The population of Bali is 3,151,000 (as of 2005). There are an estimated 30,000 expatriates living in Bali.
The Mother Temple of Besakih one of Bali’s most significant Hindu temples.
Cremation processionUnlike most of Muslim-majority Indonesia, about 93.18% of Bali’s population adheres to Balinese Hinduism, formed as a combination of existing local beliefs and Hindu influences from mainland Southeast Asia and South Asia. Minority religions include Islam (4.79%), Christianity (1.38%), and Buddhism (0.64%). These figures do not include immigrants from other parts of Indonesia.
When Islam surpassed Hinduism in Java (16th century), Bali became a refuge for many Hindus. Balinese Hinduism is an amalgam in which gods and demigods are worshipped together with Buddhist heroes, the spirits of ancestors, indigenous agricultural deities and sacred places. Religion as it is practiced in Bali is a composite belief system that embraces not only theology, philosophy, and mythology, but ancestor worship, animism and magic. It pervades nearly every aspect of traditional life. Caste is observed, though less strictly than in India. With an estimated 20,000 puras (temples) and shrines, Bali is known as the “Island of a Thousand Puras”, or “Island of the Gods”.
Balinese Hinduism has roots in Indian Hinduism and in Buddhism, and adopted the animistic traditions of the indigenous people. This influence strengthened the belief that the gods and goddesses are present in all things. Every element of nature, therefore, possesses its own power, which reflects the power of the gods. A rock, tree, dagger, or woven cloth is a potential home for spirits whose energy can be directed for good or evil. Balinese Hinduism is deeply interwoven with art and ritual. Ritualizing states of self-control are a notable feature of religious expression among the people, who for this reason have become famous for their graceful and decorous behavior.
Apart from the majority of Balinese Hindus, there also exist Chinese immigrants whose traditions have melded with that of the locals. As a result, these Sino-Balinese not only embrace their original religion, which is a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, but also find a way to harmonise it with the local traditions. Hence, it is not uncommon to find local Sino-Balinese during the local temple’s odalan. Moreover, Balinese Hindu priests are invited to perform rites alongside a Chinese priest in the event of the death of a Sino-Balinese. Nevertheless, the Sino-Balinese claim to embrace Buddhism for administrative purposes, such as their Identity Cards.
Balinese and Indonesian are the most widely spoken languages in Bali, and the vast majority of Balinese people are bilingual or trilingual. There are several indigenous Balinese languages, but most Balinese can also use the most widely spoken option: modern common Balinese. The usage of different Balinese languages was traditionally determined by the Balinese caste system and by clan membership, but this tradition is diminishing.
English is a common third language (and the primary foreign language) of many Balinese, owing to the requirements of the tourism industry.