A friendly and remarkably artistic people, living amid breathtaking panoramas, have created dynamic society with unique arts and ceremonies, making Bali an island almost unreal in today’s hectic and changing world. Terraced rice fields dominate the landscape with rivers and small irrigation streams dissecting a luscious green landscape, filling the air with enchanting sounds of running water.
Art and culture are strongly bonded to Bali’s unique form of Hinduism called (Hindu Darma). Classical dance dramas for example, are based on the old Hindu epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabarata, but contain an element of local folklore, particular to the island. The very soul of Bali is rooted in religion and is expressed in art forms that have been passionately preserved over the centuries. It seems that almost every person is an artist, spending free time applying skills and images which have been passed down from generation to generation and grasped from a very young age. Whether expressed through beautiful and intricate paintings and dances, extraordinary carvings, superb weaving or even in decorations made myriad shrines which can be found in public area, on roads, in paddy field or in homes, the island is alive with art.
One of the approximately 14,000 islands that comprise the Indonesian archipelago, Bali anchors east of Java, separated by the small Strait of Bali, and surrounded by the Java Sea on the north, the Indian Ocean on the south, and the Strait of Lombok on the east. A string of volcanic mountains crown the northern part of Bali, with Gunung Agung (Mount Divine, literally) as the tallest at 3,142 meters. This volcano, as well as Mount Batukaru, Mount Batur, and Mount Merebuk is still active.
Extremely important to the agricultural life of Bali, especially for rice crop, the rivers of Ayung, Unda, Sungsang, Balian, Yeh Sumi, Petanu, and Saban carry the water from the highland to the seas. There are four major lakes: Lake Batur at the crater of Mount Batur, Lake Buyan, Lake Bratan, and Lake Temblingan.
Bali enjoys tropical weather, being only a few degrees south of the equator. It means that the sun rises at 6 AM in the morning and sets at 6 PM in the afternoon, everyday of the year. It means that temperature variation is very small, averaging around 26-30 Celcius, and it does not have four seasons (except the hotel, of course). It only has a wet season, typically from September to February, and a dry season for the other half of the year. But the difference is marginal; at the peak of the wet season you will see about a half-hour to an hour serious downpour in the afternoon, about perfect for a siesta. The rest of the time: nice, warm temperature, especially with a twist of sea breeze in the beaches of Kuta or Nusa Dua.
This climate endows Bali with a number of unique vegetation, including waringin trees (banyan), salak Bali, and a multitude of flowers from a very fragrant cempaka (Michelia champaca) to literally thousand kinds of orchids. Its fauna is equally rich. Bali is the native land to the Bali Tiger, which is almost extinct; Bali cattle, graceful animals not like other cows; bats that haunt caves like the Bat Cave near Kusamba; sea turtles of Nusa Dua; Jalak Bali or Bali Sterling (Leucopsar rothschildi) that has inspired countless number of painters and artists.
In 1990, the population of Bali is 2,778,000, 93.18% are Hindus, with a density of 500 persons per sq km, and an average growth of 1.18%. Bali’s economy is one of the most vivacious in Indonesia, fueled by constant flow of tourism dollars and supported by agricultural production and trade revenues. Balinese people are gifted artists, producing garment, and arts & crafts that are exported. In addition to gorgeous nature and enchanting people and culture, Bali is also endowed with fertile land. Its economy is growing at close to 9% per year, with export values close to $150 millions.
Amongst the thousands of islands that are beautifully arranged from west to east in Indonesia, Bali is peacefully seated in the eastern part of the tropical country. Occupying an area of 5.632 kilometer, Bali’s beauty sparks out as a dramatic view but overshadowed with the arrogance of the active volcanoes. The Bali’s mountainous area divides the island into northern and southern parts.
Its exoticism lies on the beautiful silhouette of its white-sand beaches. Outside the main island, Bali promotes some of tiny islands on, they are Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, Ceningan & Menjangan Island that are undeniably paradises for divers and surfers.
Balinese puts high respect for the natural elements, including mountains, sea, springs, like lakes, rivers and other elements. They get acquainted with their physical existence while upholding a philosophy of being the sources for life. Hence, the nature and all the important elements have special space in the hearts of Balinese. The Balinese include them as important constituents in its spiritual and religious activities, exceptionally for Mount Agung, the highest mountain in Bali (3,141 meter) and Besakih Temple (the mother temple) of Balinese Hindus on its feet.
Traditions and Religions
Bali is densely populate & with over 3.5 million people, almost all of the Balinese Hindu Religion. The Hindu people retain the basic values that teach them of balance and harmony of all aspects in life, which is Tri Hita Karana.
