The Island of Bali remains a cultural aberration in the predominantly Muslim Indonesia. The 17,000 plus islands that define the country of Indonesia have been influence by the Chinese and Indian cultures over the centuries. But it wasn’t until the control of the Indonesia archipelago by Majaphit Empire in the 13th century that Bali culture took on the characteristics that define it today. The Majaphit Empire eventually collapsed with the expansion of Islam into the region and with the collapse many of the intellectuals, scholars, artists and priests fled to the island of Bali along with the last remaining Majaphit king. Many of their traditions, culture and art carry on the beliefs of the ancient Majaphit society.
The Majaphit culture was based on a combination of Hindu and Buddhism beliefs along with an animalist influence. Society was organized around a caste system with a ruling family holding political control. Today, the current geographical and political organization of the Bali Regencies (States), are based on the historical empires of the ruling families that fled to Bali. The ruling families are still located in Bali but their influence has declined and today their function is mainly symbolic.
Bali performing arts have existed for centuries and dance is considered a sacred ritual. Different variations of the dance define its religious significance and dictate who is allowed to watch the performance. Many of the dances represents a communion with the spiritual world.
The dance style varies depending on the type of dance and the gender of the dancer. In the female dancer, the legs are together with knees bent, back arched, and hands at shoulder level. In the male dancer, the legs are open with toes pointing out, shoulders arched upwards. The eyebrows are raised during the dance and causing the eyes to appear enlarged.
Many of the villages in Bali are noted for the arts and crafts. The village of MAS is known of the intricate and detailed wood carvings of figures from everyday Bali life. MAS is located on the road that runs from Denpasar to Ubud. The village of Celuk has numerous gold and silversmith artisans and their ware can range from the simple to the elaborate. You will find the village near the larger town of Sukawati. Batubulan is known for it large stone carvings and the Barong Dance that is performed daily. The a village located in the Gianyar Regency.