Indonesia has long been a vital center for Hinduism in Southeast Asia. The peak of ancient Hindu kingdoms is thought to have been around the fourth century BC. The intense commercial exchanges with India favored the diffusion of Hinduism in the archipelago. But the cast system imposed by this new religion eventually burdened the population and when the occasion arose, many people turned to Islam. Hindu kings and princes were usually the last ones to convert and they maintained a number of Hindu and even Buddhist traditions, to continue honoring their ancestors.Nowadays, most Hindu believers live in Bali where they form the majority. Ninety percent of the island’s inhabitants adhere to Hinduism. A very small number of Hindu believers are scattered in other regions including East Java and Southeast Sumatra. Only two percent of Indonesia’s population is Hindu.
Balinese Hinduism is characterized by specific features resulting from a mixture between indigenous animistic beliefs and Indian philosophy. Religion is very important for the Balinese. They believe that mountains and volcanoes house the gods, the nature spirits and water as the source of life.
Common offering ritual in Bali.
They venerate three gods: Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. Because they represent three aspects of a same deity, the government recognizes Hinduism as a monotheist religion compatible with the principles of Pancasila.In Bali, the people assiduously follow a lunar calendar determining days for religious festivals and ceremonies. The Balinese Hindu culture is deeply imprinted by the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics, especially visible in dance and theatre. Offerings, prayers, rituals and pilgrimages are constantly going on so visitors will very likely run into some kind of ceremony during their holiday.
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