A Short History of Bali: Indonesia's Hindu Realm

A Short History of Bali: Indonesia's Hindu Realm

A Short History of Bali: Indonesia's Hindu Realm

A Short History of Bali: Indonesia's Hindu Realm

Excerpt

In the early 1980s I was sitting in the coffee shop of the Bali Beach Hotel in Sanur, reflecting on the strange fact that Dutch troops had come ashore nearby, less than 80 years previously, on their way to perpetrate one of the more extraordinary massacres in the history of colonialism. I did not know that the Japanese had also landed in this same area in 1942, or that the Dutch had returned here to Bali in 1946, or that an important relic of Bali's ancient history, the tenth-century Sanur inscription, was only a few kilometres away. I did realise that it was difficult for the average visitor to know about such details or indeed to read anything about Bali's obviously intriguing history. It occurred to me that someone should do something about that. Today more books on Bali are available, and many of them contain varying amounts of history, often of high quality. But there has been nothing designed for the general reader which covers the whole sweep of Bali's past, including aspects about which we still have a great deal to learn.

In undertaking to write a short history of Bali I had a number of subsidiary concerns. First there is the problem of context. All too often Bali is perceived as an almost mythological realm, devoid of any national character. I have tried to place Balinese history in its Indonesian context because it cannot be understood any other way. Second, I have avoided the clichés spawned by tourism, and such terms as ‘paradise’ or ‘Island of the Gods’ do not occur in the pages that follow. But I have also avoided implying that because Bali was never the idyll of the tourist brochures, the entire tourist industry was built on false premises, the product of manipulation by non-Balinese. Bali's attractive force is genuine, not created by outsiders, and the island loses none of its appeal if one understands the truth about its often turbulent past, or the challenges and debates that abound today. One of the central, defining characteristics of modern Bali is that it has limited physical resources . . .

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