The Balinese (Indonesian: Suku Bali) are an ethnic group native to the Indonesian island of Bali. Balinese population of 4.2 million (1.7% of Indonesia’s population) live mostly on the island of Bali, making up 89% of the island’s population. There are also significant populations on the island of Lombok, and in the eastern-most regions of Java (e.g. the Municipality of Banyuwangi). It is the most populous Hindu majority island in the world.
The origins of the Balinese came from three periods. The first waves of immigrants came from Java and Kalimantan in the prehistoric times of the proto-Malay stock. Followed by the second wave of Balinese came slowly over the years from Java during the Hindu period. The third and final period came from Java, occurred in between the 15th and 16th centuries, which was about the same time during the conversion of Islam in Java, causing aristocrats and peasants to flee to Bali after the collapse of the Javanese Majapahit Empire in order to escape the Mataram’s Islamic conversion. However, this in turn reshaped the Balinese culture into a syncretic form of classical Javanese culture mixed with many Balinese elements.
Balinese culture is perhaps most known for its dance, drama and sculpture. The culture is noted for its use of the gamelan in music. The island is also known for its form of Wayang kulit or Shadow play/Shadow Puppet theatre. It also has several unique aspects related to their religions traditions. Balinese culture is a mix of Balinese Hindu/Buddhist religion and Balinese custom.
Traditionally, a display of female breasts is not regarded as immodest. Balinese women can often be seen with their bare chest; however, a display of the thigh is considered immodest. In modern Bali these customs are normally not strictly observed, but visitors visiting Balinese temples are advised to cover their legs.
In the Balinese naming system, a person’s rank of birth or caste is reflected in the name.
A puputan is an act of mass suicide through frontal assaults in battle, and was first noted by the Dutch during the colonization of Bali. The latest act of puputan was during the Indonesian war of Independence, with Lt. Colonel I Gusti Ngurah Rai as the leader in the battle of Puputan Margarana. The airport in Bali is named after him in commemoration
The vast majority of the Balinese believe in Agama Tirta, “holy-water religion”. It is a Shivaite sect of Hinduism. Traveling Indian priests are said to have introduced the people to the sacred literature of Hinduism and Buddhism centuries ago. The people accepted it and combined it with their own pre-Hindu mythologies. The Balinese from before the third wave of immigration, known as the Bali Aga, are mostly not followers of Agama Tirta, but retain their own animist traditions.