Origin of Hinduism in Bali Indonesia – History, Holy Figures, and Traditions

Found most notably in India and Nepal, Hinduism is a way of life or a religion and most its practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, “the eternal law,” or the “eternal way,” beyond human origins. Hinduism, as one of the oldest religion in the world, has many Gods to worship and the Hindus can choose to be polytheistic, pantheistic, monotheistic, monistic, agnostic, atheistic or humanist. The most well-known beliefs of Hinduism is that after you die you return to life in a different form (reincarnation).

Hinduism in Indonesia


The spread of Hinduism in Indonesia is believed to begin in early AD—together with Buddhism—around the 2nd and the 4th century AD. Its when traders from India came to Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi, bringing their religion along with them. Hinduism and Buddhism developed by traders successfully influenced a lot of rich kingdom, such as Kutai, Srivijaya, Majapahit and Sailendra. Then, with the construction of the world’s largest Buddhist temple, Borobudur and Hindu temple, Prambanan by the kingdom of Sailendra as the result. The golden age of Hindu occurred in the 14th century AD with the greatness of Majapahit kingdom at that time.


The written evidence or archaeological objects of Hinduism teachings in Indonesia, were found in the 4th century AD. There are the discovery of seven Yupa, the legacy of many Kutai kingdom in East Kalimantan. From the seven Yupa found, there is an elucidation of how king Mulawarman doing his “yad” at a shrine called “Vaprakeswara” to worship God Siva. The growing of Hinduism proves not only in Kutai (East Kalimantan), but also in West Java proved by the discovery of seven inscriptions in Sanskrit language and using the Pallawa letter in the 5th century—Ciaruteun, Kebonkopi, Guava, Pasir Awi, Muara Cianten, Tugu and Lebak. All inscriptions that proves the king of Tarumanegara, king Punawarman is a Hindu by worshiping Tri Murti as the manifestation of God Almighty.

In Central Java, There are Tukmas inscription on the slopes of the mountain Merbabu, Arjuna and Srikandi temple on the Dieng plateau near Wonosobo and Prambanan temples that are decorated with the statue of Tri Murti. Three of them was the proofs of Hindu’s influence in the area. Meanwhile, in East Java, the influence of Hindu are proves with the discovery of inscriptions Dinaya (Dinoyo), Budut temple as a sacred buildings located in Malang area—a relic of the oldest Hindu kingdom in East Java—and the discovery of  Hindu literature, such as the Book of Smaradahana, Bharatayudha, Lubdhaka, Wrtasancaya and the Book of Kresnayana and many more.

Beside East Kalimantan, West Java, Central Java and East Java, Hinduism was also spreading to Bali—in fact, on the present day, Bali becomes the most significant place with lot of Hinduism teachings still being practiced.

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History of Hinduism in Bali

The development of Hinduism in Bali believed to be started around the 8th century with the discovery of many inscription fragments in Pejeng—one of which proved Paksa (Sampradaya or Sekta) Siva Siddhanta has grown in Bali along with the statue of Siva and temple of Putra Bhatara Desa in Bedahulu village, Gianyar. According to the Balinese people, the arrival of the people from the kingdom of Majapahit was the beginning of the deployment of Hinduism in Bali.

However, centuries before the time of Majapahit, there was already a kingdom with Hindu culture in southern Bali at the era of ancient Mataram, between 600-1000 AD. Pejeng and Bedulu as the center of the kingdom with the king from the descendant of Warnadewa. There is a possibility that this kingdom arises directly from the influence of Hindu traders, but there is also a possibility that this kingdom is caused due to the influence of Mataram.

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Beside the arrival of Hinduism, there was also the discovery of relics that show the arrival of Mahayana Buddhism. It can be seen from stupas made of clay that spread across South Pejeng, Titiapi and Blahbatuh, Gianyar.

