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The Island of the Gods
Balinese culture is complex; a unique combination of spirituality, religion, tradition and art. Anthropologists believe that the Balinese are descended from the ancient Chinese, the Indians and Arabs from the West, plus others who came directly or via Java.
Introduced in the first century AD Hindu culture still permeates throughout all of Balinese life, offering a continual procession of festivals and ceremonies throughout the year and a structured order to Balinese society. Wherever you are in Bali you’ll be delighted with vibrant colours of batik costumes, flowers and fruit offerings, and the multitude of ornately carved temples devoted to a pantheon of gods. There is constant celebration of the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, as well as marriage, childhood and ancestors, plus a whole range of other important life and community events.
Traditional Balinese art is an extension of Bali Hindu religion, with all ancient art forms highlighting the scared scripts of Ramayana and Mahabharata. The island boasts a rich tradition of artisans, Bali being famous for its woodcarving, paintings, silver and gold smithing, batik fabrics, dance and drama. In the 1930s and 1940s there was a new creative outburst of Balinese artistic endeavour, mainly in painting and woodcarving, which can be attributed to Western influences.
Bali is a patriarchal society, with the family being its basic unit. A Hindu cast system once strictly structured societal interaction. Today demarcation of cast is of minor significance in modern Bali, where opportunities for education and advancement are now open to all. However definite respect of family origins is constantly present in the way in which people relate to each other. The first question upon introduction defines cast and consequently language of address. Once intermarriage between casts was punishable by death, today it is widely accepted.