Brief History of Bali & the Balinese


  • Ancient History of Bali
  • The Golden Age of Bali
  • The Colonialism Era
  • Bali After the Independence Day of Indonesia
  • Primordial Life in Bali
  • Bali Aga
  • Balinese Caste System
  • Banjar and Community
  • Balinese Calendar
  • Kris
  • Subak 

Bali's History

Although traces are found of Stone Age people, most of Bali’s rich heritage started to develop during the Empire of the Majapahit (1293 to 1520 AD). This was an era ruled at its peak by Hayam Wuruk who beside Bali also controlled other kingdoms in the southern Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra, Kalimantan and eastern Indonesia, and the Philippines. It was a sophisticated, golden time that brought the Hindu-Javanese literature and artistic activities which today are still the foundation of Balinese arts.

The golden age ended when after the death of Hayam Wuruk, conflicts increased within the ruling family while the power of the kingdoms in Java only became stronger. The decline of the Majapahit Empire in the 15th century was followed by an exodus to Bali of Hindu priests, intellectuals, artists and members of the royal family.

Top historical events from 7th century to today

7th century

Indian traders influenced many sectors of life of the Balinese, including the Hindu religion and trading goods for a living.

9th century

Sanskrit inscriptions on stones are hidden in Sanur.


After the fall of Javanese King, Kartanegara, Bali obtains its independence.


Patih Gajah Mada, Majapahit’s greatest prime minister, managed to take over Bali and once again, the island is under Javanese control. Evidences still remain in Klungkung region, Semarapura.


Islam influences Java and most of the Javaneses convert to Islam. There is a huge exodus of priests, artists, and intellectuals from Java to Bali due to the disagreement against the conversion. This makes Bali a Hindu concentrate area.


Nirartha, a priest, builds places for worship for the Hindus and some of the dozen amounts include Pura Luhur Ulu Watu and Pura Tanah Lot.


Francis Drake, an European who is in search of spices, arrives at Bali. More Europeans come looking for spices including the Portuguese and the Dutch.


European wars to conquer the area causes shifts of controls, from Dutch to French to British and eventually goes back to the Dutch.


This year marks the end of slavery in Bali


There are rebellions against the Dutch but none of them succeeds


Early exposure of Bali to the international stage when Gregor Krause, a German visitor, takes pictures of topless local females. After the World War I ends, a stream of Dutch visitors come to Bali, mainly to Singaraja.


Indonesia proclaims its independence from the Dutch with intense revolutions afterwards. I Gusti Ngurah Rai, a Balinese warrior who fights for freedom in Puputan Margarana war dies but the Dutch lose their colonial confidence since then.


The airport has been renovated and the tickets are available. Sanur starts off the mass tourism with its Bali Beach Hotel (now Grand Inna Sanur).


Gunung Agung eruption causes the deaths of thousand people. Hundred thousands were evacuated.


Australian filmmaker, Alby Falzon, shoots a short documentary video which leads to a stream of Australian visitors afterwards. Australian visitor manages to start a club to cater these tourists style of partying.


President Soeharto resigns after 32 years of reign. However, his family owns and controls some of prestigious resorts in Bali.


The effect of Soeharto resignation is the violence by Moslem sponsored riots that happen in almost any parts of the cities including the island of Bali. Hundreds of Chineses and Christians fly to Lombok as their businesses are burnt.


One of the biggest highlight in Bali. Bali Bombings that cause the deaths of hundreds of people. Bali economy is soon shattered after 2 suicide bombers blow 2 famous clubs in Bali, the Paddy’s Pub and Sari Club. The bombs are attached to a backpack and a van. The detonation of these bombs in the main street of Kuta is purposely done by Jemaah Islamiyah, an extreme Islamist group who disagrees on government support towards the United States and Australia.


Permanent memorial is built on what it’s used to be Paddy’s pub. It is made from carved stone in Balinese style with marble plaque that enlists all of the victims (202 people). Australian ambassador and the local officials including the victims’ families attend the ceremony dedicated to commemorate the incident.


Bombs explode on 2 major tourist attraction sites, Kuta town square and Jimbaran, killing 20 locals and hundreds of men injured. One of the bombs is carried in a backpack and blasts inside Raja’s restaurant; the other one is exploded in one of Jimbaran’s restaurants. Mutilated bodies are a strong evidence that it is a suicide bombing. Abu Bakar Bashir is found guilty of the conspiracy behind the bombing. He is sentenced for 15 years in prison. This raises controversies as the public think he deserves death sentence.


