History of Bali
Bali has been inhabited for a long time. Sembiran, a village
in northern Bali, was believed to have been home to the people
of the Ice Age, proven by the discovery of stone axes and adzes.
Further discoveries of more sophisticated stone tools, agricultural
techniques and basic pottery at Cekik in Bali's far west, point
to the people of the Neolithic era. At Cekik, there is evidence
of a settlement together with burial sites of around a hundred
people thought to be from the Neolithic through to the Bronze
Age. The massive drums of the Bronze Age, together with their
stone moulds have been discovered throughout the Indonesian archipelago,
including the most famous and largest drum in Southeast Asia,
the Moon of Pejeng, nearly two meters wide, now housed in a temple
in east Ubud. In East Java and Bali, there has also been a concentration
of carved stone sarcophagi, which we can see in the Bali Museum
in Denpasar and Purbakala Museum in Pejeng.
Bali was busy with trade from as early as 200 BC. The prasasti,
or metal inscriptions, Bali's earliest written records from the
ninth century AD, show a significant Buddhist and Hindu influence;
especially in the statues, bronzes and rock-cut caves around Mount
Kawi and Gajah Cave. Balinese society was pretty sophisticated
by about 900 AD. Their marriage portrait of the Balinese King
Udayana to East Java's Princess Mahendratta is captured in a stone
carving in the Pura Korah Tegipan in the Batur area. Their son,
Erlangga, born around 991 AD, later succeeded to the throne of
the Javanese kingdom and brought Java and Bali together until
his death in 1049.
In 1284, Bali was conquered by Kertanegara, the ruler of the
Singasari; until the turn of the century, saw Bali under its own
rule under the hands of King Bedaulu of Pejeng, east of Ubud.
1343 AD, is an important date in Bali's history. It was then that
the whole island was conquered by East Java under the mighty Hindu
Majapahit kingdom. This resulted in massive changes in Balinese
society, including the introduction of the caste system.
Balinese who did not embrace the changes fled to the isolated
and remote mountainous areas and hill areas. Their descendants
are known today as Bali Aga or Bali Mula that means the "original
Balinese". They still live separately in villages like Tenganan
near Dasa Temple and Trunyan on the shores of Batur Lake, and
maintain their ancient laws and traditional ways. When Majapahit
in East Java fell in 1515, the many small Islamic kingdoms in
the island merged into the Islamic Mataram empire, Majapahit's
most dedicated Hindu priests, craftsmen, soldiers, nobles and
artists fled east to Bali, and flooded the island with Javanese
culture and Hindu practices. Considering the huge influence and
power of Islam at the time, it is worth pondering why and how
Bali still remained strongly Hindu and Buddhist.
Batu Renggong, also known as Dewa Agung, means great god, became
king in 1550, and this title became hereditary through the succeeding
generations of the kingdom of Gelgel, and later Klungkung, until
the twentieth century. Bali reached the pinnacle of its Golden
Era under the reign of the Batu Renggong, the great god ruler.
Bali's decline started when Batu Renggong's grandson, Di Made
Bekung, lost Blambangan, Lombok and Sumbawa. DI Made Bekung's
chief minister, Gusti Agung Maruti, eventually rebelled and reigned
from 1650 till 1686, when he in turn was killed by DI Made Bekung's
son, Dewa Agung Jambe, who then moved the court to Klungkung,
and named his new palace the Semarapura, Abode of the God of Love.