History of Bali

The Ancient History

Bali has been populated since the early prehistory. The oldest utensils which have been found are at least 200,000 years old. In those times the most inhabitants came from China and Vietnam. This is the reason why Bali was Buddhistic in the early history.

  • The Bajra Sandhi Monument in Denpasar at night
  • The temple Pura Tanah Lot on a sunny day
  • The pond with waterlilies and wall of Pura Agung Jagatnata.
  • The statues carved from the rocks at Gunung Kawi.
f.l.t.r.: Bajra Sandhi Monument - Denpasar | Pura Tanah Lot - Denpasar | Pura Agung Jagatnata - Denpasar | Gunung Kawi - Ubud .


Buddhisme remained the main religion on Bali until the 11th century. This al changed when King Airlangga (1019-1042) from Java occupied Bali. At that time Java was Hinduistic. During this occupation the Hinduisme was introduced on Bali. Not only Hinduisme but also other customs from Java were adopted by the Balinese. One of the most important and well known change is the language Kawi. Kawi was the language which was spoken by the royal family.

During the following centuries Bali has been ruled by different kingdoms. The last of these kingdoms was the Majapahit Kingdom. This occupation has been ended by the rise of the Islam in Indonesia which led to the disintegration of the Majapahit Kingdom. When the Majapahit Kingdom fell a lot of intellectuals went to Bali. This caused an explosive growth in cultural activity on Bali. Amongst these intellectuals was the priest Nirartha. He is mainly responsible for the religion as it is known today on Bali

The first Europeans

The first Europeans which set foot on Bali were the Dutch in 1597. They immediatly fell in love with the island and they still are nowadays. At the moment captain Cornelius Houtman wanted to leave Bali a large part of his crew refused. At the time the wealth and artistic creativity was at a high. Everytime Dutch returned in the following years they were only intrested in trading and doing business.

The Dutch reign

In 1846 the Dutch used an unpaid claim for salvage operations as a reason for sending a military force to the North of Bali. With the complete control on North Bali they didn’t expect it would be long before the South of Bali would lose their independence. In 1904 the Netherlands invoiced Bali again for the salvage of a ship which was looted by the Balinese. The invoiced amount was 3,000 silver dollars. Bali refused to pay this invoice agian. So in 1906 the Dutch once again used this as a reason for sending warships to Bali. The soldiers went ashore in Sanur and marched to the outskirts of Denpasar. Then the Dutch navy conducted a bombing of Denpasar and the soldiers prepared for one final battle. The remaining rajas new they were defeated. Surrender and exile were no options. Therefor they decided to do the honourable thing and choose to commit suicide, called Puputan. The Dutch begged the Balinese to surrender instead of their futile resitance, but they ignored the request. Almost 4,000 Balinese died during this Puputan. After the occupation of Denpasar the Dutch army continued and occupied the whole island of Bali. Because of the Second World War this occupation didn’t last long.

World War II

During World War II Japan occupied Bali in 1942. Originally Japan had no intention to attack Bali as they already had airfields in this region. But thanks to bad weather conditions at these airfields Japan was forced to occupy Bali for the better weather conditions. Bali remained occupied by Japan for the remaining of the Second World War.

The independence of Bali

After World War II the Netherlands wanted to reign Bali again. On the 17th of August 1945 Soekarno declared Indonesia independent. It almost took 4 years before the Dutch government was convinced they would not get their old colony back. In 1949 the Dutch government finally acknowledged the independence of Indonesia.

Recent history

In 1963 the volcano Gunung Agung had an eruption which killed thousands and covered vast areas with lava. This made it necessary for many Balinese to seek refugee on other parts of Indonesia.

In the 70’s tourism experienced an explosive growth which caused many changes on Bali. Many of these changes were improvements as better Telecommunication, healthcare and infrastructure.

On the 12th of Oktober 2012 a bombing took place in Kuta. Almost 200 persons were killed. Many thought this would be the end of tourism on Bali. But in the years after the bombing in Bali tourism fully recovered and nowadays thousands of people visit Bali every year to enjoy your their vacation.