Though, at the end, Mahayana Buddhism is fused with Hinduism as inherited in Bali today. There are also sekta-sekta developing in Bali around the 10th century, which according to the research of Dr. R.Goris (1926) there are 9 sekta, namely: iva Siddhanta, Pasupata, Bhairava, Vaisnava, Bodha (Soghata), Brahmana, Rsi, Sora (Surya) and Ganapatya.

However, in some lontar (text) found in Bali only mentions 6 sekta, which consists of Sambhu, Brahma, Indra, Bayu, Visnu and Kala.

From the 10th century until the 14th century, the growth of Hinduism in Bali is very rapid until the reign of king Astasura-ratnabhumibanten is conquered by the expedition of Majapahit under the leadership of Mahapatih Gajah Mada.

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Holy Figures of Hinduism Development in Bali

1. Danghyang Markandeya

In the 8th century, he received an enlightened in the mount of Di Hyang (now Dieng, East Java) that pelinggih in Tolangkir (now Besakih). It should be planted with panca datu consisting elements of gold, silver, copper, iron, and gem ruby.

As well as when Hyang Widhi take the shape of light rays that resembles sparkling sun and moon—of which later Danghyang Markandeya define the color of red as a symbol of the sun and white as a symbol of the moon used in decoration in the temple in the shape of Ider-Ider, lelontek, etc. He solidify Siwa Sidhanta teachings to his followers in the form of ritual: Surya Sewana, Bebali (Banten), and Pecaruan.

At the beginning, only the area of Taro was named Bali and it was because the ritual Danghyang Markandeya does use banten or bebali so at that time, the religion itself was called Bali but then, the population throughout the island implement the teachings of Siwa Sidhanta according to the instructions of Danghyang Markandeya who use bebali, eventually the island was also named Bali.

In addition to building Sad Kahyangan—Batur, Sukawana, Batukaru, Andakasa, and Lempuyang—Danghyang Markandeya also introduced the memorial day of Tumpek Kandang and  Tumpek Pengatag.

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2. Mpu Sangkulputih

As the successor of Danghyang Markandeya, Mpu Sangkulputih continued and completed the ritual of bebali.  He is the Sulinggih responsible for temple of Besakih and other temples founded by Danghyang Markandeya. He trained his followers to become Sulinggih with title Dukuh, Prawayah, and Kabayan.

Mpu Sangkulputih completed the ritual of bebali by adding a lot of variation. He make an attractive decoration for various types of banten by adding elements of other plants such as betel leaves, banana leaves, coconut leaves, fruits: bananas, coconuts, and grains: rice, injin, lablab bean.

Meanwhile, the other forms of banten are canang sari, canang tubugan, canang raka, daksina, peras, panyeneng, tehenan, segehan, lis, nasi panca warna, prayascita, durmenggala, pungu-pungu, beakala, ulap ngambe, etc. The whole purpose of this is to make the worshiping of Hyang Widhi more religious.

Mpu Sangkulputih is the pioneers of making statues of gods made of stone, wood, or metal as well as introducing the procedures of conducting the memorial day of Piodalan in Besakih and other temples and the ritual feasts of Galungan, Kuningan, Pagerwesi, Nyepi, etc.

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3. Mpu Kuturan

According to lontar Calon Arang, Mpu Kuturan came from a place called Girah in East Java where he ruled once as a king. He arrived in Bali on Wednesday of Kliwon wuku pahang, maduraksa, candra sengkala agni of babahan tribe or years of caka 923 (1001M) associated with Siwa Buddha in Bali.

During the Bali Kuna era, there are nine sect. There are Pasupata, Bhairawa, Siwa Shidanta, Waisnawa, Bodha, Brahma, Resi, Sora and Ganapatya. Each sect adores particular gods with certain symbols and believes that istadewata is the most major while others considered inferior.

