through Asia to the Indonesian archipelago.
Ancient Indian Ship
The first recorded inflow of changes were due to Indian traders and travellers who brought with them Hindu learning and religion. The rulers of primitive, animist Bali found these teachings suited them
and their people perfectly, with the concept of the God-King, who exercised a divine law and spiritual leadership, and created a glorious palace in which the arts were fostered, fitting perfectly over the existing systems of monarchy.
The most persuasive influence of Hinduism came from nearby Java, when Airlangga, the son of a Balinese king, became part of the court of a Javanese emperor, who he was later to succeed, inaugurating a period of very close political and cultural contacts which lasted for centuries.
With the fall of the Madjapahit kingdom to Islamic influences, many thousands of Hindu priests, nobles, soldiers, artists and artisans fled from Java to Bali to escape their Muslim. Conquerors.
The Majapahit Empire
The Majapahit Empire was based in eastern Java and ruled much of the southern Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra, and Bali from about 1293 to around 1500. Its greatest ruler was Hayam Wuruk, whose reign from 1350 to 1389 marked the empire’s peak. The Majapahit was the last of the great Hindu empires of the Malay archipelago. The founder of the Majapahit Empire, Kertarajasa, was the son-in-law of the ruler of the Singhasari kingdom, also based in Java. After Singhasari drove Srivijaya out of Java altogether in 1290, the rising power of Singhasari came to the attention of Kublai Khan in China and he sent emissaries demanding tribute. Kertanagara, ruler of the Singhasari kingdom, refused to pay tribute and the Khan sent a punitive expedition which arrived off the coast of Java in 1293. Gajah Mada, an ambitious Majapahit prime minister and regent from
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1331 to 1364, extended the empire’s rule to the surrounding islands. Although the Majapahit rulers extended their power over other islands and destroyed neighbouring kingdoms, their focus was on controlling and gaining a larger share of the commercial trade that passed through the archipelago.
About the time Majapahit was founded, Muslim traders and proselytizers began entering the area. After peaking in the 1300s, Majapahit power began to decline
with a war over succession that started in 1401 and went on for four years. Majapahit found itself unable to control the rising power of the Sultanate of Malacca. The Majapahit Empire ended around 1520. A large number of courtiers, artisans, priests, and members of the royalty moved the island of Bali at the end of Majapahit’s existence, where they remained isolated until the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Dutch colonials mounted a military expedition to take control of the island.
Dutch ship landing at Singaraja 1850
Up until this stage few western contacts had been made with the island. In 1586 a Portuguese ship, intent on a mission to build a fort and set up a trading post in Bali, foundered off the coast of Bukit, and most of the ship’s company were drowned.
Twelve years later, the Dutch explorer Cornelius de Houtman, paid a visit, and the record of this visit was the first substantial amount of information about Bali to reach the western world. The Dutch were suitably amazed by the vast riches of the Dewa Agung and his court, his 200 wives and innumerable followers. Despite the intermittent visits of Dutch merchants Bali was relatively neglected by the European world until the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Cornelius de Houtman
Sailed to Bali on the Duyfken, owned by the Dutch East India Company, the same ship was first to discover Australia in 1606.
Assorted French and English interests tried for many years to obtain a foothold in Bali unsuccessfully, which only served to alert the Dutch to the potential existing within the island. Civil war and anarchy were rife amongst the royal courts, and a period of cloudy history ensued, of which few accurate accounts are available.
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First image of Bali by Dutch explorer Cornelius de Houtmann 1597
Continual attempts were made by the Dutch to force the Rajas of Bali to recognize the sovereignty of the Netherlands in return for protection against their enemies, but in general, despite a multitude of documents which were duly signed and witnessed, (although never translated into Balinese), they met with general animosity. The looting of shipwrecks off the coast of Bali, which the Balinese considered their age-old right, continued as ever, despite the rage of the Dutch authorities, and no peaceful settlement was obtained. It was at the court of Buleleng that the general sentiments of the Balinese were finally expressed to the Dutch Commissioner, visiting Bali to demand ratification for the latest reef incidents in 1844.
Early Map of Bali
In words that were to immortalize him as the modern hero of Bali, Gusti Ketut Djelantik, the younger brother of the Raja of Buleleng and Karangasem, told the Dutch Commissioner : “Never while l live shall the state recognize the sovereignty of the Netherlands in the sense in which you interpret it. Not by a mere scrap of paper shall any man become the master of another’s lands. Rather let the Kris decide”. Both parties realized, upon the delivery of this impetuous message that war was not far away.
Balinese Raja Buleleng 1865
Bali Procession 1900
Bali Beauty 1900
At the market 1900
Cock fighting 1900
Bali cooking 1900
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Dutch Soldiers and horses come ashore in Bali 1906
The Dutch began readying an expeditionary force, and the Balinese began making military preparations. Once the powerful Dutch army set out to subdue Bali the ultimate outcome was obvious, but little did they realize at what expense. It took three campaigns and sixty odd years to shatter the Balinese defences and morale, campaigns in which the Dutch did not always by any means achieve either victory or glory.
There were a number of tragic “puputan” battles in which the Raja, his entire royal court, women and children plunged into battle, armed
with kris and spear, killing each other on the battle field rather than be taken captive. These rather shocking events had great psychological effects on the Dutch, and from then on they ruled in Bali with a lenient hand, doing their best to keep to an “ethical” policy, and a whole new generation of administrators developed, who regarded themselves not only as the agents of modernization in education, health and administrative services, but as the protectors of Bali’s own traditional culture. They introduced clinics and schools, abolished slavery and
Tragic “Puputan” battle 1906
suttee, built roads, bridges, dams, and imposed law and order. However, they also did great damage to Balinese political and economic self-sufficiency, and also to Balinese pride and self-confidence.
In accordance with their policy of cultural conservationism, the Dutch Residency was reluctant to allow evangelists and missionaries to practice in Bali.
They were also concerned about the effects of opening the door to international tourism. Out of concern for the publicity, which Bali was receiving overseas, they announced that the women of Denpasar should cover their breasts in public, and on several occasions foreigners who were thought to be negatively influencing the island’s youth were exiled.
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KPM ships arrive at Buleleng Bali 1934
In 1908, the year that the last Balinese kingdoms fell, the Dutch opened a tourist bureau in Batavia (Jakarta) to promote the Dutch East Indies as a tourist destination.
KPM Ship 1936
With the introduction of a regular weekly KPM steamship from Java to Bali in 1924, tourism took off.
The first tourists were from the colonial administration. They disembarked on a Friday morning, made a round trip of the island by car and left on Sunday. In 1928 the Bali Hotel, was opened in Denpasar. It is still there, built on the site of the puputan in 1906.
The Bali Hotel today
Actual organized tourism came to Bali in the 1920’s. By 1930 up to 100 visitors a month were arriving, mostly by sea, and their ecstatic reports were so positive that by 1940 this figure had increased to about 250 per month, not including the passengers on the cruise ships Stella Polaris, Lurline, Franconia, Empress of Britain, Reliance and others that advertised a day or two in Bali as the highlight of their winter schedules.
Dutch Postcard 1933
Books, articles and postcards whetted their appetites. Exotic photographs began to be published – the first was by a German doctor, who was posted to Bali, Gregor Krause, (1883-1959)
“Frau” Gregor Krause 1930
“Bali Boy” Gregor Krause 1930