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Raffles Bali - The Historical Separation of Bali from Java Island
March 13th 2023

The Historical Separation of Bali from Java Island

Raffles Bali is a haven of luxury and wellbeing, seamlessly blending Bali’s vibrant history and culture into its concept to offer guests an immersive, authentic experience. With awe-inspiring architecture, intricate decor, and handpicked local activities, our resort celebrates Bali’s rich heritage while remaining committed to wellness. Delighting the discerning connoisseur with a cultural feast, we showcase Bali’s fascinating stories through carefully curated activities and expertly narrated tales.

Long ago, Bali was actually connected to East Java by a land bridge, thanks to the Sunda Shelf, an enormous continental plate protruding from the Asian mainland. During the Pleistocene glacial periods, ice caps solidified much of the world’s waters, leading to lowered sea levels that made parts of it fall dry and periodically gave way to land masses.

Hindu Java began to extend its influence into Bali during the reign of King Airlangga, from 1019 to 1042. When his uncle lost the throne, 16-year-old Airlangga fled into the forests of western Java but gradually gained support, won back the kingdom, and became one of Java’s greatest kings. Airlangga’s mother moved to Bali and remarried after his birth, creating an immediate link between Java and Bali. At this time, the courtly Javanese language known as Kawi came into use among the royalty of Bali, and the rock-cut memorials seen at Gunung Kawi (Mt Kawi) near Tampaksiring are a clear architectural link between Bali and 11th-century Java.

Bali retained its semi-independent status after Airlangga’s death until Kertanagara became king of the Singasari dynasty in Java two centuries later. Kertanagara conquered Bali in 1284, but his power lasted only eight years until he was murdered and his kingdom collapsed. With Java in turmoil, Bali regained its autonomy, and the Pejeng dynasty, centered near modern-day Ubud, rose to great power. In 1343, the legendary chief minister of the Majapahit dynasty, Gajah Mada, defeated the Pejeng king Dalem Bedaulu and brought Bali back under Javanese influence.

Although Gajah Mada brought much of the Indonesian archipelago under Majapahit control, Bali was the furthest extent of its power. The ‘capital’ then moved to Gelgel, near modern-day Semarapura (once known as Klungkung), around the late 14th century, and for the next two centuries, this was the base for the ‘king of Bali,’ the Dewa Agung. The Majapahit kingdom collapsed into disputing sultanates, but the Gelgel dynasty in Bali, under Dalem Batur Enggong, extended its power eastwards to the neighboring island of Lombok and even crossed the strait to Java.

As the Majapahit kingdom fell apart, many of its intelligentsia moved to Bali, including the priest Nirartha, who is credited with introducing many of the complexities of Balinese religion to the island. Artists, dancers, musicians, and actors also fled to Bali at this time, and the island experienced an explosion of cultural activities. The final great exodus to Bali took place in 1478.