Balinese Hinduism

Closely related to the Hinduism in Indian history. Their beliefs are based on the Vedic, ancient writings, philosophies and various living arrangements with many different theories that all support each other. Therefore, Hinduism is not a dogmatic religion, but rather a result of a spiritual lifestyle. The traditions that exist in Hinduism also continue to develop and change over time.

Hinduism came to Bali during the arrival of Indian traders. Long before Islam, Hinduism was held up as the core beliefs of the Indonesian people using rituals, traditions, and arts. It also brought with them spiritual ideas, myths and legends – which can be seen in the unique festivals and events associated with the spirits of ancestors and their gods. The temples in Bali also have similar designs and principles to the Indian temples. Balinese temples (Pura) are a holy place, a compound within enclosed walls. There are more than 20,000 temples across the island; each one is associated with a specific characteristic such as virtue of descent or geographical area.

True Balinese Hinduism is a personal and spiritual experience in one’s journey of finding meaning in their life. It offers to reach perfection through “moksa” (becoming one with the universe). Balinese Hinduism is rooted from doctrines originating from the spiritual traditions of Nusantara (archipelago) that had existed since thousands of years, along with the uniqueness, characteristics, and enlightenments of saints who had lived on this land, long before the country was established.

History of Hinduism as an official religion in Indonesia

Although Indonesia is a predominantly-Muslim country, with 86% of its population identifying as Muslim – Hindus across Indonesia make up 1.7% of the population. This might seem small but they are the third largest religious population in Indonesia, with 87% of the Balinese population identifying as Hindu.

Upon arriving in Indonesia in the 1st century, it has since been fused with other belief systems, including ideas of Buddhism that turned it into the Balinese Hinduism today until Islam took over. After the independence of Indonesia, there were struggles to organize the religious life of its citizens that consist of various dimensions and beliefs. Outlined in the country’s fundamental ideologies called Pancasila (“Panca” meaning five, “Syila” are the principals). In the first precept, which states “Ketuhanan yang maha esa”, explicitly refers to the belief and worship of only one God.

At that time, Balinese Hinduism was considered to be a sect of the Hindu religion and was unable to be recognized in the country. Balinese Hinduism was thought to be a combination of two beliefs, the Shiva sect of Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism. That is why it is often called the Shiva-Buddhist, Hindu-Dharma, Tirtha religions and also the Holy Water Religion. The Balinese did not give up however, and after a long journey was finally established as one of the official religions in Indonesia in 1959 by worshipping one God, called the Sang Hyang Widhi, Acintya or Sang Hyang Tunggal.

Impressions of Balinese Hinduism