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Balinese Civilization and Three Sages from Java  

by on Wednesday, 23 July 2008No Comment | 1,939 views

The development of Balinese civilization has a quite long history. The first evidences of human appearance in Bali date back to the Stone Age, tens of thousands years ago, with the founding of few artifacts that are believed to be reminiscent of small bands of hunter-gatherers. From that time civilization in Bali develops, and survives until present days. It is obvious that during thousands years of development many outside influences have great contribution in shaping the Balinese civilization, and among many sources of significant outside influences, the sages from Java gave significant contribution to religious, social, and political aspect of Balinese civilization.

Many Javanese sages came to Bali but only three of them gave significant influences to Balinese civilization; they were Rsi Markandya, Mpu Kuturan, and Danghyang Nirartha.


Rsi Markandeya, a great Waisnawa Hindu saint, came to Bali from Java around the end of the 7th century. He and 800 of his followers came from Mount Raung in the Basuki area of East Java to settle down in Bali, precisely on Mount Agung area but many of them died from illness or were taken by wild animals. Markandya returned in sorrow to mount Raung to seek clarification from the God. After receiving divine advice and realized that the reason for the gods’ displeasure was that he did not perform the correct rituals, he went back to Bali with fewer followers, from the village of Aga. They performed the ceremony of burying the Five Metals (pancadatu) – gold, silver, iron, copper and precious stone – at a place on the slopes of Mount Agung. This place is now called Pura Basukian. They settled in the areas around Campuan, Taro, Tegalalang and Payangan and the present temple area of Besakih.

Rsi Markandeya is credited with introducing settled farming technique and establishing the basic institutions of society, including the subaks (the irrigation societies), desa (the village) and banjars (sub-village organizations). He is also credited for establishing Besakih temple, the mother temple of Bali.

Mpu Kuturan was a great sage from Java, who came to Bali at 11 AD by request of King Udayana and his queen, Gunapriadharmapatni. At that time in Bali, there were six larger sects of “faith” and three smaller ones – all followed by thousands of people. These different branches each had a stronger faith in certain gods and their aspects, rather than the total, or ‘One God/Many Aspects’ concept, as it was meant to be. He succeed in uniting those Hinduism sects at that time under Trimurti belief system. He is also credited for building various important temples all over the island of Bali and built many merus (tiered shrines) in existing temples. He also renewed customs and religious ceremonies and ethics.

Danghyang Nirartha was a Siwaistic priest who arrived from Java in 1537 AD. He became the royal pries in the court of King Waturenggong. With King Waturenggong, Danghyang Nirartha also reformed the religious and political system of Bali and established caste system. He concentrated on rituals connected with death, soul purification, weddings, pregnancy, birth and maturity and is responsible for the supremacy of the Siwa cult and the Brahman priests. Danghyang Nirartha is regarded as the father of all Brahmans. There are five classifications of Brahmans, based on the descendants of his sons by five wives.

Danghyang Nirartha traveled throughout Bali and went to Lombok and Sumbawa and established many temples. He also added Padmasana shrines to the temples he visited, including Pura Uluwatu. These are shrines in the form of an empty chair for Sanghyang Widi Wasa, the Supreme God.

These three sages, who came from Java, gave strong influences in shaping Balinese civilization. They left many legacies to be preserved and practiced by generations of Balinese after them.

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