Bali Demographics

The population of Bali is 4,104,900 (BPS Bali; 2014).

Religions

Unlike 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, Christianity, and Buddhism. These official statistical figures do not include immigrants from other parts of Indonesia.

Immigrants from other parts of Indonesia have drastically changed the demographics in Bali. Although the majority of the population of Bali adheres to Balinese Hinduism, recent years have brought an influx of people from other islands seeking to benefit from the tourist industry, export of local handicrafts and other factors, making Bali the most affluent island in the region. The bombings in Bali by Muslim militants and the numbers of wealthy Muslims from Jakarta with political connections buying prime real estate for development has started to create Hindu-Muslim tensions where none existed before.

Language

Balinese and Indonesian are the most widely spoken languages in Bali, and like most Indonesians, 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 large tourism industry. Staff working in Bali’s tourist centres are often, by necessity, multilingual to some degree, speaking as many as 8 or 9 different languages to an often surprising level of competence.

Culture

Bali is famous for many forms of art, including painting, sculpture, woodcarving, handcrafts, and performing arts. Balinese gamelan music is highly developed and varied. The dances portray stories from Hindu epics such as the Ramayana. Famous Balinese dances include pendet, legong, baris, topeng, barong, and kecak (the monkey dance).

National education programs, mass media and tourism continue to change Balinese culture. Immigration from other parts of Indonesia, especially Java, is changing the ethnic composition of Bali’s population.

The Hindu new year, Nyepi, is celebrated in the spring by a day of silence. On this day everyone stays at home and tourists are encouraged to remain in their hotels. On the preceding day large, colorful sculptures of ogoh-ogoh monsters are paraded and finally burned in the evening to drive away evil spirits. Other festivals throughout the year are specified by the Balinese pawukon calendrical system.