The oldest and only existing religion in the world, Hinduism originated in South Asia, The Indus valley Civilization was the birth place of Hinduism and nourish it for thousands of years, which dates back more than 3000 years, even 1000 years before Jesus Christ’s birth.
Hinduism is the most widely practiced religion in Asia. It has no particular individual as it’s founder, It’s commandments and customary rules comes from a large collection of the ancient sacred texts and Shrutis ( Gospels of spiritual philosophy passed down by the monks in ancient times) – mainly The Vedas, The Puranas, and many more books and texts written by the ancient Saints and Monks thousands of years ago, these scared and valuable ancient texts and books provide the Hindus with many rules governing their moral duties, rituals, worships, customary practices and day to day life.
If we hear the word “Bali” we find it more popular and famous worldwide then the country it is situated in, Indonesia. People around the globe thinks Bali is an independent country and some of the people even think Indonesia is in Bali. World class quality of tourism making Bali very popular in modern times. Bali is blessed with wonderful and stunning landscapes, lush green forests, rocky coastlines, clean sandy beaches, lush green paddy growing terraces and very unique culture which it is preserving and conserving for thousands of years, the combination of all these positive attributes making Bali more and more famous among the tourists and travelers from every corner of the world.
It is very common to see Hindu temples and Shrine everywhere in Bali; something very uncommon and not to be seen anywhere else in Indonesia. Majority of the Balinese people and their life is influenced by Hindu faith and customs, which they got thousands of year ago from their ancestors and still they are happily following and preserving their cultural heritage, religion and customs.
Where Indonesia is largely a Muslim dominated country and unlike any other island of Indonesia , the island of Bali is following Hinduism with all it’s glory, Bali is the only region of Hindu religion and culture in Indonesia.
Like other Hinduism influenced regions of the world “Balinese Hinduism” is also very closely related to the Hinduism of India. The Balinese Hinduism is not only based on Vedas but also on ancient writings, philosophies and different ancient theories that all support each other.
It is very sad and shameful to see some pseudo intellectuals world wide terming Hinduism as a dogmatic religion, here I want to make it very clear that Hinduism is not a dogmatic religion at all but rather a result of a spiritual lifestyle and journey. The traditions that exists in Hinduism also continue to develop and evolve over time.
Some scholars believe that The Hinduism came to the island nation of Indonesia from it’s birth place India in the first century A.D. . Hinduism came to the island of Bali with the arrival of Indian traders, scholars. Long before the birth of Islam, Hinduism had stepped into, touched and transformed the core beliefs and life of the people in many parts of the world with their very scientific rituals, traditions, strong philosophy, ancient Ayurveda or Medical sciences, cosmology, architectural science, mathematics, literature, economical theories and arts.
The Hinduism also brought spiritual ideas, morals, myths and legends with it – which can be seen in the unique festivals and events associated with the Balinese Hinduism. The temples in Bali also have similar designs and principles to the Indian temples. Balinese calls their sacred temples as “Pura”, which is considered and respected highly as the sacred place with enclosed walls.
There are over 20,000 of temples across the Bali island; each is associated with a certain characteristic such as virtue of descent or geographical area. It was gradually replaced by Buddhism, which was the main religion of Java and Sumatra, until it in turn was displaced by the coming of Islam from the 14th century AD.
Due to the isolationism nature of Balinese people and the strict rules of state sponsored religion in pre-colonial Dutch era, the island of Bali became the only part of Indonesia to remain predominantly Hindu, even today.
Although Balinese Hindus worship the same gods and goddesses, perform similar rituals, and build sacred temples, there are certain elements that make Balinese Hindus different from Hindu practices here in India.
Here are some other interesting facts about Bali that every Indian Hindu must know. Along with the traditional Hindu gods such as Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, Balinese Hindus worship a range of deities unique to their branch of the religion. Sang Hyang Widhi (also known as Acintya or Sang Hyang Tunggal) is the designation for one God in Balinese Hinduism. Acintya is associated with the concept of Brahman or Brahma.
After Indonesia became independent, many efforts emerged to organize and regulate the religious life of its valuable citizens which consists of various dimensions, beliefs, and faiths with a single basic ideology called Pancasyila -“Panca” means five, “Syila” means basic, which is interpreted as five basic ideologies for the citizens of the country.
So in the first precept it says “Ketuhanan yang maha esa”, which is explicitly and strongly referring and ordering to “believe and worship only one God” concept, one can easily understand that this first precept was highly influenced by the majority Muslims of the island nation to hurt the religious sentiment of the other minority religions.
This was happened to be some kind of polemic at that time in the legalization of Balinese Hinduism as one of the official religions in Indonesia, as majority Muslim community was opposing it strongly, at that time Balinese Hinduism was only considered as a sect of religion not yet a religion by the government.
But the brave “Balinese Hindus” did not want to give up, they continue to struggle to validate their faith and beliefs as a religion recognized by the country. After a long journey of threats, torture, and suppression and all the hard struggles by the heads of religions, cultural observers and various parties related to Balinese Hinduism, finally it was accepted and established as one of the official religions in Indonesia in 1959 by the government.
