Bali is an island city in Indonesia. In recent years, it is emerging as a viable touristy option for Indian Travellers with varying budgets. In spite of being popular, the island is still not as crowded as Thailand where Indians throng in large numbers; thereby, it has retained much of its exclusive and exotic flavour.
To begin with, the island it is relatively far off from India and it takes an eight-hour flight to reach Bali; add another 2-3 hours of flight time and you will be in Perth Australia, another continent itself. The island sees a lot of Australian tourists, and since westerners are usually disciplined, Bali has remained a pristine location untouched by over-commercialization, pollution, and other grimy facets of most over-crowded tourist destinations and more importantly, people in Bali are polite and helpful and they mind their own business.
Bali has a predominantly Hindu population and the Hindu influence is unmistakable. Hinduism came to Indonesia from India due to trade activities between the two countries. Slowly, it was replaced by Buddhism, which eventually got displaced by Islam. While Java and Sumatra regions of Indonesia embraced Islam, Bali continued to be a follower of Hinduism and today 83% of Bali’s population is Hindu.
Bali Hinduism like Indian Hinduism is based on the concepts of dharma, which stands for the good while adharma symbolises evil; and the struggle to achieve a balance between these two opposing forces. Some of the features distinct to Balinese Hinduism include usage of local animism in their rituals, belief in reincarnation where people are believed to be reborn in the same family, reverence for Buddhist Saints, tantric-based rituals and an elaborate cremation ritual where death is viewed as a celebration. Once a year, the island observes a day of complete inactivity. This day is known as ‘Nyepi’, the ‘Day of Silence’ and is honoured on Saka New Year (Hindu New Year). The day is observed as a public holiday and the people involve themselves in fasting, meditation and self-introspection. It is believed that the complete silence and inactivity will scare away evil spirits and negative elements from the island. Their belief is so strong that for a day the whole island shuts off its business. Tourists are compelled to stay inside hotels as all beaches, shops and recreational spots and even Bali airport remains closed. The only exception is emergency services.
During late evening hours, it is heart-warming to see locals glued to their television sets watching the local TV serial ‘Mahabharata’. Another regular ritual is offerings in leaf platter containing eatables such as rice, salt, biscuits etc. and incense sticks. These offerings are seen outside people’s homes, offices, malls etc. On inquiry, we found that it is a daily ritual and the offerings are for Lord Acintya – the supreme god hailed by the Balinese, and his manifestations.
The island seems to be deeply influenced by the epic tales- Ramayana and Mahabharata. The influence is a lot more than what is here in India. It has permeated their day-to-day lives to an extent that there is a mocktail offering called ‘Ramayana’ and a cocktail-labeled ‘Ramayana Pimms’. There are statues of Arjuna, Bhisma Pitama, and Ghatotkacha that stand tall on the roads of Bali; such is the popularity of the epic characters. The national airline in Indonesia is called ‘Garuda’, which in mythology is the name of the bird used by Lord Vishnu as his vehicle.
Bali has a number of Hindu temples. Tanah Lot is a very famous temple in Bali. The iconic temple built on large offshore rock worships the deity of Dewa Baruna, the sea god. The temples in Bali usually have invincible deities represented by an empty throne. Deities are said to reside in nature- in mountains, sea, oceans and sky and visit the devotee when invoked. The temples have courtyards, doorways, and guardian gods who act as doorkeepers to the temple, but inside the temples, there are no deities.
Tanah Lot temple- famous for a beautiful view of sunset
The temples in Bali require visitors to wear their traditional temple attire before they can go inside. The gods, goddesses, demi-gods and other epic characters have similar sounding names as those in India but not exactly the same. For example, the epic character from Ramayana is called ‘Sintha’ in Bali and not ‘Sita’ as we call her in India while the name Vishnu is spelt as ‘Wisnu’. The external appearance of the gods, goddesses and epic characters are typical of the land.
Apart from a culture steeped in religion and spirituality, a tourist to Bali can enjoy old historical sites, beaches, mountains, animal parks and a happening nightlife. Beaches in Bali are clean with wonderful water activities like the flying fish that is not found in India. What is important to note here is that the cost of tourism based activities in Bali is cheap given the recreation options it offers. An added plus for a tourist is the food in Bali, which is varied and exotic. The liberal use of local herbs and spices in their cuisines especially non-vegetarian dishes lends a distinct flavour. The high-end restaurants have a classy feel and many are by the seaside. For an Indian traveller, accommodation in a budget hotel with good amenities will cost between Rs.2500-3000. A person can enjoy a filling meal for Rs 300-400.
All in all, Bali is a great tourist destination with a good mix of tradition, culture, and modernism packaged together. On one hand, it transports us to the era of demi-gods and mythology while on the other, it gives a taste of modern life with great shopping options, water adventure, upmarket restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. Do visit Bali and be ready embrace a breathtakingly unique experience.
About the contributor: Anusmita Dutta
Anusmita holds a master degree in economics and human resource management. After a brief stint in a human resource firm, she found her calling in writing and enjoys her work in varied platforms. She began writing more actively when she felt a need to pen down experiences she strongly felt about. She has worked in the e-learning industry for ten years and also actively writes for websites, blogs, mobile apps, and print media.
Anusmita has a deep interest in spiritual and social matters. She is active on social media and considers it a great tool to bring in a change in society. A positive realist by nature, she resides in Mumbai with her banker husband and one-year-old daughter. She loves reading, cooking, travelling and parenting. Anusmita Dutta can be reached out at firstname.lastname@example.org and also Facebook.
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