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Bali ’s ancient history has
been recorded back as far as 30 thousand years. The presence of a stone
aged culture in Bali has been proven by modern
archaeology. But the roots of the Balinese is still conjecture.
Some scholars surmise that they likely were Polynesian and indeed, their wavy
natural hair as well as other physical attributes can add credence to this
theory. Moreover, the mariner skills of the early Oceanic people has
These first Balinese are referred to as the Bali Aga and to this day there are three villages in Bali which to one degree or another retain these earliest Balinese traditions, the village of Tenganan being the best known.
Inter-coastal trade from southern India, which seems to have begun as early as the 5th century, and almost immediately thereafter, China, which began trade in earnest during the T’ang Dynasty, (7th century AD) had a profound impact on Javanese, and eventually, Balinese culture. It was through this trade that Hinduism and Buddhism was first introduced to Java.
Chinese coinage became the currency of the realm during the
14th century under the Majapahit, and strings of Chinese coins are still
essential in most all Balinese ceremonies to this day. But that is just
one example, and there are many more. However, it was the spread of Islam
within Java, timed with the demise of the Majapahit Empire, that most led to
the core roots of Bali as known today.
Virtually all of the artistic traditions that are still seen today in Bali are from the Majapahit Chinese and Indian roots of Java. This includes, architecture, gamelan, dance, and even the Balinese village legal system of adat, both religious and civil, which also has its roots in the Majapahit. It could easily be said that in Bali , the Majapahit Empire lives on. Indeed, the Balinese refer to themselves as direct descendants of the Majapahit.