Tri Hita Karana is a guidance on how to have a harmonious relationship with surrounding nature (Pawongan), others people (Pelemahan) and with Ida Hyang Widhi Wasa/God The Almighty (Parahyangan). The commitment to maintain and manifest the fundamental values into daily living is the thing that keeps Bali unique in life dynamic.
Balinese Hindus celebrates Galungan day and Kuningan day once in every six month and celebrate the New Year with special rituals called NYEPI. The Nyepi celebration is started with the conduct of catur Brata Penyepian (four forbidden things to do during the change of Saka Year) which includes amati geni (no light), amati lelunggaan (no trip), amati lelangguan (no entertainment) and amati karya (no activity). During Nyepi, all places in Bali for 24 hours will be left in silent and free from activities, including those in airport, harbours, terminals, and roads.
Synergy of Culture, Nature and Spiritual
Bali gives high values to nature, culture and spiritual life, which are all in synergy to create harmony and peace in the island.
Bali’s charm is not only anchored in the beautifully crafted paddy terrace which is watered by Subak system (a system that has been implemented for many years). The island captures the heart of tourists through a selection of dance and cultural ritual festivities also in spiritual awareness that make strong foundation to live their life. Besides, the honesty of the Balinese attains great respect from the other people.
Bali is gifted with rich nature. Not mention the fertile soil, abundant water resources, or friendly but cool weather, Bali’s land lets grow any plants. From rice produced at stunning paddy terrace to any plants and range of colourful flowers made for rituals, such as banyan tree, coconut, plumeria, lotus, hibiscus, cempaka and other plants, its own characteristics Bali defines.
For Balinese, nature and plants are highly respected elements. In fact, they have special event to give deep salute to the plants, which is Tumpek Uduh. So many rituals you will meet in Bali are mostly to bring harmony into life, either on the sea or springs, forests, and other places.
A bounce of cultural attractions and creations from Bali have been put on stage everywhere in the world. People admire every move on Balinese dances, spirit behind the gamelan, the story of the puppet show, beautiful crafts, brilliant paintings, clothes, and other art and cultural designs.
Beyond the creativity, the deep understanding to the tradition and decency to present a masterpiece of art to the Great Creator, Ida Hyang Widhi Waca, also plays important role in cultural creations and attractions.
Spiritual activities in Bali are most dominated by Hindu rituals. Everyday in life in the island of thousands of temples, a spiritual activity takes place, especially on sacred days for Hindu people.
A spiritual event also takes place to mark each phase of life from the day of the birth, into childhood, adulthood, wedding ceremony until they are departed. One ritual process for the departed, called Ngaben, is in fact famous amongst the international community.
Attractions – The Colour of Celebration
Do not worry that you will miss interesting things in Bali. There are more to see than its amazing nature and culture, such as how Balinese live their daily life. There is always a spiritual presentation in efforts to keep the nature and the God’s creatures all in balance. Balinese celebrates life with full of joy reflecting the purity and gratitude to the life creator, Ida Hyang Widhi Wasa (God the Almighty).
To bring harmony into life, a Balinese has conducted some stages of spiritual procession since they were still in womb. They ride through the birth, maturity and mortality period with gratefulness and ceremonial procession. What an interesting event to follow through.
Bali, mostly Hindu/followers, lists a number of spiritual events, including a ritual event once on full moon or sleeping moon (tilem), great day of Galungan and Kuningan, and other sacred days. Through this event, they express gratefulness to God’s blessings on life.
Balinese celebrates the change of year (year of caka) in unique way, the one and only in the world. The change of year in Bali is celebrated as Nyepi. The Nyepi procession is began with some ceremonials aimed at self-resurrection and natural rejuvenation to welcome the new days. They wash the ceremonial equipment on the sea or springs to bring back the purity. Then during Nyepi, Balinese remains dormant by conducting catur brata penyepian (four challenges on Nyepi day) that consist of: Amati Geni (no fire including furious feeling inside), Amati Lelanguan (no entertainment), Amati Lelungaan (no trip) and Amati Karya (no activity). On Nyepi, there appear no activity at the airport, harbours, and all roads in Bali.
Bali is kept in silent, dark around, and goes meditative.
Lombok is an island in the West Nusa Tenggara province of Indonesia. It is part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with the Lombok Strait separating it from Bali to the west and the Alas Strait between it and Sumbawa to the east.
