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Education And The Existence Of Indonesian Culture Essay Hook

​​The ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity of Indonesia is built into the concept of Indonesia. Under Suharto, however, it was forbidden to explore differences of class, ethnicity, "race" and religion. The government made strenuous efforts to construct a homogeneous national culture, notably through the education system.

Since Suharto, the freeing of the press, democratisation and the policies of regional autonomy and decentralisation have given free rein to the heightened expression of local ethnic and religious identities.

Political elites of all stripes have played up such differences for their own advantage, leading to violent conflicts in several well-known trouble-spots around the country. Fundamentalisms of most faiths have flourished, but it has been the Islamisation of the public sphere that has attracted the most attention internationally.

Indonesia is not an Islamic state, but it is expressly religious. The first principle of Pancasila, the state ideology, is belief in one God. The constitution of 1945 guarantees religious freedom, but not the freedom not to be religious.

Indonesia recognises only six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. All citizens must identify one of these six religions as their religion on their identity cards and in many official documents such as birth and marriage certificates.

Indonesia has a significant minority of Protestant and Catholic Christians; adherents of Balinese and other variants of Hinduism such as Kaharingin Hinduism in Kalimantan and Tenggerese Hinduism; Buddhists and Confucians, as well as millions of adherents of local and other world religions.

All of these peoples, with the exception of the last group and adherents of some sects such as Ahmadiyah, are now free to practise their religions. These final exceptions show that Indonesia still has quite a way to go.

Since 1998, relations between religions have become fraught. Perhaps an indicator of this is that Law 20/2003 legislated that school children should be taught their own religion by teachers of their own faith.

The tension – and sometimes friction – between religions is obvious in many other fields: in inter-religious marriage, the building of houses of worship for minority religions in majority neighbourhoods and even the choice of greeting.

In 2005, the Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI) decreed that praying together with non-Muslims was prohibited for Muslims. In 2005, they issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims from marrying non-Muslims and in 2006, MUI outlawed the Islamic minority sect, Ahmadiyah, and pluralism, secularism and liberalism in general.

These are some of the structural obstacles that stand in the way of those who are concerned that Indonesia is becoming less religiously tolerant, and for those people who see inter-faith education, interaction and "mixing" as one way forward for Indonesia.

Teaching religion in state schools

​​Religion has always been a compulsory subject for school children at all levels in Indonesia. In most schools, two religion classes have usually been taught per week. In 2003, the new Education Law stated that each school must provide teachers of the same religion for its students: Muslim teachers for Muslim students, Hindu teachers for Hindu students, and so on. Even private faith-based schools have to provide for their minority other-faith students, for example, a private Catholic school should provide Muslim teachers for its Muslim students.

This legislation can be seen as a good thing, because the religious minorities in a school are acknowledged and receive proper education in their religion. What's more, it should ensure that each religion is taught respectfully and knowledgeably.

However, there are also stories of students of religious minorities having to move school or even move house, to new towns and cities, because schools have not been willing to provide teachers for minority students. It can be expensive for schools to provide one or two students with a special teacher, and some schools do not comply with this regulation.

The approach to teaching religion in state schools is a "within religion" or confessional approach. The curriculum for each religion stresses the doctrines and morals of that religion. However, according to the curriculum, students of all religions should learn consistently, from primary through to senior high school, to "be tolerant, and to guard harmony in personal as well as social life". They should learn to be "steadfast in facing the challenges, obstacles, and changes that arise in social interaction, in local, national, regional as well as global environments".

However, "tolerance" cannot be said to receive much attention in religion classes. In the three years of Islamic education in senior high school, for instance, tolerance only gets a mention once in the year 12 curriculum. In the Protestant curriculum, the word does not appear, although "Christian values" (unspecified) are taught intensively.

In addition, year-12 students are to "develop a critical attitude towards democratic values and human rights" and to facilitate the introduction of "good news and prosperous peace in private life and in the community".