Bali tourism begins to blossom again after a series of tensions that happen around. The island hosts International Geothermal Congress 2010; which signifies clearly that tourists are safe to come to Bali. The movie Eat Pray Love that stars Julia Roberts exposes Bali and Ubud in particular.


Many international events take place in Bali, including the East Asia Summit 2012, APEC CEO summit in 2013 and Miss World 2014. Bali first highway above the sea takes only 14 months to finish. It is constructed to avoid traffic congestion as the country hosts the 2013 APEC conference. The new international airport has opened, capable of handling up to 12mio passengers a year.

Nov 2017

Mount Agung awakens and erupts several times, staying active for several months. Thousands had to be evacuated since the government established a safety zone. Even though nothing really bad happened this situation came down harsh on the Balinese. Tourism numbers dropped drastically which affects almost every line of business causing immediate layoffs. And the people, mostly the poor families and farmers near the mountain had to be evacuated for several months. The living conditions in these camps were hard and the life stock of the farmers suffered because they could have not taken care of properly.

June 2018

A new governor, Wayan Koster, has been elected by the Balinese people, and overall, since the democracy is maturing, the Balinese have high hopes in this new governor to help them tackle some pressing issues and making sure the island can thrive. Foreigners and the tourism industry are mostly concerned with the increase in traffic and trash problem, among other pressing issues.

August 2018

Several earthquakes near Lombok caused heavy damage in the north of Lombok, killing almost 400 people. People were fleeing the then packed Gili Islands. Some damage was recorded in Bali, yet status 23. August 2018, Bali was more or less unaffected.

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Fun activities to do in Bali
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Balinese Life

Hierarchical Society in Bali

Concept of Caste

Brahmana, Satria and Wesia are considered as three upper castes in Bali, while most other Balinese are commoner Sudra or jaba (outsiders).

Community Relations


Villages are divided into several banjar, a smaller unit of households with an elected leader called as the Klian Banjar.

Phases of the Moon

Balinese Calendar

The Balinese Hindu festival of Nyepi, the day of silence, marks the start of the Saka year. This calendar is 78 years behind the Gregorian calendar. 

Tri Hita Karana


Subak is a traditional ecologically sustainable irrigation system that binds Balinese agrarian society together within the village's Bale Banjar community center and Balinese temples. 

A UNESCO Cultural Heritage

Bali Traditional Villages
Panglipuran Village

Traditional Villages

Since 2013 Bali Government has already started the programme to create a cultural traditional village as an alternative for tourism objects.

Eco-tourism Bali Villages

A Weapon of Pride


Kris is a symbol of heroism, martial prowess, power and authority. As a cultural symbol, the it also represents refinement, art and beauty, as the pride possession for its owner.

Ngrupuk Parade


A monstrous represents the Bhuta-Kala or evil spirits, vices that need to kept away from humans.

The Traces of Majapahit Era

Bali Aga

A special native community who have retained old Balinese traditions from pre-Majapahit time. They exist outside of the caste system and using their own autonomous structure.

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The Balinese People

Many archeologists have tracked the hidden history of Paleo and Mesolithic inhabitants based on the artifacts found in Trunyan and Sembiran Village. Then followed with the migration from the Austronesian and other influences from Northern Vietnam, India and China. Although linguistically Balinese language is influenced by Javanese, but Austronesian believed as one of the many diverse related to the native group of Bali.

Decades ago, Balinese relied largely on their agriculture sector. However, since 1970, Bali has been a tourism hotspot. The large amount of visitors and the cultural shifts have changed the society and ‘spoiled‘ the traditional lifestyle.

Agriculture used to play a significant role for Balinese living. Farming and fishing may still be prominent sectors but with the construction of resorts, villas and businesses aimed for visitors; the locals prefer to enter tourism sector as it is proven to bring more advantages to them. The government itself is fully aware of these ‘threats‘ to the local populations that they list religious festivals and traditions as part of the major tourist attractions. It is a way to retain the cultures as well as keeping the constant flow of tourists in balance.

Balinese Culture Guide

Museums in Bali
Museums in Bali

Museums in Bali

Dive into the history, culture and art of Bali and Indonesia. And what better place to do that th...

Traditional Dances in Bali
Traditional Dances in Bali

Traditional Dances in Bali

Handpicked selection of beautiful dance shows in Bali. Experience the magical traditional Balines...

Traditional Villages in Bali
Traditional Villages in Bali

Traditional Villages in Bali

In 2013 the Government on Bali started a programme to promote traditional villages as an alternat...

Bali Temples
Bali Temples

Bali Temples

Temples in Bali are the residence of deities, and there are more than 20.000 of them in Bali. Nor...