Bali’s main religion is Hindu (all though the rest of Indonesia is mostly Muslim). A very weird story happened to me today that made me think of Hinduism’s role in Bali.
I was at home when western lady knocked at my gate and began to speak to me about Jesus. She apparently wanted to convert me into something more religious (Russians are Christians too, not catholic or protestants, but something else – orthodox). Converting me is one thing, but she tried to talk to my Balinese neighbors too! Imagine an American woman fresh off the jet, living in Bali for only a couple of months, (she said so) trying to talk to Hindu people about Jesus. I find that very odd.
Bali is so different from other Indonesian (and Southeast Asian) islands. It’s difficult to explain how and why, but you feel the difference immediately when you set foot on Bali. Majority of the people in Bali are of Hindu religion its what makes it different from the other islands in Indonesia. It makes Bali such a peaceful and amazing island. Why would anyone want to change that?
Few words on Hinduism in Bali. Hinduism came to Indonesia from India in the 5th century and was then displaced by Islam from the 14th century. Bali became the only part of Indonesia to remain Hindu. You can still find some Hindu villages on other islands like Lombok, but Bali is the only island where Hinduism is the main religion. Balinese Hindu believe in good gods and bad demons, so they define their own role as finding the balance between those two by making offering and pleasing good spirits while asking bad spirits to go away. They also believe in Dharma (order in cosmos), good karma, reincarnation. They are very close to nature, they respect it in their own way. So a life of a Balinese person is a lot about temples, ceremonies, offerings to gods. Balinese have their own language, their own calendar, their own religious festivals that don’t exist anywhere in the world.
Hinduism makes Bali a unique place. All those beautiful offering for gods, nice decoration for temples or streets, especially rich decorations at ceremonial days. People dressed up in beautiful ceremonial clothes, smell of incense sticks, peaceful Gamelan music, and always smiling people: these are the things that make Bali so unique and what makes visitors fall in love with the island. Do we really need someone here to come and make those people Christian? What for? ;)
In the middle ages Hinduism was all over Java island and other islands. The Majapahit empire at that time ruled over the modern territory of Indonesia, bringing Hinduism to Bali in 14th century. In later centuries when that empire declined and Islam took over Java, Bali became the only place for masses to migrate making it a Hindu island. If you were to compare Java and Bali now, you can tell that Hindu culture made a big difference on the island.
Of course when you live in Bali for several years you start to notice things that doesn’t seem so peaceful and amazing, but like every religion, it has it’s own good and bad sides. Regardless, you can tell the difference that the island of Bali wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t Hindu.