Lombok and Bali are separated by the Lombok Strait. It is also part of the bio-geographical boundary between the fauna of Indo-Malaysia and the distinctly different fauna of Australasia. The boundary is known as the Wallacean Line, after Alfred Russell Wallace who first remarked upon the striking difference between animals of Indo-Malaysia and those of Australasia and how abrupt the boundary was between the two biomes.
Calling Lombok paradise does not mean it is all things for all people. With a few exceptions, the natural landscape and the traditional way of life have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. Virtually all small to medium size businesses are run by local families. Many of these businesses sell a wide variety of merchandise, where villagers can find food, hardware, and toys all in a single small store. While it is possible to find five-star hotels run by global corporations this is the exception not the rule. The ubiquitous global fast food franchises are restricted to two outlets in the precincts of Mataram Mall in the main City of Lombok and are well sign-posted.
In the Indigenous language of the Sasak people of Lombok the word lombok “”(luum-book) which literally translates into Bahasa Indonesian as as lurus (Enstraight ahead).
A common misunderstanding is that the name of the island Lombok is derived from the Bahasa Indonesian meaning of lombok which is chilli or (cabe in Bahasa Indonesian) as is thought by many visitors and some Indonesians from other parts of the archipelago.
History of tourism
The dominant Sasak culture in Lombok and the very restrained and quiet nature of its people may help explain why Lombok is less popular in terms of shopping, cuisine, and nightlife than Bali. Lombok is however becoming increasingly popular with tourists and honeymooners who want to relax in an inexpensive, tropical, un-crowded atmosphere, with many natural treasures and majestic scenery. Nothing happens quickly in Lombok and visitors who are stressed from their daily lives find Lombok a delightful place to unwind.
The anticipated tourism boom has been halted on several occasions. In 2000, mobs of the ethnic Sasak people, ostensibly provoked by fundamentalist Muslim agitators, diverted from a trip to Maluku, looted and burned churches as well as homes and businesses owned by Hindus and ethnic Chinese. These actions were actively resisted by many of the Sasak people and brought on a swift response from the authorities to protect the tourism precincts of the island. The bombing of nightclubs in Bali in 2002 and the further explosions in 2005 further exacerbated the fears held by foreign tourists. For many years the embassies of several countries have issued stern travel advisory warnings against travel to Indonesia. The ensuing years have remained very peaceful in Lombok. In the years 2010-2011 tourists appear to have regained some confidence that travel to the island is safe. The fears and apprehension amongst many international tourists concerning travel to Lombok appear to be entirely unsupported. Aside from minor and very isolated incidents of petty theft and the normal dangers of travelling on the roads in Indonesia the island remains a quiet, peaceful and safe destination for visitors. Lombok is a relaxing place, the warm tropical sun can normally slowly melt a sense of urgency and a hurried pace off most visitors
A new international airport the Bandara Udara Internasional Lombok and associated infrastructure is currently being built in central southern Lombok. The new airport is expected to be in operation sometime in 2011.
Lombok has a rich and enduring indigenous culture that has withstood the pressures of modernity remarkably well. The strong remnant culture and history of the Sasak people is one of the many unique attractions of the island. The island has of a total population of 3,166,685 (as of 2010 Census), 85% are indigenous Sasak people whose origins are thought to have arisen from Java in the first millennium BC. Other residents include an estimated 10–15% Balinese, with the small remainder being Tionghoa-peranakan, Javanese, Sumbawanese and Arab Indonesians. The Sasak people are culturally and linguistically closely related to the Balinese, but unlike the Hindu Balinese, the majority practice local Muslim faith and traditions.
Some have described Islam as being first brought to Lombok by traders arriving from Sumbawa in the 17th century who then established a following in eastern Lombok. Other accounts describe the first influences arriving in the first half of the 16th century. The palm leaf manuscript Babad Lombok contains the history of Lombok and describes how Sunan Prapen was sent by his father, The Susuhunan Ratu of Giri, on a military expedition to Lombok and Sumbawa in order to convert the population and propagate the new religion. However the new religion took on a highly syncretistic character, frequently mixing animist and Hindu-Buddhist beliefs and practices with Islam. This remained so until a more orthodox Sunni characterised version of Islam slowly began to become popular in the beginning of the 20th century. The Indonesian government agamaization programs (acquiring of a religion) in Lombok during 1967 and 1968 led to a period of some considerable confusion in religious allegiances and practices. These agamaization programs later led to the emergence of more conformity in religious practices in Lombok.
