The History of Bali 1343 CE - 1846 CE

The History of Bali 1343 CE - 1846 CE

The History of Indonesia - The History of Bali, Indonesia
The History of Bali - Bali History 1343 CE – 1846 BCE: Middle Historiorical Period


The History of Bali: 1343 CE – 1846 CE 

Middle Historical Period


In the middle historical period,

the Majapahit Empire rule over Bali became complete when Gajah Mada, Prime Minister of the Javanese king, defeated the Balinese king in Bedulu in 1343. The Majapahit capital in Bali was established at Samprangan and later Gelgel. Gelgel remained the paramount kingdom on Bali until the second half of the 17th century.

The rule of the Majapahit marks the strong influx of Javanese culture into Bali, most of all in architecture, dance and the theatre, in literature with the introduction of the Kawi script, in painting and sculpture and the wayang puppet theatre. The few Balinese who did not adopt this culture are still known today as “Bali Aga” (“Original Balinese”) and still live in a few isolated villages.

With the rise of Islam in the Indonesian archipelago, the Majapahit empire finally fell, and Bali became independent at the end of the 15th or beginning of the 16th century, with much of the Javanese aristocracy finding refuge in Bali, bringing an even stronger influx of Hindu arts, literature and religion. According to later chronicles the dynasty of Majapahit origins, established after 1343, continued to rule Bali for 5 more centuries until 1908, when the Dutch eliminated it in the Dutch intervention in Bali (1908). In the 16th century, the Balinese king Dalem Baturenggong even expanded in turn his rule to East Java, Lombok and western Sumbawa.

Around 1540, together with the Islamic advance, a Hindu reformation movement took place, led by Dang Hyang Nirartha, leading to the introduction of the Padmasana shrine in honour of the “Supreme God” Acintya, and the establishment of the present shape of Shiva-worshipping in Bali. Nirartha also established numerous temples, including the spectacular temple at Uluwatu.

The Magellan expedition (1519–1522) is thought to have sighted the island, and early Portuguese and Spanish charts mention the island under various names such as Boly, Bale and Bally. Sir Francis Drake briefly visited the island in 1580.

In 1585, the Portuguese government in Malacca sent a ship to establish a fort and a trading post in Bali, but the ship foundered on the reef of the Bukit peninsula and only 5 survivors could make it ashore. They went into the service of the king of Gelgel, known as the Dalem, and were provided with wives and homes.

In 1597, the Dutch explorer Cornelis de Houtman arrived in Bali with 89 surviving men (out of 249 who had departed). After visits to Kuta and Jembrana, he assembled his fleet in Padang Bai. Enthusiastic, he christened the island “Young Holland” (Jonck Hollandt). They were able to meet with the Dalem, who produced for them one of the Portuguese who had been in his service since 1585, Pedro de Noronha.[

A second Dutch expedition appeared in 1601, that of Jacob van Heemskerck. On this occasion, the Dalem of Gelgel sent a letter to Prince Maurits, a translation of which was sent by Cornells van Eemskerck. This letter was subsequently used by the Dutch in their claims to the island:

"God Be Praised
The King of Bali sends the King of Holland his greetings. Your Admiral Cornelis van Eemskerck has come to me, bringing me a letter from Your highness and requesting than I should permit Hollanders to trade here as freely as the Balinese themselves, wherefore I grant permission for all who You send to trade as freely as my own people may when they visit Holland and for Bali and Holland to be one.
This is copy of the King's letter, which was given to me in the Balinese language and which Emanuel Rodenbuch has translated into Dutch. There was no signature. It will also be sent from me to you.

7 July 1601, Cornells van Eemskerck.

Slave and opium trade

Dutch records of contacts with Bali in the 17th and 18th century are extremely scarce. Although the VOC (Dutch East Indian Company) was very active in the Moluccas, Java and Sumatra, it took little interest in Bali. The opening of a trading post was attempted in 1620, with the mission given to the First Merchant Hans van Meldert to purchase "rice, beasts, provisions, and women". The enterprise was abandoned in the face of hostile relations with the kings of Bali, and Meldert returned with only 14 female slaves.

