Early History of Bali

Since Adhiraj covered modern history of Bali, I have covered here early history of Bali. Also, did you know that the Balinese calendar system consists of 210 days? I tried to understand how this system works but it is so confusing..
Early History

The early history of Bali can be divided into a prehistoric and an early historic period. The former is marked by the arrival of Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) migrants beginning perhaps three to four thousand years ago. The Austronesians were hardy seafarers who spread from Taiwan through the islands of Southeast Asia to the Pacific in a series of extensive migrations that spanned several millennia. The Balinese are thus closely related, culturally and linguistically, to the peoples of the Philippines and Oceania as well as the neighboring islands of Indonesia.Though precious little is known about the long, formative stages of Balinese prehistory, artifacts discovered around the island provide intriguing clues about Bali's early inhabitants. Prehistoric grave sites have been found in western Bali, the oldest probably dating from the first several centuries B.C. The people buried here were herders and farmers who used bronze, and in some cases iron, to make implements and jewelry. Prehistoric stone sarcophagi have also been discovered, mainly in the mountains. They often have the shape of huge turtles carved at either end with human and animal heads with bulging eyes, big teeth and protruding tongues.

Stone seats, altars and big stones dating from early times are still to be found today in several Balinese temples. Here, as elsewhere in Indonesia, they seem to be connected with the veneration of ancestral spirits who formed (and in many ways still form) the core of Balinese religious practices.

Also apparently connected with ancestor worship is one of Southeast Asia's greatest prehistoric artifacts - the huge bronze kettledrum known as the "Moon of Pejeng." Still considered to have significant power, it is now enshrined in a temple in the central Balinese village of Pejeng, in Gianyar Regency. More than 1.5 meters in diameter and 1.86 meters high, it is decorated with frogs and geometric motifs in a style that probably originated around Dongson, in what is now northern Vietnam. This is the largest of many such drums discovered in Southeast Asia.
Hindu-Javanese influences

It is assumed (but without proof so far) that the Balinese were in contact with Hindu and Buddhist populations of Java from the early part of the 8th century A.D. onwards, and that Bali was even conquered by a Javanese king in A.D. 732. This contact is responsible for the advent of writing and other important Indian cultural elements that had come to Java along the major trading routes several centuries earlier. Indian writing, dance, religion and architecture were to have a decisive impact, blending with existing Balinese traditions to form a new and highly distinctive culture.Stone and copper plate inscriptions in Old Balinese are known from A.D. 882 onwards, coinciding with finds of Hindu- and Buddhist inspired statues, bronzes, ornamented caves, rock-cut temples and bathing places. These are found especially in areas close to rivers, ravines, springs and volcanic peaks.

Balinese society was pretty sophisticated by about 900 AD. Their marriage portrait of the Balinese King Udayana to East Java's Princess Mahendratta is captured in a stone carving in the Pura Korah Tegipan in the Batur area. Their son, Erlangga, born around 991 AD, later succeeded to the throne of the Javanese kingdom and brought Java and Bali together until his death in 1049.

At the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th centuries there were close, peaceful bonds with Indianized kingdoms in east Java, in particular with the realm of Kadiri (10th century A.D. to 1222). Old Javanese was thereafter the prestige language, used in all Balinese inscriptions, evidence of a strong Javanese cultural influence. In 1284, Bali is said to have been conquered by King Krtanagara of the east Javanese Singhasari dynasty (1222-1292). It is not certain whether the island was actually colonized at this time, but many new Javanese elements manifest themselves in the Balinese art of this period.According to a Javanese court chronicle known as the Nagarakrtagama (dated 1365), Bali was conquered and colonized in 1343 by Javanese forces under Gajah Mada, the legendary general or patih of the powerful Majapahit kingdom who established hegemony over east Java and all seaports bordering the Java Sea during the mid-14th century. It is said that Gajah Mada, accompanied by contingents of Javanese nobles, called Aryas, came to Bali to subdue a rapacious Balinese king. A Javanese vassal ruler was installed at a new capital at Samprangan, near present day lUungkung in east Bali, and the nobles were granted apanages in the surrounding areas. A Javanese court and courtly culture were thus introduced to the island.

The separation of Balinese society into four caste groups is ascribed to this period, with the Satriya warrior caste ruling from Samprangan. Those who did not wish to participate in the new system fled to remote mountain areas, where they lived apart from the mainstream. These are the so-called the “original Balinese”, the “Bali Aga” or “Bali Mula”. They still live separately in villages like Tenganan near Dasa Temple and Trunyan on the shores of Batur Lake, and maintain their ancient laws and traditional ways.

When Majapahit in East Java fell in 1515, the many small Islamic kingdoms in the island merged into the Islamic Mataram empire, Majapahit's most dedicated Hindu priests, craftsmen, soldiers, nobles and artists fled east to Bali, and flooded the island with Javanese culture and Hindu practices. Considering the huge influence and power of Islam at the time, it is worth pondering why and how Bali still remained strongly Hindu and Buddhist.

Around 1460, the capital moved to nearby Gelgel, and the powerful "Grand Lord" or Dewa Agung presided over a flowering of the Balinese arts and culture. Bali reached the pinnacle of its Golden Era under the reign of the Batu Renggong, the great god ruler. Bali's decline started when Batu Renggong's grandson, Di Made Bekung, lost Blambangan, Lombok and Sumbawa. Di Made Bekung's chief minister, Gusti Agung Maruti, eventually rebelled and reigned from 1650 till 1686, when he in turn was killed by Di Made Bekung's son, Dewa Agung Jambe, who then moved the court to Klungkung, and named his new palace the Semarapura, Abode of the God of Love.

The Balinese Calendar
The Pawukon calendar system is believed to be indigenous to the Balinese, possibly rooted in the thousand-year-old rice-growing cycle of the island. There are six months to a Pawukon year, and 35 days to a Pawukon month. So a Pawukon year is 210 days. Each Pawukon month is divided into many shorter cycles (weeks) that run concurrently. The calendar consists of 10 different concurrent weeks of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 days. On the first day of the year it is the first day of all the ten weeks. Because 210 is not divisible by 4, 8, or 9 - extra days must be added to the 4, 8, and 9 day weeks.The most important weeks are the 3, 5, and 7 day weeks. Out of 210 days, there are more than 200 days of ceromonies and celebrations!


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