‘Puputan Badung’ – The Suicidal Demise of a Kingdom
On 20th September 2006, the island of Bali will celebrate the 100th anniversary of a tragic event with great historical significance. This date commemorates the bloody suicidal battle led by the King of Denpasar against Dutch colonialists. Referred to as ‘the puputan’, or fight until death, this atrocious massacre took place in the heart of Denpasar where a park square is now located.
It is believed that the battle resulted in a chain of events when a cargo ship was wrecked off the coastline of Sanur. The local Balinese people helped to rescue survivors and salvage the cargo. However, the Chinese owner of the ship complained that the Balinese were in fact looting the cargo and this news filtered back to the controlling Dutch authorities. Inevitably the Dutch send a military expedition to investigate the complaint as they had been seeking any opportunity to try and oppress the Balinese. So it wasn’t long before a troop of Dutch soldiers marched into the capital of Denpasar to take up the issue of the shipwreck with the local King.
On the morning of 20th September 1906, the King, his family and literally thousands of followers dressed in white clothing and prepared themselves to meet the Dutch soldiers. Armed with traditional swords, these Balinese warriors were made up of men, women and children, who were united in the quest to defend their King’s honour and reputation.
What should have been a peaceful discussion turned to bloodshed as the Balinese began to run amuk. They invincible charged into a hail of Dutch bullets and then turned their swords on themselves as if to deliberately seek death. It is estimated that over 1000 Balinese, including almost the entire Denpasar royal family as well as women and children were killed in this siege. This imbalance of power during the ‘puputan Badung’ frustrated the Dutch and brought significant shame to them as a colonial power.
The day following the catastrophe a mass cremation ceremony was held with the intention of directing the souls of the deceased to heaven. However, this resulted in a double edged tragedy as many of the remaining women who had not been killed in the battle jumped into the creation fire.
In a final act of arrogance, the Dutch then burnt the great palace of Denpasar to the ground. This incident marked a more complex press for control and foreign administration over the island of Bali and thus the onset of colonial tourism.
Today a monument stands tall at the Puputan Badung community square in front of the Governor of Bali’s residence in central Denpasar. It depicts three warriors bearing traditional weaponry in a stance that recaptures the final moments of glory before purposely seeking a suicidal path.
The Netherlands Indies expedition army during a thrust to Kesiman confronted by road barricades and ambushes built by the Badung troops. 19 September 1906.
Fieldguns in action during the thrust of the Netherlands Indies expedition army to Denpasar. 20 September 1906.
The palace of the second Puputan of Badung where the co-reigning prince of Badung, Gusti Ngurah Made Pamecutan, with his family and faithful followers died on 20 September 1906 between 16.00 and 17.00 in the afternoon. A scene from Puputan in Pamecutan, where the old prince of Pamecutan, Gusti Gde Ngurah Pamecutan with his family and faithful followers found death on the square not far from the Puri (palace). One sees the gold sedan chair in the middle of scores of dead people in the foreground on the right hand of the photo.
The disembarkment of troops of The Netherlands Indies Expedition army from one of transport ships on the roadstead of Pabean Sanur, 14 September 1906.
The mortal remains of the prince of Badung, Gusti Gde Ngurah Denpasar after the Puputan was carried by several faithful followers to the Puri (palace). The mortal remains is seen lying on a litter covered with mats. 20 September 1906.