Bali is and still one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. However, there are many people who do not know in depth about the uniqueness of Balinese culture. Life in Bali is always related to “Tri Hita Karana” or a tripartite concept that include the spiritual relationship between human and God, and their environment. Outside of India, Bali is the largest Hindu outpost in the world. On Bali Hinduism has developed along lines all its own. In fact, the way in which Balinese practice their frontier Hinduism is still their greatest art.
The rapid growth of development in tourism has had a big impact and influences to Bali tradition and lifestyle. Interestingly, Balinese culture is still as what it was, growing along with globalisation. The Balinese culture makes the island different from the other destination.
Bali is one of the 33 provinces of the Republic of Indonesia, and among 17,500 islands across the Indonesian archipelago. Situated between Java and Lombok, the island of Bali is located 8 to 9 degrees south of the equator with the Java Sea to the north, the Indian Ocean to the south. Bali’s covers an area of 5,636 km2 or 0.29% of Indonesia total area.
The province of Bali is divided into nine regencies (eight regencies and one municipality) with its own capital. Buleleng, Jembrana, Karangasem, Badung, Denpasar (capital city), Gianyar, Klungkung, and Bangli.
The topography of Bali is formed by a mountain chain that stretches from west to east splitting the island into two parts. Some of the volcanic peaks are active, including Mount Agung, 3,142m, the tallest point above sea level, and mount Batur 1,717m. Some barren peaks include mount Merbuk, Patas, Seraya, Prapat Agung, Klatakan, Sanghyang, Mesehe, Musi, Lesung, Tapak, Adeng, Pengiligan, Catur, Penulisan and mount Abang. The north side of the mountain slopes is fairly steep, creating narrow lowland along the coastal area.
Meanwhile, the south slopes are much leaner, forming a fertile plain that becomes the main center of Balinese culture. Some of the most beautiful white sandy beaches are in the south, including Sanur Beach, Kuta and Nusa Dua. The south slope also is home to four lakes, i.e. Lake Buyan (367 hectares), Lake Tamblingan (115 hectares), Lake Beratan (376 hectares) and Lake Batur (1,605 hectares).
Bali’s population of over 3,000,000 souls spread over the whole island, including those in the smaller islands of Nusa Penida, Nusa Ceningan, Nusa Lembongan, Serangan and Menjangan Island. The overwhelming majority of Balinese are Hindus, with the increasing number on non-Hindu migrating from the closest neighboring islands of Java and Lombok. Yet with the fast growing of tourism since past few decades, young people start to build up a new touch in their living culture.
Life in Bali is very communal under the organisation of villages. Temple ceremonies, marriage, cremation, farming and even the creative art festivals are decided by the local community institution called “Banjar”. The responsibilities in the day-to-day life are normally administered by both the Banjar and the government. The local government mostly responsible for schools, health clinics, hospitals and roads, and Banjar is responsible for all other aspects of life.
Balinese Hindus will celebrate a religious day known as Hari Raya Kuningan on Saturday 22nd May, 2010 the day before I arrived in Denpasar, Bali. This ceremonial occasion falls exactly 10 days after the Hari Raya Galungan rituals and is a time to commemorate ancestral spirits as they return to heaven after dwelling on earth for an extended period.
On the day of Hari Raya Kuningan, preparing a yellow rice is a must, a symbol of prosperity and an offerings in-form of clothing materials and food, being arranged as a sign of gratitude as a human beings received a gift from Hyang Widhi all of which were delegated by him on the basis of love – his love to his people. Some typical offerings on Hari Raya Kuningan are: Endongan as a symbol of a gift to Hyang Widhi. Tamyang as a symbol of resistance of catastrophe. Kolem as a symbol of Hyang Widhi resting place.
Worshipers express their gratitude through prayer and offerings to the Gods for the ultimate gift of life. During Hari Raya Kuningan you will notice in front of each Balinese home decorated with arched bamboo poles referred to as as penjor. White cloth is replaced with yellow cloth at the base of the penjor’s temporary shrine as an indication of prosperity.