This difference cause strife between the sects that cause tensions and disputes in the body of the people of Bali Aga. Therefore, King Gunaprya Dharmapatni (Udayana Warmadewa) decided to bring clerics from East Java and one of them is Mpu Kuturan. He was appointed as Senapati as well as the chairman of “Pakira kiran I Jro makabehan” council.

Mpu Kuturan discuss how to simplify the religious in Bali, which consists of various streams. As the result, everyone  present at the discussion agree to uphold the concept of Tri Murti (Brahma, Vishnu, Ciwa) to be the core of Balinese religious and should be seen as the embodiment or manifestation of Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa. It become the royal government’s decision, which stipulated that all streams in Bali accommodated in a container called “Ciwa Buddha” as compounding Ciwa and Buddhism. Since then Ciwa Buddhist adherents should set up three sacred temple to worship Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa named: Desa Bale Agung, Puseh, and Dalem temple.

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4. Mpu Manik Angkeran

Mpu Manik Angkeran is a Brahmana from the son of  Majapahit Danghyang Siddimantra. He is responsible for Mpu Sangkulputih’s duties after Mpu Sangkulputih went moksah. To avoid from letting his son return to Java and to protect Bali from the external influences, isthmus that connecting Java and Bali (called segare rupek) were disconnected with the power of Danghyang Siddimantra’s bathin.

5. Mpu Jiwaya

Known for spreading Mahayana Buddhist of Tantri to the nobility in Warmadewa Dynasty in the 9th century. His remains can be seen in the form of mystical powers belife associated with eeriness (tenget) and pemasupati for the magic of supernatural weapons of war, mask, barong, etc.

6. Danghyang Dwijendra

Because of the revelations of Hyang Widhi in Purancak, Jembrana, Danghyang Diwjendra think that Tripurusa concept need to be developed in Bali—the worship of Hyang Widhi in his manifestation as Siwa, Sadha Siwa and Parama Siwa.  Danghyang Dwijendra encouraged the creation of high quality literary works in the form of lontar, hymns or kekawin writings. His most well-known works are Sebun bangkung, Sara kusuma, Legarang, Mahisa langit, Dharma pitutur, Wilet Demung Sawit, Gagutuk menur, Brati Sesana, Siwa Sesana, Aji Pangukiran, etc.

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Hindu Ceremonies in Bali

1. Ngaben

traditional traditions, funeral traditions, cremacy, funeralNgaben is a ceremonial burial or cremation of Hindus in Bali, Indonesia—performed in order to send the corpses to the next life. The corpses should be put as if they’re sleeping instead of die, and the families will continue to think so.

No tears needed, because the bodies are temporarily not available and will undergo reincarnation or find the last place of rest in Moksha (free from the wheel of death and reincarnation). Before performing the cremation, there should be consultation with the pastor to determine a good day to perform the ceremony.

While waiting for the day to be decided, the family with the help of neighbors together will prepare the place for the corpse (bade/keranda, an ox-shaped replicas made of bamboo, wood, colorful paper, which later will be used for the crematory.

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In the beginning, this ceremony performed alone by a family and cost a lot of money, therefore if the family does not have enough money to do the ceremonial, the corpse would be placed in the home until the money is ready, but it is very recommended to do the ceremonial burial as soon as possible as it was believed that the spirit of the corpse would be restless if being kept in the house for too long. Though, as time goes by, in order to save the cost, Hindus in Bali do a mass cremation.

2. Nyepi

Nyepi held in the turn of the new year Isaka on Bali calendar. On the day of Nyepi, almost every crowded place in Bali suddenly becomes deserted. Only hospitals, firefighters and police stations that open while others, such as shops, restaurants and else are closed and tourist are expected to respect this ceremony by didn’t make any chaos or draw out too much noises.

For Hindus, on Nyepi, they’ll try to cooling-off as best they could to follow the example of Tapa Bratha and everyone basically do penyepian Catur Braha where it is forbid to turn on the light or light a fire, working, watching TV, listening to music or go out.

