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The Great Kings of Balinese Kingdoms and Their Inheritance

This is a brief description of the Bali Kingdoms,

Along with the history of the king who led and his historical legacy.

The Kingdom of Bali was a series of HinduBuddhist kingdoms that once ruled some parts of the volcanic island of Bali, in Lesser Sunda IslandsIndonesia.

With a history of native Balinese kingship spanning from the early 10th to early 20th centuries, Balinese kingdoms demonstrated sophisticated Balinese court culture where native elements of spirit and ancestral reverence combined with Hindu influences – adopted from India through ancient Java intermediary – flourished, enriched and shaped the Balinese culture.

Because of its proximity and close cultural relations with the neighbouring Java island during the Indonesian Hindu-Buddhist period, the history of Bali Kingdom was often intertwined and heavily influenced by its Javanese counterparts, from Medang c. 9th century to Majapahit empire in 13th to 15th centuries.

The culture, language, arts and architecture of the island was influenced by Java. Javanese influences and presences grew even stronger prompted with the fall of Majapahit empire in the late 15th century. After the empire fell to its Muslim vassal of Demak Sultanate, a number of Hindu Majapahit courtiers, nobles, priests and artisans, found refuge on the island of Bali. As a result, Bali became what historian Ramesh Chandra Majumdar describes as the last stronghold of Indo-Javanese culture and civilisation.

The Balinese Kingdom in subsequent centuries expanded their influence to neighbouring islands. The Balinese Kingdom of Gelgel for example extended their influences to Blambangan region in eastern end of Java, neighbouring island of Lombok, as far as western part of Sumbawa island, while Karangasem established their rule on western Lombok in later period.

Since the mid-19th century, the colonial state of Dutch East Indies began its involvements in Bali, as they launched their campaign against Balinese minor kingdoms one by one. By the early 20th century, the Dutch has completed their conquest of Bali as these minor kingdoms fell under their control, either by force resulted in Puputan fighting followed by mass ritual suicide, or surrendered graciously to the Dutch. Either way, despite some of these Balinese royal houses still surviving, these events ended a millennium of the native Balinese independent kingdoms, as the local government changed to Dutch colonial administration, and later to provincial government of Bali within the Republic of Indonesia.

The historical period in Bali started c. 8th century, marked by the discovery of inscribed Buddhist votive clay tablets. These Buddhist votive tablets, found in small clay stupa figurines called “stupikas“, are the first known written inscriptions in Bali and date from around the 8th century CE. Such stupikas have been found in the regency of Gianyar, in the villages of Pejeng, Tatiapi and Blahbatuh.  The bell-shaped stupikas bears resemblances to the style of the 8th-century stupas of Central Javanese Buddhist art found in Borobudur and other Buddhist temples dated from that period, which suggested the Sailendra link to the Buddhist pilgrims or inhabitant of early Bali’s history. The Belanjong pillar in Sanur (914), one of the earliest inscriptions in Bali

In the early 10th century, a king called Sri Kesari Warmadewa issued the Belanjong pillar inscription found near the southern strip of Sanur beach. It is the oldest inscription found in Bali that names the ruler who issued it. The pillar is dated 914 CE according to the Indian Saka calendarThree other inscriptions by Kesari are known in central Bali, which suggest conflict in the mountainous interior of the island. Sri Kesari is first known ruler to bear the Warmadewa title, which was used by rulers for several generations prior to Javanese expansion.

It is not known precisely where the capital of the kingdom was during the 10th and 11th centuries, but the political, religious and cultural centre of the kingdom may have been in the present-day Gianyar Regency, inferred from the concentration of archaeological finds in this area. The stone cave temple and bathing place of Goa Gajah, near Ubud in Gianyar, was made around the same period. It shows a combination of Buddhist and Hindu Shivaite iconography. Several carvings of stupas, stupikas (small stupas), and image of Boddhisattvas suggested that Warmadewa dynasty was the patron of Mahayana Buddhism. Nevertheless, Hinduism is also practised in Bali during this period.

After knowing the base background of Balinese Kingdom, Let’s get to know one example of the history of the Bali Kingdom in this case we will talk about Kingdom of Bedahul or Bedulu as the first kingdom that stood in the Bali region. The Bali Kingdom was founded around the 8th century to the 14th century. The center of this kingdom is in Pejeng or Bedulu, Gianyar. Referring to history, the Bali Kingdom was led by a group of aristocrats whose leadership was known as Sri Kesari Warmadewa.

According to several inscriptions found, this kingdom was led by kings from the Warmadewa dynasty. The most famous king in the Bali Kingdom is Dharmodhayana Warmadewa who has ruled since 989. He led the kingdom with his empress named Mahendradatha or Gunapriyadharmaptani until 1001. The empress died and was immortalized in a temple located in Berusan Village, or in the southeast of the Bedulu region. Her statue which is the embodiment of Goddess Durga is found in the area of Kutri (Gianyar).

The king Dharmodhayana Warmadewa continued to rule the kingdom until 1011 AD. He died and was rested in a temple at Banu Wka, but until now his whereabouts are unknown. Dharmodhayana and Mahendradatha’s marriage gave birth to a son named Airlangga, who later married a Dharmawangsa daughter and became king on the island of Java, another son named Marakata. After the death of his father, the throne was inherited by a prince named Marakata who had the title Dharmodhyana Wangsawardhana Marakata Panjakasthana Uttunggadewa from 1011 to 1022.

His leadership is highly respected and loved because of his great concern for the people. Because of his glory, he is even considered the incarnation of legal truth. He also built a hermitage (prasada) on Mount Kawi which is located close to the Tampak Siring Palace. The building has a unique characteristic in the form of carvings resembling a temple. At the bottom there is a cave hermitage. Until now, the hermitage building is still well preserved and is also one of the tourist attractions favorited by tourists in Bali.

After Marakata’s legacy, the throne was passed on to his son, Anak Wungsu, from 1049 to 1077. Anak Wungsu left 28 inscriptions and was the largest number of inscriptions compared to the kings who had ruled before. Anak Wungsu has no children. He died and was later offered in the area of Gunung Kawi. In 1430, the Bali Kingdom was led by Raja Dalem Bedahul, before being controlled by Gajah Mada from Majapahit.

Wow such a history! But we will not talk about just the past for you. If you are so interested to look around the Balinese Kingdom and its Inheritance you can still find it in nowadays. There are several relics of the Bali Kingdom that we can visit today, including:

  • Blanjong Inscription
  • Panglapuan Inscription
  • Gunung Panulisan Inscription
  • Relic inscriptions of Anak Wungsu
  • Padas Temple at Gunung Kawi
  • Pura Agung Besakih
  • Mengening Temple
  • Wasan Temple

If you visit Bali later and wants to see or to know more than what you found in this article, you can visit the places above to learn about Balinese Kingdom. Be ready to feel mesmerize by what you will see and hear about the story of Balinese Kingdom from the local guide or citizen. See you soon in Bali!