Steeped in exotic mystery and blessed with some of the most cordial and welcoming people on earth, Bali truly is a paradise, if not a blissful exile. The island, covering an area of 5700 squar kilometers, is home to a population of nearly 4 million people and is one of the 34 provinces of the Republic of Indonesia. It is divided administratively between eight districts. Bali is an island where music, dance and the worship of all living things are integral parts of every day life, a place where visitors from every corner of the globe come for the spiritual and sensual revitalization that truly is " The morning of the World".
Bali has been inhabited for a long time. Sembiran, a village in northern Bali, was believed to have been home to the people of the Ice Age, proven by the discovery of stone axes and adzes. Further discoveries of more sophisticated stone tools, agricultural techniques and basic pottery at Cekik in Bali's far west, point to the people of the Neolithic era. At Cekik, there is evidence of a settlement together with burial sites of around a hundred people thought to be from the Neolithic through to the Bronze Age. The massive drums of the Bronze Age, together with their sonte moulds have been discovered through out the Indonesian archiplago, including the most famous and largest drum in South East Asia, the Moon of Pejeng, nearly two meters wide, now housed in a temple in east Ubud. In East Java and Bali, there has also been a concentration of carved stone sarcophagi, which we can see in the Bali Museum in Denpasar and Purbakala Museum in Pejeng.
Bali was busy with trade from as early as 200 BC. The prasasti, or metal inscriptions, Balis's earliest written records from the ninth centruy AD, show a significant Buddhist and Hindu in fluence; sepecially statues bronzes and rockut caves around Mount Kawi and Goa Gajah.
Balinese society was pretty sophhisticated by about 900 AD. Their marriage portrait of the Balinese King Udayana to East Java's Princess Mahendratte is captured in a stone carving in the Pura Korah Tegipan in the Batur area. Their son, Erlangga, born around 991 AD, later succeeded to the throne of the Javanese kingdom and brought Java and Bali together until his death in 1049.
In 1284, Bali was conquered by Kertanegara, the ruler of the Singasari, until the turn of the centruy, saw Bali under its own rule under the hands of King Bedaulu of Pejeng, east of Ubud. 1343 AD is an important date in Bali's history. It was then that the whole island was conquered by East Java under the mighty Hindu Majaphit kingdom. This resulted in massive changes in Balinese society, including the introduction of the caste system.
Balinese who did not embrace the changes fled to the isolated and remote mountainous areas and hill areas. Their descendants are known today as Bali Aga or Bali Mula that means the "original Balinese". They still live separatly in villages like Tenganan near Dasa Temple and Trunyan on the shores of Batur Lake, and maintain their ancient laws and traditional ways. When Majapahit in East Java fell in 1515, the many small Islmaic kingdoms in the island merged into the Islamic Mataram empire, Majapahit's most dedicated Hindu priests, craftsmen, soldiers, nobles and artists fled east to Bali, and flooded the island with javanese culture and Hindu practices.