Bali: History

The Asian Island of Flowers

Bali History

The oldest artifacts unearthed on Bali originate from around 1000 B.C, and Hinduism started to become prominent on the island when King Airlangga (1019-1042) took the throne in Java. In 1343, the Majapahit Empire, lead by Gajah Mada, first invaded Bali after being driven out of Java by the Muslims. King Dalem Bedaulu and his mighty minister Kebo Iwa were then ruling from a base known today as Bedulu, east of Ubud.

After ousting King Dalem, Gajah Mada reigned, and scholars, dancers, artists and many others emigrated from Java, leading to a massive influx of Javanese Hindu culture to the small remote island.

By 1710, Bali was governed by the Gelgel Kingdom, and in 1846, the Dutch military invaded the island from the north. Much later in 1906, they landed on the southern coast, near Sanur Beach, and moved into Denpasar, and on 20 September of that year, the three princes of Badung didn’t surrender but instead opted for a puputan, a suicidal fight to the end.

The Dutch then marched to Tabanan, and the final battle in April 1908 resulted in another puputan, with the island yielding completely to Dutch rule, which lasted until Indonesia succumbed to Japanese control in World War II. The early 1900s brought tourism to Bali, but was stalled with the onset of WWII and the Japanese takeover. On August 17, 1945, following the end of WWII, Indonesia's Soekarno, declared the country's independence. The Dutch initially refused to recognise this resulting in another puputan, where the Balinese resistance group, was utterly destroyed by the Dutch in the battle of Marga on 20 November 1946. Even after gaining independence, Bali remained unsettled. The violent eruption of Mount Agung in 1963 killed thousands, and in 1965, Bali witnessed some of the most brutal anti-communist killings in the country.

The second Indonesian president, Suharto, saw Bali as a potential travel destination and reopened it to tourism in the late 1960s. The influx of tourists and their money helped pay for vast improvements in infrastructure, including better roads, schools and health care. Artists flocked to Ubud to study traditional Balinese art forms, backpackers came to explore the natural beauty, and surfers began to recognize the island's many world-class surf breaks, such as Ulu Watu. Today modern Bali is a thriving tourist destination, and some of the world's greatest hotels and resorts lie on the island.