Even though there are no artefacts or documents that would date Bali as far back as the Stone Age, it is believed that the very first immigrants to Bali moved from China about 2500 BC. By the time the Bronze age rolled around in roughly 300 BC, they had built a civilisation that was extremely advanced. This civilization was responsible for the development of a sophisticated and efficient irrigation system, in addition to the cultivation of rice, which is one of the world’s most important staple foods.
The early decades of Bali’s history are shrouded in mystery; nonetheless, several items associated with Hinduism have been discovered, some of which date all the way back to the first century and suggest a religious connection to Bali. Despite the fact that it is often believed that Buddhism was the first major religion to be found in Bali, which occurred around the year 500 AD. In addition, Yi-Tsing, a Chinese scholar who travelled to Bali in the year 670 AD and reported seeing Buddhism there, indicated that he had been to this location and saw Buddhism there.
By the 11th century, Hindu and Javanese influences had become very significant in Bali’s culture. In point of fact, after the Balinese Prince Airlanggha’s father passed away in around 1011 AD, the Balinese Prince travelled to East Java, unified it under one principality, and appointed his brother, Anak Wungsu, as the ruler of all of Bali. After this time period, many ideas, both political and artistic, that were reciprocal to one another formed. In addition to other Javanese characteristics and rituals that were integrated into Balinese society, the Javanese language known as Kawi came to be favoured by the upper-classes of the island.
After Airlanggha’s death in the middle of the 11th century, Bali continued its relatively independent existence until 1284, when it was captured by an East Javanese monarch named Kertanegara, who ruled over Bali from his residence in Java. After Kertanegara was murdered in 1292, Bali was freed from Javanese rule once again. This lasted until 1343, when the Hindu-Javanese commander Gajah Mada of the Majapahit dynasty brought Bali back under Javanese authority.
During this time period, the 16th century, Islam was rapidly expanding across Sumatra and Java, and the Majapahit Empire was beginning to break apart, which resulted in a significant migration of nobility, priests, artists, and craftsmen to Bali. This brought immense wealth to Bali, which became known as Bali’s golden period of cultural history in the next decades. Soon after, Bali emerged as the preeminent force in the area, seizing control of parts of East Java as well as its neighbouring province of Lombok.
The first Europeans to set foot on Bali were Dutch sailors in the year 1597; nevertheless, the Dutch did not develop a genuine interest in the island until the 1800s. After having broad swaths of Indonesia under their control since the 1700s, the Dutch made their way back to the region in 1846 with the intention of establishing colonies there. The Dutch sent soldiers in northern Bali, and by the year 1894, they had allied themselves with the Sasak people of Lombok in an effort to win the conflict against the Balinese. By 1911, every Balinese principality had fallen under the Dutch government’s sway.
Following the end of World War I, a spirit of Indonesian nationalism started to develop, which eventually led to Bahasa Indonesia being recognised as the country’s official language in 1928. As a result of their involvement in World War II, the Japanese invaded Indonesia from 1942 to 1945, during which time they drove out the Dutch.
After the Japanese were ultimately vanquished, the Dutch eventually made their way back to Bali and Indonesia with the intention of regaining sovereignty. Sukarno, Indonesia’s very first president, however, was the one who proclaimed the country’s independence in 1945. The Dutch administration handed up sovereignty, and in 1949 Indonesia was formally acknowledged for the first time as a sovereign nation.