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History of Bali

Bali although there are no artifacts or records dating back to the Stone Age, it is believed that the first settlers in Bali migrated from China around 2500 BC. By the Bronze era, around 300 BC, quite an evolved culture existed in Bali. The complex system or irrigation and rice production, still in use today, was established around this time.

History is vague for the first few centuries. A number of Hindu artifacts have been found dating back to the 1st century, yet it appears that the main religion, around 500 AD, was predominantly Buddhist in influence. A Chinese scholar, Yi-Tsing, in 670 AD reported on a trip to India, that he had visited a Buddhist country called Bali.

It wasn't until the 11th century that Bali received the first strong influx of Hindu and Javanese cultures. With the death of his father around AD 1011, the Balinese Prince, Airlanggha, moved to East Java and set about uniting it under one principality. Having succeeded, he then appointed his brother, Anak Wungsu, as ruler of Bali.

During the ensuing period there was a reciprocation of political and artistic ideas. The old Javanese language, Kawi, became the language used by the aristocracy, as well as one of the many Javanese traits and customs adopted bye the cause.

With the death of Airlanggha, in the middle of the 11th century, Bali enjoyed a period of autonomy. However, this proved to be short-lived as, in 1284, the East Javanese king Kertanegara, conquered Bali and ruled over it from Java. In 1292, Kertanegara was murdered and Bali took the opportunity to liberate itself once again.

However, in 1343, Bali was brought back under Javanese control by its defeat at the hands of Gajah Mada, a general in the last of the great Hindu-Javanese empires, the Majapahit. With the spread of Islam throughout Sumatra and Java during the 16th century, the Majapahit empire began to collapse and a large exodus of aristocracy, priests, artists and artisans to Bali ensued. For a while Bali flourished and the following centuries were considered the Golden Age of Bali's cultural history. The principality of Gelgel, near Klungkung, became a major centre for the Arts and Bali became the major power of the region, taking control of neighbouring Lombok and parts of East Java.

The European Influence

The first Dutch seamen set foot on Bali in 1597, yet it wasn't until the 1800's that the Dutch showed an interest in colonizing the island. In 1846, having had large areas of Indonesia under their control since the 1700's, the Dutch government sent the troops into northern Bali. Dutch forces sided with the Sasak people of Lombok to defeat their Balinese rulers.

By 1911, all the Balinese principalities had either been defeated in battle, or had capitulated, leaving the whole island under Dutch control. After World War I, Indonesian Nationalist sentiment was rising and in 1928, Bahasa Indonesia was declared the official national language. During World Ward II, the Dutch were expelled by the Japanese, who occupied Indonesia from 1942 to 1945.

After the Japanese defeat, the Dutch tried to regain control of their former colonies, but on August 17, 1945, Indonesia was declared independent by its first President, Sukarno. After four years of fighting and strong criticism from the international community, the Dutch government finally gave in and in 1949, Indonesia was recognised as an independent country.

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