Island of the Gods - Bali
With an abundance gift of natural beauty, Bali is known for its alluring arts which includes traditional and modern dance forms, its splendid sculptures, flashy paintings, excellent leather, beautiful metalwork and amazing music
Bali, a province of Indonesia, is known for its beautiful landscape, enchanting sea beaches and art and sculptures. Over the years, it has become a most favourable travel destination where tourists throng from all over the globe. For an Indian tourist, it is a special attraction due to the similarity of culture and religion as more than 83 percent of the Balinese population profess Hinduism. A large number of Indians visit it every year to reflect on ancient Indian heritage. It is a wonderful place to witness the effortless convergence of religion, culture, art and lifestyle. It is a small island in the far east of Indonesia with an area of only 5,780 sq km and with a population of little over 4 million and hence is a densely populated place.
The capital city of the province is Denpasar. Kuta and Ubud are other cities that are the center of their cultural grandeur. I had visited Bali during October 2019 to study its cultural ethos. The climate is tropical and the average temperature is around 30 degrees Celsius. It has rich bio-diversity in the forests but the famous Bali Tiger has become extinct long back.
Like in India, the heavy flow of tourists of more than 5 million every year causes pollution and it had forced the local administration of Bali to declare 'Garbage Emergency' during 2017. The literacy rate is high and only less than 3 percent of people are below the poverty line. Tourism has been the greatest contributor to its GDP. Visitors from Australia, India, France, China, Germany and the UK top the list of tourist inflow to Bali.
According to a study in 2005, around 12 percent of Balinese are likely of Indian origin, while 84 percent are of Austronesian origin, and 2 percent of likely Melanesian origin. Balinese Hinduism is today free from the caste system though previously they had some caste system that has gradually vanished and now a cohesive casteless society is the hallmark of the Bali Hindu religion. It is a mixture of ancient traditions and modern outlook fashioned by the Indonesian constitution which allows only monotheistic religion to be practiced. Bali Hindus adopted this and name their religion as Agama Hindu Dharma and only worship one God – Sang Hyang Widi or Sang Hyang Widhi. They have also adopted the previously existing animistic traditions.
Hinduism here has no dogmas and is rather followed as a quest for spirituality as per ancient Vedic traditions and was brought here by Indian traders and kings in the first century AD. They also brought with it spiritual ideas, history and legends which can be seen in the unique festivals and events associated with the spirits of ancestors and their gods.
Balinese call their sacred temples Pura, which is a holy place with enclosed walls. There are over 20,000 temples across the island; with each being associated with a particular characteristic such as the virtue of descent or geographical area. The Gayatri Mantra is recited by every Balinese school child three times a day. They believe in the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva as a manifestation of one God and also encompass in it Mahayana Buddhism. Day of Silence, also known as Nyepi Day falls in March and is the beginning of Bali Saka. On this day all routine activities come to a complete halt and all people join in celebrating the quietest day of the year.
For the tourists, Bali offers a diverse platform of paintings, wood carving, handicrafts, sculptures, water adventures, volcanoes and performing arts. The Bali temples are unique in design and every household has a temple. Both men and women are allowed to enter the temples, but only in traditional Bali dress. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata hold a very prominent place even in the local culture. What Indians had witnessed in Ramayana and Mahabharata daily soaps, can be witnessed in Bali even today. The Ramayana story is also performed through a dance known as Kecak dance held at the temps of Tanah Lot and Uluwatu.
The sunset at Tanah Lot and Uluwatu is a treat to watch where the sun seems to dissolve in the sky, leaving one awestruck. The biggest attraction in Bali is the Garuda Cultural Park where the majestic Garuda Vishnu statue is located. It is the iconic landmark of Bali. The amphitheater here acts as a center of entertainment with various colourful Balinese dances in Garuda Vishnu Ballet and Baron Keri Dance. Bali's shallow sea provides an excellent platform for sea sports like sea walking, banana boat and parasailing, glass-bottom boat, Snorkeling, Cruise, etc.
However, sit is important for the tourists to book their trip after a proper inquiry about the itinerary as the costs may go up if not done beforehand. It would be wise enough to escape the tour organisers as they would only take you to the commercial tourist places and you would likely miss experiencing Bali in its true sense.
Also, remember to apply your bargaining skills as there is enough room for negotiating the prices in water sport activities. Expect your safety to be compromised while riding boats in the sea – it needs to be settled beforehand.
At the end of the day (which is the start of the day for some visitors), Bali's rich culture, many amazing sights and truly lovely people are what takes Bali's sheer delight to another level. Because Bali is fun, no matter what you want or who you are. Seminyak has shops and designers, Kerobokan has luxe beachside resorts and superb eating, Kuta and Legian have the nightlife, and Canggu wraps it all into one irresistible package.
As an Indian, few takeaways after visiting Bali would be how to preserve one's own culture and traditions despite compelling to the cycle of development; second, how to end the pernicious caste system to ensure social cohesiveness; third, a sense of discipline in the society and orderly behaviour in public spaces and; fourth, how to strike a balance between modern world and the old world's own charm.