[A historic group portrait of Sasak chiefs of the island of Lombok, late 1800’s]
A notable non-orthodox Islamic group found only on Lombok are the Wektu Telu (“Three Prayers”), who as the name suggests pray only 3 times daily, instead of the 5 times stipulated in the Quran. Many of the Waktu Telu beliefs are entwined with animism. Waktu Telu has influences not only of Islam, but also Hinduism and pantheistic beliefs. There are also remnants of Boda (people without a religion) who maintain Pagan Sasak beliefs.
Before the arrival of Islam Lombok experienced a long period of Hindu and Buddhist influence that reached the island through Java. To this day a minority Balinese Hindu culture remains strong in Lombok.
The Hindu minority religion is still practised in Lombok alongside the majority Muslim religion. Hinduism is followed by the many ethnic Balinese who have travelled across the Lombok Strait from Bali as well as some people of indigenous Sasak origin.
All the main Hindu religious ceremonies are celebrated in Lombok and there are many villages throughout Lombok that have a Hindu majority population. According to local legends two of the oldest villages on the island, Bayan and Sembalun, were founded by a prince of Majapahit.
The Nagarakertagama, the 14th century palm leaf poem that was found on Lombok, places the island as one of the vassals of the Majapahit empire. This manuscript contained detailed descriptions of the Majapahit Kingdom and also affirmed the importance of Hindu-Buddhism in the Majapahit empire by describing temple, palaces and several ceremonial observances.
Lombok experienced a period of Balinese occupation until the Dutch colonial government reinstated the Sasak rulers in the early 1890s following a direct appeal from the deposed Sasak rulers to the Dutch colonialists asking them to assist in driving out the Balinese occupiers. After a protracted, costly and destructive military campaign the Dutch eventually overwhelmed the Balinese with a bloody battle fought around Ampernan and Mataram. The Dutch took the Nagarakretagama manuscript as part of the valuable Lombok treasure taken as war-booty from the destroyed palace of Mataram-Cakranagara in Lombok in 1894. Following the defeat of the Balinese occupiers the people of Lombok remained under Dutch colonial control of the Netherlands East Indies until the Japanese occupied Lombok in the 1940s.
The Christian minority religion is actively practised in Lombok by some of Chinese ethnicity and other Indonesians especially those from East Nusa Tenggara.
There is also a small Arab community in Lombok whose history dates back to early settlement by traders from Yemen. The small community is still evident mainly in Ampenan, the old port of Mataram and retain many of their own traditions.
A UNHCR refugee centre was established some years ago in Lombok. Recently people of Iraqi origin have arrived in Lombok under the provisions of this UNHCR program. Many of the displaced have remained in a state of limbo in Lombok whilst trying to seek immigration to nearby Australia or elsewhere. Some of these refugees have intermarried with Lombok residents, this adding adding their own subtle cultural influence to Lombok.
There are also a small number of people predominantly of European, Australian and New Zealand origins who are resident or semi-permanent residents of Lombok. Some are retirees, others have business activities in Lombok or nearby or they are employed in the mining industries of Nusa Tenggara Barat (NTB’). Most are living in the coastal areas of West Lombok.
Lombok has individual settlers and small communities of Indonesian people from other areas including Bali,Jawa, Sumbawa, and Timor as well as other areas of Indonesia but the prevailing and dominant culture remains that of the Sasak people.
Many influences of animist belief still prevail within the Sasak community. Traditional magic is widely practised to ward off evil and illness, to seek good fortune or to assist with the resolution of disputations and personal antipathy. There are a range of outcomes sought from local Dukun (traditional healer and magician) ranging from love spells to death. Thieves will often have magic used upon them so that their bodies will become ‘hot’ leading to a confession, a frequent trespasser may become disoriented and become ‘lost’ or a boy may fall under a girls spell of desire and fall in love with her. Magic may be practised by an individual alone but normally a person experienced in such things is sought out to render a service. Normally money or gifts are made to this person in return for their services and the most powerful practitioners are treated with considerable respect.
While tropical, hot and humid, Lombok is drier than neighbouring Bali, which makes it a particularly attractive option during the Oct-Apr rainy season (it rains on Lombok too, but rarely for more than an hour or two). The peak of the tourist season, though, is May-August.
The main local language is Bahasa Sasak, the language of the indigenous Sasak people of Lombok. Bahasa Sasak is normally spoken throughout Lombok and has dialectal variations across the island. Bahasa Indonesia is also spoken or at least understood by many local people and will normally be used in government offices, larger shops and businesses. In the more remote and undeveloped areas of Lombok however, Bahasa Indonesia is not frequently used and often cannot be understood by the local people, especially the elderly and those who have missed out on formal schooling.
English is reasonably common in the resort areas and occasionally some other European languages are spoken by people involved in the tourism sector.