The Island Of Bali, Indonesia




The conglomerate of religious principles manifests itself elaborate cults of ancestors and deities of fertility, of fire, water earth, and sun, of the mountains and the sea, of gods and devils They are the backbone of the Balinese religion, which is generally referred to as Hinduism, but which is in reality too close to the earth, too animistic, to be taken as the same esoteric religion as that of the Hindus of India.

Since the earliest time,, when Bali was under the rule of the great empires that flourished in the golden era of Hinduistic Java, the various forms of Javanese religion became in turn the religions of Bali, from the Mahayanic Buddhism of the Sailendras in the seventh century the orthodox Sivaism of the ninth, to the demoniac practices c the Tantric sects of the eleventh century. In later times Bali adopted the modified, highly Javanized religion of Madjapahit, when Hinduism had become strongly tinged with native Indonesian ideas.

Each of these epochs left a deep mark in Balinese ritual; to the native Balinese cults of ancestors, of the elements, and of evil spirits, were added the sacrifices of blood and the practices of black magic of the Tantric Buddhists, the Vishnuite cult of the underworld, Brahmanic juggling of mystic words and cabalistic syllables, the cremation of the dead, and so forth, all, however, absorbed and transformed to the point of losing their identity, to suit the temper of the Balinese.

It is true that Hindu gods and practices are constantly in evidence, but their aspect and significance differ in Bali to such an extent from orthodox Hinduism that we find the primitive beliefs of a people who never lost contact with the soil rising supreme over the religious philosophy and practices of their masters. Like the Catholicism of some American Indians, Hinduism was simply an addition to the native religion, more as a decoy to keep the masters content, a strong but superficial veneer of decorative Hinduistic practices over the deeply rooted animism of the Balinese natives.

Religion is to the Balinese both race and nationality; a Balinese loses automatically the right to be called a Balinese if he changes his faith or if a Balinese woman marries a Mohammedan, a Chinese, or a Christian, because she takes leave forever of her own family gods when she moves into her husband's home and instead worships his gods from that time on. The religious sages, the Brahmanic priests, remain outsiders, aloof from the ordinary Balinese, who have their own priests, simple people whose office is to guard and sweep the community temples, in which there are no idols, no images of gods to be worshipped.

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