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Last updated : Nov 2009
Bali Culture Guide
Bali Culture Guide - TravelPuppy.com
The Balinese culture is unique. It is said that the Balinese people have reached self-content. When a Balinese is asked what heaven is like, he would say, just like Bali, without the worries of mundane life. The Balinese want to live in Bali, be cremated in Bali when they die, and to reincarnate in Bali.

The Balinese don't resist changes but adapt them to their own system. This goes back in history. Before the arrival of Hinduism in Bali and in other parts of Indonesia, the locals practised animism. When Hinduism arrived, the practice of Hinduism was adapted to local practices. The type of Hinduism practised in Bali is much different from that in India. Many other aspects of life flow this way.

Traditional paintings, depicting religious and mythological symbolisms, melded with Western and modern paintings, giving birth to contemporary paintings, free in its creative topics yet distinctively Balinese. Its music, dance and its wayang theaters, while continually enriched by contemporary and external artistry, are still rich with religious connotations, performed mostly to appease and to please the gods and the goddesses.

Stone and wood carvings, gold and silver crafts parallel the development of paintings, evolving with external forces to enhance their characters. The batik of Bali owes its beginnings to Java, and inspired the development of ikat and double ikat.

The lifestyles of Balinese is expressed in their dance. Their dances not only teach us about the Balinese religion from their dance creations but also we can come to understand the flow of cultural events and activities that belong to everyday life. We can learn Balinese attitudes, how they look at nature, and how they regard their fauna and flora.

The very essence of the Balinese culture is drama and dance, which is performed during temple festivals and in ceremonies. The dances performed in some hotels is only a small fraction of what Balinese dance has to offer.

Balinese dance goes as far back as Balinese written history with much of the origins coming from Java. As a result of the Islamisation of Java, the Javanese culture disappeared but still survives in Bali and has become part of classical Balinese culture.

Balinese dance cannot be separated from their religion. Even the dances for the visitors are preceded by dancers praying at their family shrine for taksu (inspiration) from the gods.

Dance fills a number of specific functions: It may be used as a channel for visiting gods or demons, with the dancers acting as a sort of living repository. It may be as a welcome for visiting gods or it may be entertainment for visiting gods.

The typical style and posture of Balinese dance has the legs half-bent, the torso shifted to one side with the elbow raised and lowered in a gesture that displays the hands and fingers. The torso is moved in symmetry with the arms. If the arms are to the right, the move is to the left and vice-versa.