History – There are times in history in which when Balinese Hindus demand that Hinduism be recognized as a religion, not as a school of belief. From several islands that were conquered by the Dutch in the early 20th century, Bali is one of them. The Dutch began attacking Bali in 1846 and conquered it in 1908.
However, Bali was already well-known among the Orientalists, the reviewers of Eastern life. As to how Michel Picard it called in “What’s in a Name? Balinese Hinduism in The Making” (2004), European Orientalists dubbed Bali as a living museum of Javanese Hinduism civilization. Bali is considered the only successor that lived when Hindu civilization faded on Java after the entry of Islam.
Among European orientalists, a growing understanding that Hinduism was brought into Bali in the 14th century by the Majapahit people. When the influence of Islam pressured Majapahit at that time, Majapahit elites who did not want to convert to Islam, went to Bali to take refuge in the kingdoms led by their brothers in Bali.
The orientalists are happy because the Balinese have preserved Hindu texts and rituals. Still, they are not unanimous in seeing the extent of the compatibility of religious practices in Bali with India. John Crawfurd and Thomas Stanford Raffles looked at the worship of Balinese in temples as a form of superstition so that it could not be called Hindu. Whereas R.H.Th. Friederich saw that the religion practiced in Bali was Hindu.
The debate took place in the 19th century. However, other forms of polemic recognition of religious practices also continue to emerge at a later date, until the time of Bali under the republic.
Balinese Hinduism between Religion and Custom
Outside the orientalist debate about the suitability of Balinese religious practices with India, in Picard’s account, the Orientalists agreed that Hinduism is the core of society, guardians of cultural integrity, and inspiration of Balinese artistic power. Therefore, the Balinese religion must be protected from the influence of other faiths.
The colonial government banned missionaries from operating in Bali in 1881. In 1924, the Roman Catholic mission to Bali was rejected by the Balinese elite, and the colonial officials supported it. Besides, Dutch Protestant missionaries who wanted to enter Bali in 1931 were also opposed.
The Head of the Archeology Department of Batavia F.D.K. Bosch and his staff, an ancient Javanese and Balinese linguist named R. Goris, said missionary preaching would destroy Balinese culture. For Bosch and Goris, the Balinese religion must be recognized as a legitimate part of Hinduism. Meanwhile, missionary H. Kraemer considered the Balinese religion to contain little Hinduism. For Kraemer, the Balinese religion contains magic and superstition, similar to “animism” found in many places in the archipelago.
In the end, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies banned missionaries from entering Bali. However, that could not wholly prevent Protestant or Roman Catholic missions from setting foot in Bali.
Meanwhile, Balinese society also developed and adapted to modernism introduced by Europe. In the early decades of the 20th century, various modern organizations were established in Singaraja, Bali, by teachers and civil servants.
In addition to establishing schools and religious foundations, the organization also publishes Malay-language journals, the lingua franca in the Dutch East Indies. Their views on the Balinese religion, Hinduism, and Balinese culture were channeled through the journal.
There were at least two leading magazines at that time that were often standardized: Bali Adnjana and Surya Kanta. As stated by Anak Agung Gde Putra Agung in Social Change and Caste Conflict in North Bali (2001) that the debate between the two questions the caste system in Bali.
Although the two have different ideologies, Picard noted that leaders of Surya Kanta and Bali Adnjana both wanted to maintain the foundation of Balinese identity. Through the two magazines, the Balinese see themselves as a single entity, “we are Balinese.” Who is the Balinese? What is clear, they interpret the identity of Balinese based on religion and tradition, following their respective interests.
Bali Adnjana was founded by the Santi organization and later received the support of the Tjatoer Wangsa Derja Gama Hindoe Bali. He represented the quarterly vote or the three highest castes in Bali: Brahmins, Kshatriya, and Waysia. The quarterly people want renewal to be carried out slowly while maintaining the caste system. In his articles of association, Santi was established to “denigrate Hindoe Religion” as well as “denigrate Customs and Religion.”
While Surya Kanta was founded by I Ktoet Nasa, he became one of the founders of Santi. However, he wants to voice more about the interests of the Sudra or Jaba groups. Surya Kanta has the aim of “denigrating religion and changing traditions that are contrary to the uniqueness of the times”. The custom in question is what makes Jaba people disadvantaged in Bali.