The curriculum for the school subject Citizenship Education advises that students should be taught to value equally the various ways of life of other citizens in the country, "without distinguishing race, religion, gender, group, culture and ethnicity". However, this is the only mention of religion in the subject's curriculum.

In all of these subjects there is no attempt to teach across religions or about other religions in a way that promotes an understanding that other religions might have value. There is a recognition that other religions have the right to exist in Indonesia, but no curiosity about them. There is very little structural support for teaching that enables students to understand and value other religions.

Given the inflamed national situation, it is not surprising that religious education has become politicised. Several Indonesian scholars have weighed into the debate. In 2003, RELIEF, Journal of Religious Issues, published by Gajah Mada University, ran an editorial which concluded that "our religious education is becoming increasingly dogmatic, exclusive [and] rigid".

In 2008, the National Islamic University in Jakarta's Centre for Islamic and Social Studies conducted a survey of 500 religion teachers in senior high schools (including vocational schools) in several cities in Java. Results indicate general opposition by religion teachers to teaching religious pluralism in schools, with 87 per cent not advocating the study of other religions. It also revealed a less-than-tolerant attitude generally, with the majority not wanting a non-Muslim school principal.

According to the Centre's director, Dr Burhanuddin, this "anti-pluralist view" of school religion teachers is reflected in their school lessons and contributes to the growth of conservatism and radicalism in Indonesian Muslim circles. It seems that the Ministries of Religion and National Education are failing to come to terms with what religious tolerance and pluralism might mean, especially in relation to meeting the challenges of global citizenship.

Teaching for tolerance

​​Some individual teachers make an enormous effort to promote inter-religious tolerance. A religion teacher at a private Islamic school in Yogyakarta bases her teaching on life experience and social issues such as abortion, domestic violence and polygamy. She might bring a clipping from a newspaper dealing with a current issue, or she might show a documentary film then ask her students to reflect upon it critically and try to develop a response from within their own discussions.

Her students' attitudes are testament to the efficacy of her teaching for religious pluralism. As one student put it, ideally, Indonesians would "respect one another and value one another. In Indonesia there are many cultures: we should all become one. Indeed God was just in creating humankind with a variety of cultures and religions."

Sometimes it is the school that makes the effort, or at least provides a whole-school environment that encourages the peaceful co-existence of different religions. The teacher at a private Catholic school who teaches his students humanism, rather than doctrine or comparative religion, has the support of the principal and the school administration.

When prospective students and their parents are interviewed, they are warned that the school does not teach Catholicism. Instead, the school says it will teach the "meeting" of religions, as a dialogue, using an interactive approach and teaching materials that are not from any particular religion. The foundation that runs the school wanted it to be a "multicultural laboratory" that would value all people, of any background: it was to be an inclusive school, that bridged differences.

Students are encouraged to "dig" for themselves. In one lesson they interviewed strangers on the street, to find out what their faith meant to them. Many students chose to interview people from the middle to lower classes. They receive praise for this from their teacher, who believed that the well-off students at this school needed to learn how to mix with "people of all types and classes".

Reflecting on this experience, one student concluded that "This person taught me to value other people's spirituality and opinions, no matter who they are." Another said, "I learned that spirituality is useful in everyday life, helping people to overcome their problems".

However, these laudable efforts at teaching for tolerance are isolated efforts that rely on the goodwill and energy of individual teachers, and sometimes the school. These are limitations, and it would be a good idea for some of these experimental projects to be evaluated. It would also behove state schools to take a look at these "multicultural laboratories".

Action in universities

There are also interesting initiatives in some universities. Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta has an impressive Centre for Cross-Religious Studies for postgraduate students. This is a really active research centre which hosts seminars and conferences and sponsors research, with good links to the Yogyakarta Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University.

Postgraduate students from here and other state Islamic universities are doing some excellent work in this "space between religions". They not only produce theses on traditional religious topics such as theology, but also look across religions at comparative theology or work on the sociology of religion.

