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The History of Bali – Indonesia

Map of Bali Indonesia

Bali is one of the 17,508 Indonesian islands. It is situated between Java to the west and Lombok to the east and is home to the vast majority of Indonesia's small Hindu minority. It is also the most popular tourist destination in Indonesia and is famous for its beautiful landscape, festivals and art, which include dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking and music.

Bali was first inhabited around 2,000 BC by Austronesian peoples who are culturally and linguistically related to the peoples of the Indonesian archipelago, the Philippines, and Oceania. However, little is know about this period.

During the 1st century AD Bali was influenced by Hindu culture from India and by the Fourteenth century AD the Hindu Majapahit Empire from eastern Java (1293–1520 AD) founded a Balinese colony. This empire declined during the 15th century as the power of the Islamic Sultanates grew.

The rising supremacy of Islam caused an exodus of Hindu intellectuals, artists, priests and musicians from eastern Java to Bali. This influx of Javanese Hindu migrants brought great wealth and there was a period of cultural development as well as a boost to Bali’s regional political power. The Balinese took control of the neighbouring island of Lombok and areas of East Java. This period is seen as Bali’s golden age.

Dutch rule over Bali began in the 1840s which was much later than other parts of Indonesia. They launched large naval and ground assaults at the Sanur region in 1906 which lead to the massacre of the royal family together with thousands of their followers.

In the 1930s western artists such as Miguel Covarrubias and Walter Spies as well as the anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson came to Bali. Their visions of an exotic paradise encouraged the development of tourism from Europe.

During World War II Indonesia was occupied by Japan and after the war the Dutch returned. However, During the Japanese occupation a Balinese military officer, Gusti Ngurah Rai, formed the Balinese 'freedom army' and in 1946, using Japanese weapons, they resisted the Dutch but were defeated.

In 1949 Bali was included in the "Republic of the United States of Indonesia" when the Netherlands recognized Indonesian independence.






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