But which one is called “religion” and which one is “custom”? For Surya Kanta, the Balinese will not understand their religion as long as they do not know the name of their faith. They consider the practices and religious beliefs in Bali that are very diverse do not convert to religion but are customary. In contrast, Bali Adnjana sees diversity as typical because basically, Hinduism is not a true religion.
It is not surprising then that Tjakra Tanaja, the quarterly faction leader in Santi and the founder of Bali Adnjana, proposed that their religion be called “Balinese Hinduism.”
“The name Hindoe Bali Jaitoe which means disregarding the Hindoe Religion that is already available and being cultivated by Bali,” said Bali Adnjana (1926 edition, 3/17: 2).
Whereas I Ktoet Nasa and the Jaba people proposed the name “Balinese Hinduism Religion.” For them, the Balinese are Hindus. To truly become Hindu, the Balinese have to leave things that are additional to religious practice. Responding to this, Bali Adnjana accused Surya Kanta of wanting “pure” Hinduism to be applied in Bali.
In 1936 a magazine called Djatajoe founded the Bali Darma Laksana organization. The editor of this magazine contains former Bali Adnjana, Surya Kanta, and Bhawanagara. The Balinese religious issue and the call to reform it also gained polemic space in this magazine from the start. However, once again, this debate has never been complete, it has even become more complicated because the Balinese also have to face the blurred views of other island natives, adherents of other religions, who consider them to worship idols as well as animists.
After Indonesian Independence
In the end, the term “Balinese Hinduism” was recognized as “religion.” However, to get there, the road was genuinely complicated.
When the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) leader Wahid Hasyim was the Minister of Religion, the wall separating religion and the flow of beliefs was truly built. According to Regulation of the Minister of Religion 9/1952 Chapter VI, the flow of belief is interpreted as “a dogmatic ideology, intertwined with the customs of life of various ethnic groups, especially in the backward ethnic groups.”
Whereas “religion” is defined along the lines of monotheistic Judeo-Christian-Muslim understanding. If a community wants to be recognized as “religious,” they must adhere to an internationally recognized monotheistic creed, taught by a prophet through the scriptures.
In 1952, the Ministry of Religion (now the Ministry of Religion) recognized only three religions of the Indonesian people: Islam, Protestantism, and Catholicism. All those outside are known as non-religious people. All traditions in the archipelago, including Javanese mysticism, are classified as a stream of tribal beliefs. Interestingly, Javanese mysticism adheres to a monotheistic faith.
Based on a review in 1950, the Department of Religion concluded that religious life in Bali contained various polytheistic practices and animism. Therefore, the Balinese religion is classified as a school of belief and is considered as a “non-religious person.”
Balinese public figures do not accept that. “The leaders of the rapidly developing religious reform organizations in Bali agreed to study in India to get a general understanding of their religious principles and practices, adjusting the criteria set by the Indonesian Department of Religion,” Martin Ramstedt said in “Negotiating Identities – Indonesian ‘Hindus’ between local, national, and global interests “(2004).
On June 14, 1958, a joint petition was filed to demand the formation of a Hindu-Balinese section within the Ministry of Religion. This petition argues that Hindu-Balinese is not in conflict with Pancasila.
President Sukarno, who strongly supported “unity,” certainly welcomed the petition. On January 1, 1959, the government established the Bali Hindu Affairs Section in the Ministry of Religion. In the same year, all major religious organizations in Bali merged into a body called Parisada Dharma Hindu Bali.
In 1963, the Bureau was renamed the Bureau of Hinduism in Bali. The following year, Parisada Hindu Dharma Bali changed its name to Parisada Hindu Dharma.
Between 1966-1980, many Javanese in Central and East Java such as the Tengger in the Bromo region, East Java; Bugis To Wani To Lotang, Toraja-Mamasa, Toraja Sa’dan in South Sulawesi; some Karo people in North Sumatra; and the Ngaju and Luangan people in South Kalimantan declare themselves Hindu.
In 1986, Parisada Hindu Dharma changed its name to Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia, so that it could overshadow the community. The formation of this organization became part of the journey of the struggle of Balinese Hindus to demand Hinduism as a religion, not as a flow of belief.