Nyepi ceremonial began with a series of event such as melasti to segara for 2-3 day before Nyepi followed by ceremonial of tawur agun by doing caru in house, banjar, villages and districts along with ogoh-ogoh parade before celebrating Ngembak Geni the next day.

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3. Galungan

Galungan or Dungulan have the same meaning with victory, hence, it is used to call the ceremony of celebrating the victory of dharma (goodness) over adharma (sleaze) and it marks the time when the ancestral spirits visit the Earth. It was believed that Galungan first celebrated on the Kapat full moon, Buda kliwon, Dungulan in the year AD 882 or 804 saka year.

The ceremonies tell about the inner struggle between dharma and adharma, which is symbolized by the Kala-tiganing Galungan or Sang Kala Tiga who descends three times to earth to tempt mankind to adharma. The first time is three days before Galungan, at Penyekeban, in the shape of Sang Bhuta Galungan.

Then, the second time takes place the following day, at Penyajaan Galungan, in the shape of Sang Bhuta Dungulan and the third and last time happens the day before Galungan, Penampahan Galungan, as Sang Bhuta Amangkurat.

Preparation of Galungan already started at Tumpak Uduh or 25 days before Galungan, at the Saturday of the 7th week of the Balinese Pawukon calendar, Wariga to be excact—and last for 35 days or 5 week, one Balinese month. Hindus will go to sanggah or pemerajan, Dadia and Kahyangan Tiga temple in Pekraman village to worship as well as another religious ceremony conducted every six months.

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4. Saraswati

Saraswati is symbol of knowledge, its flow (or growth) is like a river and knowledge is very interesting, like a beautiful women therefore the name itself were taken from “saras” means flows and “wati” means woman. This day is devoted to Dewi Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge, symbolized by a beautiful woman with four hands, riding on a white swan among water lilies to tell humanity that science is like a beautiful woman.

Saraswati Day is based on the Pawukon (Balinese calendar) system and the Saniscara (seven day cycle) and every Saniscara, Umanis, Wuku Watugunung, Hindus in Bali celebrate Saraswati Day (the knowledge day). On this day, Balinese people make offerings with book.

The day after Saraswati is called Banyu Pinaruh Day and early in the morning of Banyu Pinaruh Day, people will go the beaches, rivers and springs to purify themselves and pray for wisdom. Both Saraswati Day and Banyu Pinaruh Day is not a day off so office and every other else still doing their activity in the day.

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5. Kuningan

Kuningan is a celebration ceremony held every 210 days in Saniscara day (Saturday), Kliwon, Kuningan, just ten days after the celebration of Galungan. It is believed that on this day, Ida Sang Hyang Widi wasa descend to earth to give  blessings and prosperity to the whole people. It is said to be the best opportunity to wish for safety, welfare, prosperity and spiritual and physical protection to the gods, Bhatara and Pitara. Time limit of the celebration is before noon because it is believed that the gods returned to heaven after noon.

In the day of Kuningan celebrations, there are many typical ritual paraphernalia such as Endongan—a symbol of tribute to Ida Sang Hyang Widi or can be regarded as a provision; the provision in life is science, Kolem as his resting place, Tamyang that looks like a shield disc as the symbol of repellent of catastrophe and hazards beside as a symbol of protection also reminds people of the laws of nature is like a wheel, the true man must be able to adapt to nature, which is why those who does not obey the laws of nature will be crushed.

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Hindu Traditions in Bali

1. Omed-omedan

Omed-omedan is a tradition of Banjar Kaja Sesetan, Denpasar that being held a day after Nyepi. In Balinese, it’s means tugging at each other. Omed-omedan was also called ‘The Kissing Ritual’ because it’s literally isthough, this is not a porn or an event to indulgence in lust. This is a traditional event where everyone can learn about a sense of togetherness and family.

It is believed that the tradition start around Puri Oka kingdom in South Denpasar, when the people play a game where they’re tugging at each other but as the time passed by, it turn into embrace.

