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 over the Hindu-Javanese literature and artistic activities, which today are still the foundation of Balinese arts.

The golden age ended after the death of Hayam Wuruk, when conflicts arose 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 influences many sectors of Balinese life, 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, manages 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 concentrated area.


Nirartha, a priest, builds dozens of places of worship for the Hindus including Pura Luhur Ulu Watu and Pura Tanah Lot.


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


The Europeans fight to conquer the island with control shifting from Dutch to French to British and eventually 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 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 the Puputan Margarana war dies, however the Dutch lose their colonial confidence since then.


The airport is renovated and international flights 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 of people and the evacuation of hundred of thousands.


Australian filmmaker, Alby Falzon, shoots a short surfing documentary which leads to a stream of Australian visitors afterwards. Another Australian starts a club to cater to foreign partying styles.


President Soeharto resigns after 32 years of reign. His family owns and controls many prestigious resorts in Bali.


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


Bali Bombings cause the deaths of hundreds of people. Bali economy is soon shattered after two suicide bombers blow up two 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 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 injuring hundreds of men. One of the bombs is carried in a backpack and blasts inside Raja’s restaurant; the other one explode 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.


After tensions decreases Bali tourism begins to blossom again. 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's 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 12 million passengers a year.

Nov 2017

Mount Agung awakes and erupts several times, staying active for months. Thousands are evacuated since the government establishes a safety zone. Casualty remain low however this situation effects the Balinese strongly. Tourism numbers dropped drastically, affecting every line of business, causing immediate layoffs.Locals, mostly poor families and farmers near the mountain, are evacuated for several months. The living conditions in these camps are harsh and the life stock of the farmers suffer due to in adequate attention.

June 2018

A new governor, Wayan Koster, is elected by the Balinese people. The Balinese have high hopes that the new governor will help tackle pressing issues and focus in thriving island. Concern arises about the increase in traffic and trash problem, among other pressing issues.

August 2018

Several earthquakes near Lombok causes heavy damage in the north of Lombok, killing almost 400 people. People flee the crowded Gili Islands. Minimum damage was recorded in Bali.

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Fun activities to do in Bali
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Fun activities to do in Bali

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Bali e-book Guide
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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. This was followed with the migration from the Austronesian and other influences from Northern Vietnam, India and China. the Balinese language is strongly influenced by Javanese, however the impact of Austronesian is also very present.

Decades ago, the 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 the construction of resorts, villas and businesses aimed for visitors is still the prefer tourism sector, as it is proven to bring more lucrative to them. The government is fully aware of these ‘threats‘ to the local populations as they list religious festivals and traditions as part of major tourist attractions. It is a way to use the culture to bring a constant influcts of tourists into the island.

Balinese Culture Guide

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...

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...

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 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...