Bali Travel Guide And Review - Part 2

Balinese Castes

The Balinese Hindu religion necessitates a traditional caste system though it has never been as dissentious as its Indian ancestor. This is mostly due to the fact that over 90% of Balinese belong to the lowest 'Sudra' caste, and in India would have been seen as 'untouchable'. Given their dominance such attitudes in Bali would not be realistic. However, inter-marriage stays rare and discouraged.

The three upper castes are collectively known as the 'Triwangsa' ('three peoples') comprising Brahmana, Kesayatria and Wesia. Caste is determined by birth but is rarely reflected in a person's occupation, although only a Brahmana can become a Pedanda high priest, and only Brahmana may take the task of repairing masks from the 'Barong' dance as they harbour the force to protect themselves from the evil spirits.

Balinese Names

Upon hearing a Balinese friends name, you can recognize some elements of his or her background. First, the name will often point to the cast to which they originate from. For example, if you meet someone named Ida Bagus, you recognize they belong to the highest Brahmana caste or, if they are called Gusti, they will almost certainly belong to the Wesia caste. The Balinese also distinguish their children in order of birth. Together with a personal name, unique in the family, a Balinese child will be awarded a more common name. The firstborn is often Wayan or Putu while the second born generally carries the name of Made or Kadek. The third child may be Nyoman or Komang and the fourth is always Ketut; with the birth of a fifth child, the naming cycle begins again.


The Balinese dote on their children, a devotion that no doubt contributes to the calm and relaxed demeanour of the island's population. At birth the baby's umbilical cord is buried with offerings to protect them throughout their lives. Until the child reaches three months of age, they are permanently carried as it is regarded as unclean and disrespectful if they should touch the ground before that age. Balinese children are discouraged from crawling, believed to be only the actions of an animal, and learn to walk at a very young age. Upon reaching 105 days, the baby will be ornamented with bracelets and anklets. A further 105 days later, a ceremony is held to signify their entry into adulthood. The passage through puberty is celebrated with a tooth filing ceremony, aimed to flatten any pointed teeth that may represent evil and designed to curb sinful emotions and actions such as greed, anger, jealousy, stupidity, and adultery.

Everyday, there are many temple ceremonies all over Bali. Some are held at a single village temple while others are island-wide. One common ceremony is the 'odelan', held every 210 days to celebrate a temple's anniversary. Another is held every time there is a full moon. The day of Saraswati heralds a ceremony celebrating knowledge, learning and the arts. Ceremonies on this day are held in relation to schools and primarily involve students. Some important days occur very rarely such as the 'Eka Dasa Rudra', held only once every 100 years at Besakih Temple. .


Bali is a predominantly Hindu Island, living on in an Islamic nation. Minority populations of Muslims, Christians and Buddhists are also found on the island.

Little is known of the introduction of Hinduism in Bali though it doubtlessly involved the Indian traders who came to these parts for the spice trade over two thousand years ago. Given its physical isolation from the ancestral religion, Balinese Hinduism has since evolved into a unique version of the ancient faith. Although the basics remain the same, many of the gods revered on Bali are unknown in India and vice versa. Vast Hindu kingdoms were also found in neighbouring islands but they disappeared soon after the Arabs became interested in the archipelago, bringing with them Islam to Indonesia's shores. Bali maintained little interest for the Arab traders so it was for the most part left alone. Throughout Indonesia, traditional beliefs in mysticism and the spiritual world remain strong, despite the common practice of imported faiths that forbid such strong beliefs.

While the impact this has had on the Islamic faith is often controversial, for the Balinese, the two have merely blend to create the distinctive religion they follow today.

Life in Bali orbits around the temple. There are literally thousands of temples throughout the island, ranging from small backyard shrines, to large public temple complexes. These temples play host to hundreds of ceremonies each year; colourful public displays of Balinese devotion to their gods. Each temple is consecrated to a specific god or goddess. For example, every village has a "Pura Dalem", a temple devoted to the god Shiva, the 'destroyer'. It is at the Pura Dalem, that ceremonies for the dead are held, most commonly cremations.

to be continued.....