On the other hand, the disturbance caused by the game, king Puri Oka, who were sick at that time become angry and when he is about to scold his peoplehe saw the game and instead, recovered from his illness. Since then, the king ordered his people to held omed-omedan every year.

The event begins with a joint prayer at the temple. Then proceed with the Barong Bangkung Male and Female performance. Once done, a group of participants entering the temple courtyard and boys and girls are divided into two groupsstanding in front each other, face to face and start to hug, kiss and got doused by water accompanied by the rhythm of gamelan. The participants were Boys and girls around 17 to 30 in the village (Banjanr Kaja Sesetan) who are single.

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2. Mekare-kare

traditional traditionsMekare-kare (also known as war using pandan as the weapons or pandan war) is a Hindu tradition held in Tenganan, Karangasem district. The ceremony is celebrated in honor of the god of war, Indra. Different from most of place, people of Tenganan belived that Indra is the highest god, more than the Tri Murtithat Indra is the god of prosperity and the god of all gods.

According to old tales, this village and the surrounding region was ruled by a tyrant named Maya Denawa, a king that considered himself to be God, forbid people to perform any religious activity.

Then, knowing this, the gods sent Indra to the earth as their war commander to defeat the king. The king himself, is a powerful king who can turn himself to any shape but Indra succeed defeated him anyway and so the ceremonial of pandan war are being held to respect Indra.

Mekare-kare held for 2 days in a row and once a year. Two young men will fight, each trying to drag back an opponent with a pandan as the weapon. As they fights, the sound of gamelan and the audience’s cheers will joined spur the spirit, though, the fight only last for 1 minute before both of them help each other recover by pulling the thorn from each other’s back.

3. Makepung

traditional traditionsMakepung is a tradition come from West Bali or Jembrana district. Makepung is a buffalo race that held between July to November every year along with the harvest season. Makepung in Balinese means romp, this tradition has evolved in Jembrana from 1930s, developing sustainable and ingrained until now.

Like any other race competition, the winner of Makepung will be the one reach the finish line but there’s an exception to it, some sort of rules. The winner should be able to also keep a distance with participants behind him up to 10 meters, so if the participant behind him somehow narrow the gap to less than 10 meters.

Next, the participants behind will be the one who win. Because of this, farmers start to choose superior buffaloes to be featured, maintains and treat them different and special like how an athlete should be treated. Other places having a race like this but using cow are held in Buleleng known Gerumbungan cattle, whereas in Madura named Bull Race.

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The Existence of Hinduism in Bali

Hinduism is one of the six official religion recognized in Indonesia, believed to begin spreading as early as the first century. The two major theories about the arrival of Hinduism in Indonesia are a theory that said that South Indian sea traders brought Hinduism with them, and second being that Indonesian royalty welcomed Indian religions and culture, and it is they who first adopted these spiritual ideas followed by the masses.

There were an estimated total of over 4 million Hindus in Indonesia according to Indonesian census in 20101.7% of the total population and by 83.5% of the population in Bali.

Indonesian adopted both Hindu and Buddhist ideas, fusing them together and the most significant area where every ceremonial and tradition are still being done, is in Bali. Every day, the people of Bali do offerings of food and made various items to the gods.

The Balinese stick to the Tri Mutri (Brahma, Vishnu, Siwaa) as the 3 in 1 symbol of God. Other gods and goddesses also exist such as Saraswati, Ganesha, Rama, Durga, etc, then under those are the Cedic Devas; Indra, Agni, Varyna etc, and then there are local deities that generally reside in nature (e.g. Rice goddess) also ancestors.

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The reason why Bali become one of the most favorite tourist attraction in Indonesia is because of all the Hindu and Buddhist aspect on the people’s daily life. Beside for the purpose of worshiping their gods, Balinese also use this traditions and ceremonial to introduce it to the world so it can be appreciated and last long as something special from Indonesia.

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