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Religion and Custom

Hindu religion or Hindu Dharma is held by almost 95% of the population. Its teaching is to reach peace and harmony in life guided by the Wedas as Holy Scriptures. Hindu Dharma is a special blend of Hinduism, Buddhism and ancestor worship that has been flourishing over the centuries. They believe in One Supreme God called Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa, with His three manifestations known as Trisakti, that is Brahma The Creator, Wisnu The Preserver, and Shiwa The Transformer.

Indian philosophy provides the theological framework while indigenous beliefs are at the core of the rituals. Such blending of beliefs is legitimate in Bali where the saying goes as follows, "The truth is one, the interpretations multiple".
Indigenous beliefs are clearly seen in the belief of natural elements and of the ancestors. Nature is viewed as "power" itself and each of its elements is thought to be subjected to spirits. These must be taken care of, provided with a shrine, fed with various offerings made from agricultural products and given respect.
The mother mountain, Gunung Agung, is highly sacred to the Balinese and central to their beliefs. It is the abode of the gods and the ancestors and where you return to when you die.

Religion in Bali varies according to three principles; desa (place), kala (time), and patra (circumstances). Hinduism acknowledges five pillars of faith, respectively; belief in the one Supreme God (Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa), belief in the soul as the universal principle of life and consciousness (atma), the belief in the fruition of one's deeds (karma phala), belief in the process of birth and death (samsara) and belief in ultimate release (moksa). One of the consequences of the principle of karma and samsara is the existence of the wangsa system where an individual inherits his status as a result of his or past life. The four wangsa in Bali are the Brahmana, who deal with religion and the holy texts, the Satria or rulers, the Wesia or merchants and the Sudras, the lower class.

Man should endeavour to maintain the harmony of the whole system, hence the role of rituals. Only by adhering to the peoples rules of behaviour can the proper balance be kept between the two sets of godly and demonic forces. Balinese religion is known to the world through the richness and the life of the Balinese is therefore replete with rituals.
As the tools for maintaining the balance of the world, there are rituals for everything imaginable; from knowledge, cleansing machines to marriage and birth ceremonies, all of different types and levels. Rituals consists of calling down the gods and the ancestors for visits from their heavenly abode in the country above the mountain. They come down during temple festivals and are entertained with dances and fed with offerings. They can also be called down through the entreaties of a priest. Balinese rituals are ruled by a complex calendar system, a combination of the India

Temples in Bali are simple walled open yards from which people can communicate directly with their gods and ancestors. Gods and ancestors normally "visit" their human worshipers or descendants during temple festivals (odalan). They reside in miniature houses set in the temple, the pelinggih shrines.

There are few societies in the world where religion plays a rule such as it does in Bali. The incredible beauty and colour that accompanies the rituals and offerings, which seem to be ever occurring, is proof that Bali is continually harmonizing the world of man with the cosmic world of the Gods.
The strength of their religion and traditions may be the main factor that enables them to preserve their culture from the outside influences. Everyday life in Bali merges with social duties and religious obligations while the art reflects an unnoticed integration of environment, religion and community in which the individual is a part. The organization of the villages, land cultivation's and the creation of art are of communal efforts. A village in Bali is the central place for its people while a family is the basic unit of the Balinese society which is grouped into 'Banjar', the group unit of several families. (Taken from Indonesia Bali Guide Book, 1997, p.64-65)


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