In Hinduism, Bali is a Daitya, an enemy of the gods, who claimed all of the heavens, earth and the underworld. Vishnu, in his avatar as Vamana, asked for a piece of land only three paces wide. Bali agreed and Vishnu crossed the heavens in one step, the earth in another and left Bali only the underworld to rule over.
Bali is part of the Lesser Sunda Islands[?], 145 km long and 80 km wide, 3.2 km east of Java. Its surface is 5,700 km². The highest point of the island is Mount Agung[?], 3,142 m high, an active volcano that last erupted in March 1963. The principal cities are the northern port of Singaraja and the capital, Denpasar[?], near the southern coast.
In the south the land descends to form an alluvial plain, watered by shallow rivers, dry in the dry season and overflowing whenever there are periods of heavy rains.
Its 3 million population is Hindu.
History The Balinese people are descendants of a prehistoric race who migrated through mainland Asia to the Indonesian archipelago[?], presumably first settling around 2500 BC. The end of prehistoric period in Indonesia was marked by the arrival of the Hindu people arriving from India around 400 AD.
The name Balidwipa has been discovered from various inscriptions, among others the Blanjong charter which was issued by Sri Kesari Warmadewa in 913 AD and mentions the word Walidwipa.
Europeans first discovered the island when the Dutch explorer Cornelis Houtman arrived in 1597, though a Portuguese ship had foundered off the coast of Bukit[?] as early as 1585. The Dutch established a trade post soon after, and the Dutch East India Company (VOC) started trading from early 17th century onwards. Dutch control of the island was firmly established after a series of colonial wars (1846-1849).
These wars were so fierce (with the entire royal court of the Raja[?], women and children plunged into battle, armed with kris and spears, killing each other on the battlefield rather than be taken captive) that the Dutch governors afterwards exercised a lenient control, showing great respect for and protecting the local religion and culture.
Tourism started in the 1920s.