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This blog excerpted from Indonesia Survival kit to help anyone who wants to know a little about Indonesia

9/26/11

History of Bali

An old manuscript, the Catur Yoga, tells of the formation of the world and places Bali in the centre of the universe, as an island resting on the back of a turtle floating in an ocean, beneath a canopy of “perfumed sky, beautiful and full of rare flowers”. Another story tells of a great Javanese priest drawing his finger across the isthmus which joined Bali to Java and cutting the island free. At one time Bali was indeed connected to Java-the strait separating the two islands is just 3 km wide ad no more than 60 metres deep.

9/25/11

Bali

For many westerners, Bali doesn’t extend beyond the tourist leaflet: idyllic tropical beaches, lush green forests and happy islanders who work and play in childlike innocence. This vision of paradise has been turned into a commodity for the tens of thousands of western tourists who flood into Bali’s Kuta Beach every year, who see nothing but Kuta Beach, and go away leaving the sand scarred end to end ith motorcycle tracks. In actual fact the tourist trade is only a peripheral thing; away from the commercial traps of the southern beaches you can still find Bali’s soul, towards the mountain where it has always been. It is there you will find rice paddies tripping down hillsides like giant steps, holy mountains reaching up through the clouds, dense tropical jungles, long sandy beaches, warm blue water and crashing surf. And it’s there you’ll discover the extraordinary resilience of the Balinese people and their culture.

9/24/11

History of Indonesia – The Early Kingdoms: Srivijaya, Shailendra & Mataram

The Sumateran Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya rose in the 7th century AD and while its power has been absurdly romanticized, it nevertheless maintained a substantial international trade – run by Tamils and Chinese. It was the first major Indonesian commercial seapower, able to control much of the trade in South-East Asia by virtue of its control of the Straits of Melaka between Sumatera and the Malay peninsula.

Merchants from Arabia, Persia and India brought goods to the coastal cities to exchange for both local products and goods from China and the spice islands. Silk, porcelain, Chinese rhubarb (peculiar for its medicinal properties) came from China in return for ivory, tortoise shell, rhinoceros horn, cloves, cardamom and pepper, as well as precious wood like ebony and camphor wood, perfumes, pearls, coral, camphor, amber and the dull reddish-white precious stone known as cornelian or chalcedony. Exports to Arabia included aloes for medicinal uses, camphor, sandalwood, ebony and sapanwood (from ehich a red dye is made), ivory, tin and spices. By the 13th century woolen and cotton cloth, as well as iron and rice were being imported by Sumatera.

Meanwhile, on Java, the Buddhist Shailendra and the Hindu Mataram dynasties flourished on the plains of Central Java between the 8th and 10th centuries. While Srivijaya’s trade brought it wealth, these land-based states had far greater manpower at their disposal and left magnificent remains, in particular the vast Buddhist monument of Borobudur and the huge Hindu temple complex of Prambanan.

Thus two types of states evolved in Indonesia. The first, typified by Srivijaya, were the mainly Sumateran coastal states-commercially oriented, their wealth derived from international trade, their cities highly cosmopolitan. In contrast, the inland kingdoms of Java, separated from the sea by volcanoes (like the kingdom of Mataram in the Solo River region), were agrarian cultures, bureaucratic, conservative, with a marked capacity to absorb and transform the Indian influences.

By the end of the 10th century, the centre of power had moved from Central to East Java where a series of kingdoms held sway until the rise of the Majapahit kingdom. This is the period when Hinduism and Buddhism were syncretised and when Javanese culture began to come into its own, finally spreading its influence to Bali. By the 12th century Srivijaya’s power seems to have declined and the empire broke up smaller kingdoms.
 

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