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Bali

Bali (bäˈlē) [key], island and (with two offshore islets) province (1990 pop. 2,777,356), c.2,200 sq mi (5,700 sq km), E Indonesia, westernmost of the Lesser Sundas, just E of Java across the narrow Bali Strait. The capital is Denpasar. Although Bali is relatively small, it is densely populated and culturally and economically one of the most important islands of Indonesia. Largely mountainous, with active volcanoes, it rises to 10,308 ft (3,142 m) at Mt. Agung; there is a great fertile plain to the south. Fauna include tigers and deer. Bali is known for its giant waringin trees, sacred to the inhabitants.

The Balinese (a Malayan group closely related to the Javanese) are skillful farmers; rice, the chief crop, is grown with the aid of elaborate irrigation systems. Vegetables, fruits, coffee, and coconuts are also produced. Livestock is important; pigs and cattle are major export items. Industries include food processing, tourism, and handicrafts. The people are noted for their artistic skill (especially wood carving), and their high level of culture, which includes advanced forms of music, folk drama, dancing, and architecture. They are Hindu in a nation that is overwhelmingly Muslim; their unique ritualistic culture, as well as the island's scenic beauty, has made Bali one of the great tourist attractions of East Asia. An international airport was opened in 1969. A state univ. is in Denpasar.

Bali was converted to Hinduism in the 7th cent., and was under Javanese rule from the 10th to the late 15th cent. It was a refuge (1513–28) for the Hindus of Java fleeing the advance of Islam. The Dutch first landed in 1597 and the Dutch East India Company began its trade with the island in the early 17th cent. Dutch sovereignty was not firmly established until after a series of colonial wars (1846–49), and the entire island was not occupied until 1908, after the quelling of two rebellions. Klungklung, NE of Denpasar, was the capital of the native rulers from the 17th cent. until 1908. Bali was particularly hard hit during the nationwide purge of Communists in 1965; more than 40,000 people were killed, and entire villages were destroyed. The island was part of a massive transmigration project in the late 1970s to relieve overcrowding. Bali's popularity as a Western tourist destination made it a target of several Islamic terror attacks in the early 21st cent.

See Bali (Vol. V and VIII of Selected Studies on Indonesia, publ. by W. van Hoeve, 1960 and 1970); U. Ramseyer, The Art and Culture of Bali (1987).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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