Bali, widely known as the "Island of a Thousand Temples", the "Isle of Paradise", the "Gem of the Tropics" and a host of others.
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Background: Bali, widely known as the "Island of a Thousand Temples", the "Isle of Paradise", the "Gem of the Tropics" and a host of others. To many Indonesians Bali is known as "Pulau Dewata" - Isle of Gods.
This island is situated in the Indonesian archipelago of the cast of Java, 93 miles long and 50 miles wide with a total area of 2,095 square miles. The southern part of Bali is densely populated. Strips of paddies and vegetable plots are to be seen lining the roads or tucked away in seemingly inaccessible ravines.
Agriculture is the main occupation, with rice the principle crop. Along the coasts, the villagers also engage in fishing. The population or Bali is predominantly rural. With the exception of small cities like Denpasar (capital) and Singaradja, most of the people live in or around the hundreds of villages scattered over the island.
Java and Bali were colonized some two thousand years ago by Indian trades who amalgamated the indigenous cultures with Hinduism. With the diffusion of Islam throughout Indonesia at the end of 15th, century, Bali managed to resist Mohammadans and became a refuge for the Hindu Majapahit princes who fled from java and brought with them their artists and craftsmen, and thus enriched the old Balinese civilization and art. Today, apart from the Hindu-Balinese people, there are communities of Moslem immigrants living around the coast and of Chinese merchants who have settled in big towns.
Bali has a relative prosperity. Tourism has been a tremendous stimulus to the economy. Tourism, which is one of the great sponsors of Bali art, tends to encourage the artists to produce more of the same kind of work faster. The result has been a decline in the standard of the art, as more and more people turn their hands to painting or carving in an attempt to cash in on the new boom. While there is always a backbone of conscientious artists doing good work, the fact that art is becoming a business due to side effects of tourism.
b. SARONG WEAVING
Balinese, whether working or rejoicing, wear tasteful, uncomplicated clothes sensibly suited to the climatic conditions of the country. Both sexes customarily wear sarongs, the only garment regularly worn. Though some women still expose their breasts, unfortunately this custom is fast disappearing in the 20th, century Bali. During ceremonies, the simple sarong is often discarded in favour of more magnificent costumes.
Balinese are the most hardworking people of the Indonesian group. The women, apart from working in the fields, also retain their artistic skills. Sarong weaving is done by women in the villages, and has become a cottage industry. Most of the sarongs are used locally and some are exported to other parts of Indonesia. The sarongs women in Bali are different from bateks of Java. They are more multi-colour type and worn mostly by men, while women prefer to wear bateks of Java origin.
Balinese, partly because of their tremendous energy, have developed one of the richest cultures in Asia. In Bali, work is art, life itself is art, everything is art - and art is everything. Everyone is an artist in Bali. Skills like woodcarving are passed down from father to son.
Bali woodcarving are of various forms. Some in form of sculptures and busts while others are of sceneries and of religious mood. A fairly big sculpture of a court dancer may take abut 3-5 weeks to complete and costs approximately 50 US Dollars. Small sculpture as shown int he early rolls take as long as 5-7 days and cost about 8 to 10 dollars. Carvings on a board of 2ft. by 5ft. takes as long as 1 1/2 months to complete and fetches as high as 50 to 60 Dollars.
Much of the carvings are exported to other Asian cities, Australia, Europe and America. Some are sold locally to tourists.
In direct contrast to the more touching and beautiful arts of Bali is the ritual of cock-fighting. This originated, obviously, as a religious practice in which blood is shed to appease gods. Although cockfighting is totally banned in Java, it has been allowed to flourish in Bali because of its religious connotations. It has degenerated into a chronic form of gambling for most Balinese people today and, being the most popular hobby, it frequently brings great misery to many families because of gambling associated with it.
Cockfighting is held all over the villages throughout the year. Some villages hold the game once every month or every fortnight, while others hold on big occasions such as during religious celebrations.
It takes place in special arenas, which are found all over the island, and is attend exclusively by men. The cocks are taken to the arena in bamboo baskets and cages. Before the fight, steel blades about 4 - 5 inches long are attached as spurs to the left foot of the cocks - left foot gives a stronger striking power. Eights do not usually last very long. Death quickly follows the first strike given by the sharp blade.
The fighting is usually sponsored by village bodies who collect entrance fees - about 50 cts. US from each spectator - and "dividends" from winning owners for village welfare. All collections are tax free.
Bettings between cock owners are usually an high as 50 US dollars on each fight and bettings among spectators are equally high. Cock owners even bet with spectators. Thus owners of fighting cocks are normally well-to-do people, who can afford to won scores of there well trained birds as well as enough to meet any challenge from the spectators and their opponents.