Bali was inhabited by Austronesian peoples by about 2000 BCE who migrated originally from Taiwan through Maritime Southeast Asia. Culturally and linguistically, the Balinese are thus closely related to the peoples of the Indonesian archipelago, the Philippines, and Oceania.
Stone tools dating from this time have been found near the village of Cekik in the island's west. Balinese culture was strongly influenced by Indian and Chinese, and particularly Hindu culture, in a process beginning around the 1st century AD.
The name Balidwipa has been discovered from various inscriptions, including the Blanjong charter issued by Sri Kesari Warmadewa in 913 AD and mentioning Walidwipa. It was during this time that the complex irrigation system Subak was developed to grow rice.
Some religious and cultural traditions still in existence today can be traced back to this period.
The Hindu Majapahit Empire (1293-1520 AD) on eastern Java founded a Balinese colony in 1343. When the empire declined, there was an exodus of intellectuals, artists, priests and musicians from Java to Bali in the 15th century.
The first European contact with Bali is thought to have been made by Dutch explorer Cornelis de Houtman who arrived in 1597, though a Portuguese ship had foundered off the Bukit Peninsula as early as 1585. Dutch colonial control was expanded across the Indonesian archipelago in the nineteenth century. Their political and economic control over Bali began in the 1840s on the island's north coast by playing various distrustful Balinese realms against each other.
In the late 1890s, struggles between Balinese kingdoms in the island's south were exploited by the Dutch to increase their control. The Dutch mounted large naval and ground assaults at the Sanur region in 1906 and were met by the thousands of members of the royal family and their followers who marched to certain death against superior Dutch force in a suicidal puputan defensive assault rather than face the humiliation of surrender.
Despite Dutch demands for surrender, an estimated 4,000 Balinese marched to their death against the invaders. In 1908, a similar massacre occurred in the face of a Dutch assault in Klungkung.
Afterwards the Dutch governors were able to exercise little influence over the island, and local control over religion and culture generally remained intact. Dutch rule over Bali had come later and was never as well established as in other parts of Indonesia such as Java and Maluku Island.
Imperial Japan occupied Bali during World War II during which time a Balinese military officer, Gusti Ngurah Rai, formed a Balinese 'freedom army'.
In the 1930s, anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, and artists Miguel Covarrubias and Walter Spies and musicologist Colin McPhee created a western image of Bali as "an enchanted land of aesthetes at peace with themselves and nature", and western tourism first developed on the island.
A bombing in 2002 by militant Islamists in the tourist area of Kuta killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.
This attack, and another in 2005, severely affected tourism, bringing much economic hardship to the island.
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Unlike most of Moslem-majority Indonesia, about 93.18% of Bali's population adheres to Balinese Hinduism, formed as a combination of existing local beliefs and Hindu influences from mainland Southeast Asia and South Asia.
Minority religions include Islam (4.79%),Christianity (1.38%), and Buddhism (0.64%).
These figures do not include immigrants from other parts of Indonesia.
Bali consists of about three million people, nearly all of whom practice the Balinese Hindu religion, a heterogeneous amalgam in which gods and demigods are worshipped together with Buddhist heroes, with the spirits of ancestors and with indigenous deities associated with agriculture and with places considered sacred.
Religion as it is practiced in Bali is a composite belief system that embraces not only theology, philosophy, and mythology, but ancestor worship, animism and magic.
It is supposed to pervade every aspect of traditional life.
Bali Hinduism, which has roots in Indian Hinduism and in Buddhism, adopted the animistic traditions of the indigenous people, which inhabited the island around the first millennium BCE.
This influence strengthened the belief that the gods and goddesses are present in all things.
Every element of nature, therefore, possesses its own power, which reflects the power of the gods.
A rock, tree, dagger, or woven cloth is a potential home for spirits whose energy can be directed for good or evil. Balinese Hinduism is deeply interwoven with art and ritual, and is less closely preoccupied with scripture, law, and belief than Islam in Indonesia.
Ritualizing states of self-control are a notable feature of religious expression among the people, who for this reason have become famous for their graceful and decorous behavior
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Balinese and Indonesian are the most widely spoken languages in Bali, and most Indonesians, the vast majority of Balinese people are bilingual ortrilingual.
There are several indigenous Balinese languages, but most Balinese can also use the most widely spoken option: modern common Balinese.
The usage of different Balinese languages was traditionally determined by the Balinese caste system and by clan membership, but this tradition is diminishing.
English is a common third language (and the primary foreign language) of many Balinese, owing to the requirements of the tourism industry.
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Bali is renowned for its diverse and sophisticated art forms, such as painting, sculpture, woodcarving, handcrafts, and performing arts.
Balinese percussion orchestra music, known as gamelan, is highly developed and varied.
Balinese dances portray stories from Hindu epics such as the Ramayana but with heavy Balinese influence. Famous Balinese dances include pendet, legong, baris, topeng, barong, and kecak (the monkey dance).
The Hindu New Year, Nyepi, is celebrated in the spring by a day of silence.
On this day everyone stays at home and tourists are encouraged to remain in their hotels.
On the preceding day large, colorful sculptures of ogoh-ogoh monsters are paraded and finally burned in the evening to drive away evil spirits.
Other festivals throughout the year are specified by the Balinese pawukon calendrical system.
National education programs, mass media and tourism continue to change Balinese culture.
Immigration from other parts of Indonesia, especially Jawa, is changing the ethnic composition of Bali's population.
The Balinese eat with their right hand, as the left is impure, a common belief throughout Indonesia.
The Balinese do not hand or receive things with their left hand and would not wave at anyone with their left hand.
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The province is divided into 8 regencies and 1 city:
4. Denpasar (city)
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