Balinese Hinduism can be simply defined as a combination of 2 beliefs, the Shiva sect of Hinduism and the Mahayana Buddhism, that is why it is also often to be called as the Shiva-Buddhist, Hindu-Dharma, Tirtha religions and also the Holy Water Religion. Unlike the polytheistic Indian Hinduism, in the belief of Balinese Hinduism they only worship one God, called Sang Hyang Widi or Sang Hyang Widhi, Acintya or Sang Hyang Tunggal.
The Balinese Hindu believes in the main scriptures of the Vedas and also some holy writings about life arrangement called Shruti (Gospels of spiritual philosophy passed down by the monks in ancient times), Smirti (literature inherited from generation to generation, non-revelation writings) and Yadnja (the rules of religious operations including about rituals and ceremonies that are engraved on lontar leaves).
But the true Balinese Hinduism is actually more into a personal spiritual experience and individual’s journey in finding meaning on their life, so that they can reach perfection through “Mokhsa”, not only based on certain dogmas.
Comparing Hinduism as a dogmatic religion, with others, is something that unlikely appropriate because in essence Balinese Hinduism is rooted from doctrines originating from the spiritual traditions of Nusantara that have been existed since thousands of years ago, along with the uniqueness, characteristics, and enlightenment of saints who actually have lived in this land, way back before the country was established.
Main Beliefs of Balinese Hindus –
- Absolute, supreme and unlimited god.
- Because unlimited, God has infinite qualities—God can be formless or assume any form.
- Many forms or “gods” in Hinduism represent different qualities of one god.
- Vishnu has visited the earth in a number of forms during times of trial, to fight various forms of evil.
- In his seventh visit, Vishnu appears as the personification of the ideal man – Lord Rama.
The majority of Balinese practice a form of Hinduism that is entwined with Buddhist and animistic beliefs. Although the main Hindu gods are worshipped, equal attention is paid to local, agricultural, and ancestral deities. The Hinduism of Bali has been described as a religion that emphasizes correct conduct above precise knowledge of a unified religious system. The Balinese conceive of the world as being inhabited by a host of unseen deities, demons, ancestral spirits, and local divinities.
The primary focus of much ritual activity is to thank or appease these positive and negative forces to ensure protection and prosperity. An ordinary villager is much more aware of the many offerings, ceremonies, and festivals that are a part of daily life than of any particular religious text. These ritual actions may differ from region to region, village to village, family to family.
It’s astonishing to comprehend the fact that the world’s largest Muslim population harbors within it a Hindu kingdom of such an elaborate stance. Constituting a total of 1.7% of the total population of Indonesia, Hinduism is one of the six major religions of the island nation.
The trajectory of its arrival is as fascinating as its establishment in Bali. Despite having common roots, the religious ideology practiced in Bali, Indonesia is that of Agama Hindu Dharma and the one practiced in India is Nigama Dharma. Agama Dharma essentially encompasses the spiritual beliefs of Hinduism dealing with the idea of Tantrism or Tantra. It deals with doctrines of yoga, cosmology, philosophical ideas and the cults of Shiva (Shaivism), Vishnu (Vaishnavism) and Shakti (worship of the goddess).
On the other hand, Nigama Dharma is associated with Agama as well as Vedic and Puranic Hindu practices. It finds its causation in the Yajna-samstha or sacrificial ritualistic traditions as celebrated in the Epic and Vedic periods by kings to gain prosperity and wealth.
Some deities like Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Hanuman and avatars of Shakti (Durga, Saraswati, Lakshmi) are common to both the Balinese and Hindu collection, celestial beings, Yakshas (caretakers), Yakshinis, and sea serpents constitute an integral part of Balinese Hindu worship. References to temples of Ganga and Parvati have often been made. The lingas of Lord Shiva is prevalent in Bali too, however, the lingas very often represent the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh and not simply Shiva as is done in India.
Interestingly, elaborate statues and sculptures of the various characters of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana dot the landscape depicting an Indo-Balinese link where even neglected characters in India like Sehadeva and Nakula are celebrated in Balinese Hinduism. Most of the Indian festivals are based on Vedic and Epic practices and chanting of mantras, while most Balinese Hindu traditions are from the original spiritual induction of Hinduism and not a product of contemporary recitation and understanding.
The festival of Nyepi or ‘The Day of Silence’ is equivalent to the festival of Diwali in India. It is widely celebrated by all Balinese Hindus and consists of not speaking, fasting and meditating for a full day culminating in the celebration of the new year. Nyepi, a day for self-reflection and understanding, devoid of all forms of entertainment is sunken in darkness.
Though the Hindus in the island nation of Indonesia has been reduced to minority today, but the island of Bali has preserved and conserved it with all its courage and compassion and following it even today. It is very astonishing to see the 84% population of the Bali island is Hindu.
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