National Geographic : 1969 Nov
Volcano-studded isle, Bali hangs like a glowing emerald in the necklace of the In donesian archipelago (inset). Lava-flanked peaks, two of them malevolently active, roof the island's 90-mile length; streams tilt down southern slopes shingled with fertile pad dies. Though Java lies only a mile away, fierce currents and reefs long isolated the is land, favoring development of its distinctive culture. Balinese account for 2,300,000 of the 115,000,000 people of Indonesia, sixth most populous nation in the world after China, India, the Soviet Union, the United States, and Pakistan. episode that occurred shortly after the turn of this century. It seems the Balinese looted a Chinese ship wrecked off Bali, and China asked reparations of the Dutch colonial gov ernment. The Dutch in turn asked the Bali nese to pay, and laid siege to Denpasar after the islanders refused. Warships raked the town with cannon, while ashore Dutch troops demanded surrender. Ill-equipped to fight, the reigning prince marched his wives and children, his generals, and all his followers in resplendent procession out of the palace gates. Borne upon his men's shoulders and shaded by the gold umbrella of state, he led his barefoot band majestically, yet suicidally, into a hail of Dutch bullets. To the last warrior, woman, and infant, they were cut down alongside their fallen prince. In final defiance, the wounded impaled them selves upon the blades of their krises. Today a shrine commemorating this pupu tan-fight to the end-stands in Denpasar, tenderly showered with offerings of flowers. Prince Agung gave me a bear hug. "Enough talk of the past. Let's eat." I protested that it was only midmorning. "Nonsense, we Balinese eat by the stomach, not the clock," he countered. When rice and chicken arrived, I looked in vain for utensils. "Why use spoons or forks when God has given us fingers?" he inquired. The chicken I could manage, but eating rice with fingers was more difficult than I would have imagined. The household dog must have sensed my clumsiness, for he stationed himself at my feet. He was not disappointed. While towns like Ubud, Denpasar, and Klungkung were citadels of the radjas, the true spirit of Bali springs from its hundreds of hamlets. When the Madjapahit aristocracy withered, the innovative Balinese revitalized their unique system of village self-government, called bandjar, which still flourishes. 666 Every married male must join a bandjar, thereby participating in all community activi ties. When a house needs rethatching, every one shares the task (page 664). The bandjar arranges such important events as marriages, cremations, temple repairs, and cockfights; it even sustains a communal treasury for loans to members. So powerful is this village spirit that the bandjars have withstood Indonesia's war of independence and later Communist attempts to destroy them. In 1949, after four years of violent guerrilla warfare, the Netherlands surrendered its sovereignty over Indonesia. Bali eventually became a province in the new republic.* Su karno (many Indonesians use only one name) was proclaimed president, drafted the coun try's constitution, then set about forging one *See "Indonesia, the Young and Troubled Island Na tion," by Helen and Frank Schreider, NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC, May 1961.