World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Balinese Hinduism

Article Id: WHEBN0000651019
Reproduction Date:

Title: Balinese Hinduism  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Hyang, Radhastami, Rooster, Magh Bihu, Bali
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Balinese Hinduism

Balinese Hinduism, (Indonesian: Hindu Dharma), is the form of Hinduism practiced by the majority of the population of Bali. This is particularly associated with the Balinese people residing on the island and represents a distinct form of Hindu worship incorporating local animism, ancestor worship- Pitru Paksha, and reverence for Buddhist saints or Bodhisattava . Although the general population of Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, approximately 90% of Balinese identify as Hindu.


A Hindu shrine, or Padmasana outside a house in Bali
A statue of Arjuna on a street in Bali

Hinduism came to Indonesia from India in the fifth century CE. It was gradually replaced by Buddhism, which was the main religion of Sumatra and Java until it in turn was displaced by the coming of Islam from the 14th century CE. However, due to “cultural barriers”, Bali became the only part of Indonesia to remain Hindu.[1][2]

Key beliefs

The fundamental principle underlying Hinduism is that there is order in the cosmos, known as dharma. There is also a disordering force, adharma. Hindus seek balance and harmony between these two forces, thus freeing themselves from the never-ending cycle of reincarnation, attaining a state called moksa.[3][4]

Balinese Hinduism divides the cosmos into three layers. The highest level is heaven, or suarga, the abode of the gods. Next is the world of man, buwah. Below this is hell or bhur, where the demons live and where people's spirits are punished for misdeeds on earth. This tripartite division is mirrored in the human body (head, body and feet) and the shrines found outside Balinese buildings.[3][5]


Along with the traditional Hindu gods such as Vishnu and Brahma, Balinese Hindus worship a range of deities unique to their branch of the religion.[6] Sang Hyang Widhi (also known as Acintya or Sang Hyang Tunggal ) is the designation for one God in Hindu Dharma Balinese . In the concept of Hinduism , Sang Hyang Widhi associated with the concept of Brahman, that their religion had a single God in line with the first principle of the Indonesian state philosophy Pancasila.[7] The empty chair at the top of the padmasana shrine found outside houses and temples is for Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa[8] Many manifestations of gods from Sang Hyang Wasa Widhi like Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice and many other gods associated with mountains, lakes and the sea.


There are three levels of priests:[9][10]

  • High priests (pedanda): Members of the Brahma warna
  • Temple priests (pemangku): Usually of the Sudra warna
  • Mediums/healers (balian)


There are five sacrificial rituals, known as panca yudha in Balinese Hinduism:[11]

  • dewa yadnya – for gods and deities
  • buta yadnya – for spirits and demons
  • resi yadnya – consecration of clergy
  • manusa yadnya – human life from weddings, childbirth, growing up and starting a family
  • pitra yadnya – for death and reincarnation

Birth and life

There are a total of 13 ceremonies concerned with life from conception until, but not including, death, each of which have four elements: placation of evil spirits, purification with holy water, wafting of essence and prayer. These ceremonies mark major events in a person's life, including birth, puberty, tooth filing and marriage.[10] A new-born baby is believed to represent the soul of an ancestor, and is regarded as a god for the first 42 days of its life; however the mother is regarded as impure, and it not allowed to participate in any religious activities during this period. A baby must not touch the impure ground until it is 105 days old, half way to the celebration of its first birthday according to the 210-day Balinese pawukon calendar. Once the child reaches puberty, the six upper canine teeth are filed until they are even.[12][13]

Marriage is seen as obligatory for Balinese Hindus, both for the establishment of a family and for the enhanced position in the village social structure accorded to the husband. Giving birth to children guarantees the patrilineal line, as well as ensuring there is somebody to perform the appropriate rituals essential for reincarnation. It marks the attainment of adulthood.[12][13][14]

Death and reincarnation

The most important ceremonies take place after death, and result in the soul being freed to be eventually reincarnated. Unlike the death rites of other religions, the physical body is not the focus, as it is seen as nothing more than a temporary container of the soul and fit only for expedient disposal. In fact, the body must be burned before the soul can leave it completely. The cremation ceremony to bring this about can be extremely expensive because an elaborate ceremony is a way of showing respect for a soul destined to become a god with considerable powers over those left behind. Therefore bodies are sometimes temporarily buried until the family is able to accumulate enough funds for a cremation, although the bodies of priests or high class families are preserved above ground.[15][16]


Manjangan (Ganesha) temple in Bali.

