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Home > Bali Guide > About Bali

Bali Island
Bali is famous for its culture and beautiful natural view. The culture is so unique and nowhere else to be found in the world. The view is dominated by beautiful rice field terraces, coconuts and rain forest as the main occupation of Balinese is farmer. The culture and the nature have a strong relation with Hindu, their religion. Everywhere you go, you may see many Hindu temples. And their life is also strongly related with and influenced by their religion. This is the reason why Bali is called the Island of God, the Island of Thousand Temples, and the Paradise Island. Below some interesting places in Bali Island.

ABOUT BALI
With a reputation as being one of the most beautiful and diverse tourist sports in Asia, Bali attracts almost 1,000,000 visitor a year, from all around the world.

Geographically, Bali lies between the islands of Java and Lombok and is one of more than 18,000 islands that makes up the Indonesian Archipelago. Bali is small, stretching approximately 140 km from east to west and 80 km from north to south. Sightly off centre and running east to west, are a string of volcanic mountains. The tallest is Gunung Agung, which last erupted in 2963, and is 3,142 m at its highest point.

Lying just 8' south of the equator, bali boasts a tropical climate with just two seasons, wet and dry, a year and an average annual temperature of around 28'C. The rich vulcanic soil and healthy monsoon season make this island extremely fertile and a range of crops are grown here. The wide and gently sloping southern regions play host to Bali's famed rice terraces, among some of the most spectacular in the world. In the hill, nothern coastal regions, the main produce is coffee, copra, spices, vegetables, cattle and rice.

The Balinese people have strong spritual roots and despite the large influx of tourists over the years, their culture is still very much alive. The main religion is Agama Hindu Dharma, which arrived in Bali with the spread of Hinduism through Sumatra and Java during the 11th century. Although originally from India, the Balinese religion is unique blend of Hindu, Buddhist, Javanese and ancient indigenous beliefts, with customs that are very different from the traditional from of Hinduism practiced in India today. With arrival of Islam in neighbouring Java during the 15th century.

Naturally creative, the Balinese have traditionally used their talents for religious purposes and most of the beautiful work to be seen here, has been inspired by stories from the Ramayana and other Hindu epics. The incredibly colourful creamtion pyres and the everyday offerings to the gods, placed inside every shop and business, are made with an eye for detail and beauty.

The mayoritiy of Bali's 3,000,000 people life, for the most part, in tight village communities with large extended families. The largest towns are the capital Denpasar, population approximatelay 250,000, and Singaraja in the morth. The main tourist area in Kuta, situated near the airport. This small sleepy village became the mojor attraction during the tourist boom of the 70's, because of its famed white-sand beaches, the surf and stunning sunsets.

Today, Kuta is major hustling and bustling resort town, with hundreds of hotels, bars, restaurants and shops. Those in search of a little peace and quiet tend to head for the more sedate resorts of Sanur and Candidasa, on the east coast or Lovina in the north. Nusa Dua, another tourist enclave on the southern-most penisula of the island, caters for the more upmarket crowd and is home to almost all bigger 5-star hotels. The central villa of Ubud, in the hilly region of Gianyar has also blossomed as a tourist attraction and is no considered to be the artistic and cultural centre of Bali.

THE PEOPLE

Life in Bali is very communal with organization of villages, farming and even the creative arts being decided by the community. The local government is responsible for schools, clinic, hospital and roads but all other aspects of life are placed in the handof two traditional comminittees, whose roots in Balinese culture stretch back centuries.

The first, "Subak", concerns the production of rice and organizes the complex irrigation system. Everyone who own a "sawah", or rice field must join their local "Subak", which the ensures that eveery member gets his fair distribution of irrigation water. Traditionally, the head of the "Subak" has his "sawah" at the very bottom of the hill, so that the water has to pass through every other "sawah" before reaching his own.

The other community organization is the "Banjar", which arranges all village festivals, marriage ceremonies and cremations, as well as a form of community service known as "Gotong - Royong". Most villages have at least one "Banjar" and all males have to join one when they marry. "Banjars", on average, have a membership of between 50 to 100 families and each "Banjar" has its own meeting place called "Bale Banjar". As well being used for regular meetings, the "Bale" is where the local gamelan or ochestras and drama groups practice.


RELIGION

The Balinese are Hindu yet their religion is very different from of the Indian veriety. They do have a caste system, but there are no untouchables and occupantion is not governed by caste. In fact, the only thing that reflects tha caste system is the language which has three tiers 95% of all the Balinese are Hindu Dharma and speak Low or everyday Balinese with each other; Middle Balinese is used for talking to strangers, at formal occasions or to people of the higher "Ksatriya" caste, High Balinese is used when talking to the highest class, the Brahmana, or to a "Pedanda" (priest). It may sound complicated, but most of the words at the low and midium levels are the same, whereas High Balinese is a mixture of Middle Balinese and "Kawi", the ancient Javanese language.

The Balinese worship the Hindu trinity Brahma, Shiva and Visnu, who are seen as manifestations of the Supreme God "Sanghyang Widhi". Other Indian gods like Ganesha (the elephant-headed god) also often appear, but more commonly, one will see shrines to the many gods and spirits that are uniquely Balinese. Balinese believe strongly in magic and the power of spirits, and much of their religion is based upon this. They believe that good spirits dwell in the mountains and that the seas are home to demos and ogres. Most villages have at least three main temple; one, the "Pura Puseh" or temple of origin, faces the mountains and is dedicated to the village founders, another, the "Pura Desa" or village temple, is normally found in the centre and is dedicated to the walfare of the village, the last, the "Pura Dalem", is aligned with the sea and is dedicated to the spirits of the dead. Aside from these village temple, almost every house has its own shrine and you can also find monuments dedicated to the spirits of agriculture, art and all other aspects of life. Some temples, "Pura Besakih" for example, on the slopes of Mount Agung, are considered especially important and people from all over Bali travel for workship there.

Offerings play a significant role in Balinese life as they appease the spirits and thus bring prosperity and good health to the family. Every day small offering trays "Canang Sari" containing symbolic food, flowers, cigarettes and money, are placed on the shrines, in the temples, outside houses and shops, and even at dangerous crossroads.

Festivals are another great occasion for appeasing the gods. The women bear huge, beautifully arranged, pyramids of food, fruit and flowers on their heads while the men might conduct a blood sacrifice through a cock-fight. There are tradtional dances and music and the gods are invited to come down to join in the festivities. The festivals are usually very exciting occasions and well worth observing, if you are in the area. A crucial thing to remember, if you wish to join in celebrations or enter a temple, is that three are a number of rules that have to be respected.

Attending Ceremonies:

Reme these are serious occasions and should be treated as such. Religious guidlines :
1. Always wear a sarong and sash.
2. Do not walk in front of people praying.
3. Do not use flash camera or push your camera into the priest's face!
4. Never sit higher than priest or the offerings
5. At cremation, do not get in the way of the attendees - however important that photographic opprtunity is!
6. Women are not allowed to enter temples during menstruation.

N.B. When attending Special Ceremonies or Anniversary Celebrations as a gust or onlooker, small donations are gratefully recieved. Your donations will help in paying for the offerings and upkeep of the temple.


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