As far back as 200BC Bali was receiving outside cultural and religious influences from Buddhist and Hindu visitors. This is evidenced by metal inscriptions and also by the caves at Goa Gajah and  Gunung Kawi.

Baths at Gunung Kawi

At the end of the 10th century a Balinese king named Udayana married a Javanese princess Mahendratta. This event led to the birth of a son Erlangga in 991AD,  who managed to bring  together the 2 realms. East Java and Bali,  together.  In later centuries the to and fro between Bali and Java continued with Javanese kings including King Bedaulu capturing Bali into his realm.

In the year 1343AD Bali came under the control of the Hindu Majapahit empire from East Java, under the control of prime minister Gajah Mada.  This onslaught of Hindu culture and religion changed the way Balinese culture operated. One of the biggest changes was the introduction of the Hindu caste system along similar lines to the Indian example.  Local Balinese people mostly went along with the changes but those who did not sought refuge in the highlands, away from the new arrivals. These ‘Bali Aga’ or original Balinese built villages in the most inaccessible places such as the lakeside village of Trunyan.

The next big date in Bali was 1515 which marked the fall of the Hindu Majapahit empire in East Java to the Muslim Mataram empire. This event caused a flood of Javanese Hindus to Bali, which brought many high caste Javanese Hindus. Also the number of artesans swelled with those from the royal court in Java.

European activity in Bali started in 1588 when a Portuguese ship wrecked off of Bali. The landed landed in Bali. In 1633 the Dutch offered the Balinese dewa agung help fighting the Javanese Mataram empire. This offer was not taken by the Balinese.

In 1846 the Dutch landed again in Bali at Buleleng (Singaraja) with the idea of establishing Dutch control. The Dutch signed agreements with the rajas or Buleleng, Karangasem agreeing to pay Dutch taxes and abide by Dutch sovereignty. However not all regions of Bali felt the same.  The following 50 years marked a sorry story of skirmish, intimidation and death as the Dutch manouevered to gain control over the Balinese. The 1906 and 1908 puputans (mass ritual suicides) in Denpasar and Klungkung marked the absolute lowest point of colonial interaction in Bali.

WWII saw the Japanese take control of Bali briefly, an event that emboldened the locals to take command of their island and country after the war was over. The Indonesian war of independence from the Dutch ended and Indonesia declared independence on August 17th 1949.

Tourism in Bali started in the 1920’s with people such as artists Walter Spies and Rudolf Bonnet taking up residence in Ubud. At that point the only way to get to Bali was by ship from Jakarta to Singaraja. Mexican writer Miguel Covarruvias wrote the wonderful Island of Bali in 1936 and the book still is the best guide to Balinese cultural life. Mass tourism industry kicked in during the early 70’s with the surfing crowd.

Many thanks to Nick..





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