Galungan and Kuningan

The most important festival is Galungan, a celebration of the triumph of dharma over adharma. It is calculated according to the 210-day Balinese pawukon calendar and takes place on the Wednesday (Buda) of the eleventh week (Dunggulan). According to tradition, the spirits of the dead descend from heaven, to return ten days later on Kuningan.


Nyepi, or the Day of Silence, makes the start of the Balinese Saka year, and is marked on the first day of the 10th month, Kedasa. It usually falls in March.[17]

Other festivals

Watugunung, the last day of the pawukon calendar, is devoted to Saraswati, goddess of learning. Although it is devoted to books, reading is not allowed. The fourth day of the year is called Pagerwesi, meaning "iron fence". It commemorates a battle between good and evil.[18]

Caste system

Balinese caste structure has been described in early 20th-century European literature to be based on three categories – triwangsa (thrice born) or the nobility, dwijati (twice born) in contrast to ekajati (once born) the low folks. Four statuses were identified in these sociological studies, spelled a bit differently from the caste categories for India:[19]

  • Brahmanas - priest
  • Satrias - knighthood
  • Wesias - commerce
  • Sudras - servitude

The Brahmana caste was further subdivided by these Dutch ethnographers into two: Siwa and Buda. The Siwa caste was subdivided into five – Kemenuh, Keniten, Mas, Manuba and Petapan. This classification was to accommodate the observed marriage between higher caste Brahmana men with lower caste women. The other castes were similarly further sub-classified by these 19th-century and early-20th-century ethnographers based on numerous criteria ranging from profession, endogamy or exogamy or polygamy, and a host of other factors in a manner similar to castas in Spanish colonies such as Mexico, and caste system studies in British colonies such as India.[19]

Professions and colors

Bali does have a caste system similar to the Indian system in its ancient form. In ancient India, Cast (which is a western word not a Hindu word. The Indian terminology is jati) was called varna (literally meaning coloring of the neutral or transparent soul) or the propensity of the soul to behave according to certain tendencies based on its innate nature. Based on this propensity people selected their profession. Later this process through erosion became a Family lineage/birth based system. This same system has been adopted in Bali and its called 'Wangsa' which is related to the professions of the ancestors.However even in Bali now, irrespective of the profession of the individual, he or she claims to belong to his family wangsa. There are four basic wangsa or professions, known collectively as caturwangsa—all Balinese belong to this group. The top three wangsa are, Brahmana, Satria (or Ksatriya) and Wesia (or Wesya) represent nobility, and are known as triwangsa. The fourth and most common wangsa is Sudra.

These wangsa groups are subdivided, and each has certain names associated with it. The teachers and priests, Brahmanans, have five subdivisions, and are said to be descended from one individual. Men and women have Ida as the first name. The Ksatriya are traditionally rulers and warriors. Typical names of this wangsa are Dewa Agung, Anak Agung and I Dewa. The Wesia, most of whom are called Gusti, are considered to have been merchants of different kinds. The most common wangsa in Bali in terms of numbers, is Sudra—90 percent of Balinese Hindus belong to it which are the common people as farmers and others. The Pandes or Blacksmiths have a special 'clan' that is not mentioned in the Catur Wangsa group but is considered especially important for its skilled works and being the smithers of fire, Dewa Agni or Dewa Brahma.

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Jones (1971) p11
  2. ^ Ricklefs (1989) p13
  3. ^ a b Eiseman (1989) pp 11–12
  4. ^ Davison & Granquist (1999) pp 4–5
  5. ^ Davison & Granquist (1999) pp 5, 8
  6. ^ Haer et al (2000) p 46
  7. ^ Eiseman (1989) pp 44–45
  8. ^ Eiseman (1989) p 274
  9. ^ Haer et al (2000) p 48
  10. ^ a b Eiseman (1989) pp 362 & 363
  11. ^ Hobart et al (1996) p 102
  12. ^ a b Haer et al (2000) p 52
  13. ^ a b Eiseman (1989) pp 91
  14. ^ Hobart et al (1996) p 105
  15. ^ Haer et al (2000) p 53
  16. ^ Eiseman (1989) pp 116–117
  17. ^ Eiseman (1989) pp 186–187
  18. ^ Eiseman (1989) pp 184–185
  19. ^ a b James Boon (1977). The Anthropological Romance of Bali 1597-1972: Dynamic Perspectives in Marriage and Caste, Politics and Religion.  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.