Besides these attempts, the VOC left the Bali trade to private traders, mainly Chinese, Arab, Bugis and occasionally Dutch, who mainly dealt with opium and slave trade. According to Hanna, "Balinese slaves were highly prized both in Bali and oversease. Balinese male slaves were famous for their manual skills and their courage, the females for their beauty and artistic attainments". The kings of Bali would typically sell as slaves opponents, debtors, criminals or even orphans or widows. Such slaves would be used in Batavian households, the Dutch Colonial Army, or sent abroad, the biggest market being French Mauritius. Payment to the Balinese kings would usually be made in opium. The main port for this trade was the harbor of Buleleng in north Bali. The English also started to make various attempts to participate in the Balinese trade, to the great worry of the Dutch.

Local conflicts

Attempts were made for alliances between the Dutch and the Balinese in their conflicts with the Mataram Sultanate of Java. In 1633, the Dutch, who were themselves at war with Mataram sent an ambassador, Van Oosterwijck, to obtain the collaboration of the King of Bali in Gelgel, who was apparently preparing a similar offensive against Mataram. The attempt failed however. When Mataram invaded Bali in 1639, Dewa Agung requested Dutch help in vain, and finally succeeded in repelling Mataram alone. After 1651 the Gelgel kingdom began to break up due to internal conflicts. In 1686 a new royal seat was established in Klungkung, four kilometers north of Gelgel. The rulers of Klungkung, known by the title Dewa Agung, were however unable to maintain power over Bali. The island was in fact split in nine minor kingdoms (Klungkung, Buleleng, Karangasem, Mengwi, Badung, Tabanan, Gianyar, Bangli, Jembrana). The various kingdoms fought a succession of wars among themselves, although they accorded the Dewa Agung a symbolic paramount status. This situation lasted until the coming of the Dutch in the 19th century.

Franco-Dutch alliance with Bali (1808)

Herman Willem Daendels signed a Franco-Dutch alliance with the Balinese king of Badung in 1808.

For a brief period, in 1806-1815, the Netherlands became a province of France, and Bali was thus in contact with a Franco-Dutch administration. Napoleon handpicked a new Governor-General, the “Iron Marshall” Willem Daendels, sent ships and troops to reinforce the East Indies against British attacks, and had military fortifications built through the length of Java. A treaty of alliance was signed in 1808 between the new administration and the Balinese king of Badung, to provide workers and soldiers for the Franco-Dutch defensive effort, but Java fell to the British in 1811, and the agreement was not implemented.

Conflict with Great Britain (1814)

During the British occupation of the East Indies by Stamford Raffles (which lasted from 1811 until 1816, right after the fall of the Napoleonic Empire), the British made fruitless advances to the Balinese kings. Raffles’ abolition of slavery on the contrary triggered the indignation of the Rajas of Buleleng and Karangasem, who sent a military expedition against Blambangan, where they fought British Sepoys in February 1814. In May, Raffles sent an expeditionary force to Bali under Major General Nightingale to obtain assurances of “submission”. Raffles himself visited the island in 1815.

Return of the Netherlands (1816)

The British returned the East Indies to the Netherlands in 1816. After that, the Dutch endeavoured to reassert and reinforce their control over their colonial possessions. This would open the way to a much more assertive Dutch presence in the East Indies and Bali. Raffles, still looking for an island to colonize, finally settled on Singapore.

A first special commissioner named H.A. van der Broek was sent to sign “concept contracts” with the Balinese kings, which the kings did not accept, but became quasi-valid in the mind of the Dutch.

Meanwhile, a few European traders managed to act as intermediaries between Bali and Europe, such as the Danish merchant Mads Lange, nicknamed the “White king of Bali”.