Hinduism, like any other religion, cuts across regions and boundaries. It’s riveting to know how Hinduism in Bali paved its way in the country.

Both the nations practice Hinduism originating from common roots however, the countries differ in perception, understanding, inclusion, and propagation of the religion which I will highlight in this article.

It’s astonishing to comprehend the fact that the world’s largest Muslim population harbours within it a Hindu kingdom of such elaborate stance. Constituting a total of 1.7% of the total population of Indonesia, Hinduism is one of the six major religions of the island nation. The trajectory of its arrival is as fascinating as its establishment in Bali.

Hinduism in Bali
The Balinese in traditional attire


The earliest evidence of the arrival of Hinduism in Bali dates back to the 1st century. A cultural amalgamation and transition of ideas from the Chola Empire infused itself through layers of interaction with the Srivijaya Empire of Indonesia.

Versions of the Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana can be seen in the history of Hinduism in Bali often attributed to the coming in of Hindu merchants to Indonesia.

This is in contrast to the emergence of Hinduism in India.

Having its origins in the Iron Age, Hinduism emerged in India as early as the Indus Valley Civilization. Subsequently finding its place in the Vedic traditions of 1500-600 BCE.

Hinduism in Bali
A Mahabharata Inscription


Despite having common roots, the religious ideology practiced in Bali, Indonesia is that of Agama Hindu Dharma and the one practiced in India is Nigama Dharma.

Agama Dharma essentially encompasses the spiritual beliefs of Hinduism dealing with the idea of Tantrism. It deals with doctrines of yoga, cosmology, philosophical ideas and the cults of Shiva (Shaivism), Vishnu (Vaishnavism) and Shakti (worship of the goddess).

On the other hand, Nigama Dharma is associated with Agama as well as Vedic and Puranic Hindu practices. It finds its causation in the Yajna-samstha or sacrificial ritualistic traditions as celebrated in the Epic and Vedic periods by kings to gain prosperity and wealth.

Hinduism in Bali
A Tantric engraving


While some deities like Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, Hanuman and avatars of Shakti (Durga, Saraswati, Lakshmi) are common to both the Balinese and Hindu collection, celestial beings, Yakshas (caretakers), Yakshinis, and sea serpents constitute an integral part of Balinese worship.

References to temples of Ganga and Parvati have often been made. The phallic cult of Shiva is prevalent in Bali too, however, the lingas very often represent the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh and not simply Shiva as is done in India.

Interestingly, elaborate statues and sculptures of the various characters of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana dot the landscape depicting an Indo-Balinese link where even neglected characters like Sehadeva and Nakula are celebrated.

Also Read: Want A Visa? Visit The Visa Temple Or The Airplane Gurudwara In India To Get Your Visa Problems Sorted!

Hinduism in Bali
The Yakshas outside a Balinese Temple

Hinduism in Bali
A Scene from the Mahabharata in sculpture


Most of the Indian festivals are based on Vedic and Epic practices and chanting of mantras, while most Balinese traditions are from the original spiritual induction of Hinduism and not a product of contemporary recitation and understanding.

The festival of Nyepi or ‘The Day of Silence’ is equivalent to the festival of Diwali in India. It is widely celebrated by all Balinese Hindus and consists of not speaking, fasting and meditating for a full day culminating in the celebration of the new year.

Nyepi, a day for self-reflection and understanding, devoid of all forms of entertainment is sunken in darkness.

Hinduism in Bali
Balinese women in celebration post the festival of Nyepi


Balinese temples are an integral part of the Hindu community of Indonesia as well as of the household. Each village has its own temple called a Pura Desa meaning the ‘village temple’. The houses are open, nature-centric and consist of a temple each.

Specific spaces are attributed to temple building in Bali. They are intricately carved pillared structures yet are simple and peaceful.

Indian temples, on the other hand, are loud, deity idol embedded, predominantly ritual centric and can spring up anywhere. Balinese temples are quiet and are mostly not embedded with idols of deities.

Hinduism in Bali
A Balinese temple gateway
Hinduism in Bali
Shrine in the temple compound


The Balinese believe in offering whatever they can afford or like to gods and goddesses. Right from flowers, incense sticks, money, rice, to cigarettes, alcohol, chocolates which are kept in front of their homes, shops and deities for prosperity unlike in India where predominant offerings to gods include fruits, seeds, flowers, leaves and in rare cases alcohol.

Hinduism in Bali
A set of Balinese offerings

It’s absolutely jaw-dropping to understand the fact that something as ancient and endemic to India will find a place in a country like Indonesia. The awe-inspiring notions of Hinduism in India can differ magnanimously in Bali yet never cease to amaze.

Sources:  Wikipedia (source 1), Wikipedia (Source 2), Indonesia Investments 

Image Source: Google Images

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