Religion in Bali: Explore Balinese Hinduism and More

If you've watched films or come across Bali anywhere over the internet, you would definitely know how spiritual this island is. This multi-religious place consists of Christian, Muslim and Buddhist minorities, however, the predominant religion in Bali is Hinduism, making up approximately 90% of the population. Besides Nepal, Bali is the only place outside of India with such a high number of Hindus.

Balinese Hinduism - Main Religion in Bali

Hindu Temple in Ubud Bali
Balinese Hinduism is the Main Religion of Bali (Source)

The Balinese Hinduism, called Agama Hindu Dharma, has originated in Java and is a combination of Buddhism and Shivaism. The indigenous religious beliefs in Bali: Animism and Ancestor Worship is a great deal, and has played a crucial role in shaping modern-day Balinese Hinduism. They believe that every element of nature possess power and a spiritual essence; and that spirits and ancestors should be treated with great respect because the dead have the power to influence the living people. In fact, spirits and ancestors are housed in shrines with agricultural products offerings being made regularly.

Pura Penataran Sasih, Hindu Temple in Bali
The Most Sacred Temples in Bali are Dedicated to the Holy Trinity (Source)

The primary gods of Balinese Hinduism are Brahma, the god of creation; Vishnu, the god of providence; and Shiva, the god of dissolution; commonly known as the 'Holy Trinity'. These three gods represent the unending worldly process of birth, balance and destruction, and humans represent the same until they reach Moksha, the highest level of enlightenment.
Religion in Bali is woven into many aspects of daily life. Offerings are made daily to small shrines in homes or temples. Typically, small clumps of rice placed on a banana leaf are offered, while sometimes fruits and flowers are kept around the house to fend off evil spirits.

Pura Gunung Payung Kuta Bali
The Typical Tiered-roof Structure of Most Balinese Hindu Temples, also known as Pura (Source)

Balinese temples can be found anywhere in Bali, even in the middle of a rice field or on top of a mountain. There are multiple holy days and festivals when the locals come together, make offerings to the gods as a way to communicate with the Hindu deities and spirits that descend from mountains and volcanoes on these days. All the ceremonies such as dance and dramas and prayer meetings are conducted in the inner sanctum of the temple, while the surrounding is used for less important activities. An enclosed compound, tiered roofs and split gate entrances, this is the usual Hindu temple structure in Bali, locally known as a Pura, which you will notice all around the country.

The top 10 Balinese Hindu temples around the island are:
1. Tanah Lot
2. Uluwatu
3. Pura Besakih
4. Pura Ulun Danu Beratan
5. Tirta Empul
6. Gunung Kawi
7. Goa Gajah
8. Lempuyang Temple
9. Pura Taman Ayun
10. Pura Goa Lawah

Balinese Religious Beliefs

Mount Agung in Bali is Sacred to the Balinese

Mount Agung is the Highest Peak in Bali,

Believed to be the Abode of the Gods (Source)

1. Funerals in Bali: Known as Ngaben, the Balinese Hindu funerals involve the cremation of one's body. According to Balinese religious belief, a soul passes onto another body after death. When it's in a body, the soul is tormented, always seeking to free itself from incarnation so as to attain moksha and be one with the cosmos. But when a person dies, he fails to attain moksha and hence has to be cremated in order to return to their original residence, the universe's macrocosm.
2. Mystics and Healers: Mystics and healers are a huge part of Balinese culture. The line between superstition and religion is very blurred here. Demonic encounters, sudden prosperity or miraculous cures, all of this is not uncommon among the locals. Many of them often visit healers who give them a mantra or two, which they carry around. If you have watched the popular Julia Roberts film, 'Eat Pray Love', you will know exactly what we are talking about.
3. Mount Agung: The Balinese believe that mountains are home to gods, ancestors and spirits who haven't achieved enlightenment yet. They are occasionally known to descend to earth during temple ceremonies, festivals other rituals. That's why these mountains are known to be 'holy places'. The beds in Balinese houses are supposed to be facing in a way that the head faces the mountain, especially the sacred Mount Agung.
4. Casteism in Balinese Hinduism: The Balinese society follows a caste system similar to Indian Hinduism comprising of 4 main castes: Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (rulers, administrators, kings), Vaishyas (warriors, artisans, tradesmen, farmers) and Shudras (peasants).

Other Religions in Bali

1. Islam in Bali - the First Minority Religion in Bali

Masjid Agung Ibnu Batutah Mosque in Bali
Islam, being a Major Religion in Indonesia, is a Minor Religion in Bali (Source)

Being the 1st minority religion in Bali, Islam entered this island during the reign of Majapahit kingdom in 13th-14th century A.D. Due to lack of employment opportunities in Java, Lombok and Madura, many Muslims often migrate to Bali in search of work. Many local Balinese Hindus earlier opposed the growing Islamic population, but now they all live in harmony.

2. Christianity and Catholicism in Bali - the Second Minority Religion in Bali

Maria Bunda Segala Bangsa Catholic Church in Kuta Bali
Christianity is a Minor Religion in Bali, Followed Mostly in Blimbingsari and Palasari (Source)

Christianity is the 2nd minority religion in Bali after Islam, mainly found in the villages of Blimbingsari and Palasari. It came to Bali in around 1635, and since then, many Balinese have converted to Christianity.  Today, their percentage is approximately 2.50% of the entire population.

3. Buddhism in Bali

Buddhism, a major religion in South East Asia, arrived in Bali in the 8th century and continues till today. Even though according to Balinese Hinduism, Buddhism and Hinduism is indistinguishable, you can still find purely Buddhist families here, some who have even migrated from China. Today, there are around 25 monasteries existing in Bali.

Bring out the cultural soul within you, visit the temples, interact with spiritual healers and attend some festivities. Balinese religion is an extremely vast topic, hence, you should definitely visit the places yourself to get a much more real and deeper sense of it.

This post was published by Meha Dedhia

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