​​The state Islamic universities, notably in Jakarta and Yogyakarta, have long been active in the inter-faith area. Sunan Kalijaga University has joined with the Duta Wacana Christian University in Yogyakarta to run a joint course for postgraduate theology students. This innovative course, known as the Cross-Religion School, runs for the academic year, during which the students (and other interested individuals) visit places of worship, attend religious services and study a range of different religions.

Some of the next generation state Islamic universities are making major efforts in this area too. For example, the Alauddin State Islamic University in Makassar hosted a conference on Multicultural Education last October and another earlier this year on Islam and Democracy.

In Surabaya, Petra Christian University has designed an innovative programme to promote understanding of Islam by having two classes of business students visit a pesantren (Islamic boarding school) in Surabaya. Most students in this university are Chinese. The students and teachers at the pesantren warmly welcomed the Chinese Christian students and took part in interviews and small-group discussions with them. Some students followed up with more discussions, and when the business students presented their results, some of the people from the pesantren returned to form part of the audience.

The student presentations and assignments were very revealing: many of the Christian students come from very comfortable, upper middle class families, and they were as much confronted by the living conditions at the boarding school as by the different faith. Nevertheless, as their class presentations showed, the interaction produced a demonstrable shift in their attitudes towards Muslims.

Some of these universities are elite and are producing the next generation of Indonesia's political, academic, economic and social leaders. It is encouraging that at least some of their students are being encouraged to learn how to live in harmony with people of other religions.

NGOs lead inter-faith dialogue

NGOs are playing an important role in initiating, mediating and organising such experiments. In Jakarta, organisations such as the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace, The Wahid Institute and Kapal Perempuan run a range of activities that include seminars for young people and women, publishing, library services, training courses and research on inter-faith communication, tolerance and peace-building.

​​One of the most important and enduring NGOs is Interfidei, in Yogyakarta, which is organising and leading the Cross-Religion School. Interfidei has played a prominent role in the promotion of inter-faith dialogue, publishing, commissioning research, organising visits by international experts and leading seminars. Its work is specifically inter-religious, and it is highly respected.

Other NGOs conduct programmes that are not specifically inter-religious but nevertheless foster inclusivity, multiculturalism and inter-religious communication. For instance, in fervently Islamic South Sulawesi, Christian activists prefer to work alongside Muslims on anti-poverty and development projects rather than in explicitly inter-faith groups.

The Institute for Islamic and Social Studies, a long-standing NGO in Yogyakarta, runs creative writing courses for young people, which produce the well-known magazine Coret, as well as workshop courses for high school students on video documentary-making.

Apart from the skills of film-making, the course aims to give young people the opportunity to socialise with the opposite sex and with others from different schools and to have them experience an egalitarian, student-centred, activity-based, cooperative learning process.

Much good educational work aimed at peaceful co-existence appears to be happening outside state schools, not inside. NGOs are leading the way. While it is great that individuals, NGOs, universities and some teachers at private schools are making valiant efforts, it is also worrying that inter-faith education and teaching for religious tolerance are not better embedded in school curricula and structurally supported in the national school system.

There are some valuable experiments in teaching for religious tolerance being made around the country. Education has a contribution to make in helping the different religious communities live together peacefully.

Lyn Parker

© 2010

Editor: Aingeal Flanagan/

Lyn Parker is a Professor in Asian Studies at the University of Western Australia. She is leading a large ARC-funded project on education for a multicultural Indonesia.

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Hinduism in Indonesia is practised by 1.7% of the total population, and by 83.5% of the population in Bali as of the 2010 census.[1] Hinduism is one of the six official religions of Indonesia.[2] In 2010, there were an estimated total of over 4 million Hindus in Indonesia according to Indonesian census.[1][3] The Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia disputed the census methodology, and estimated 18 million Hindus lived in Indonesia in 2005.[4][5] In 2010, the Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Government of Indonesia estimated that about 10 million Hindus lived on Indonesian islands, in contrast to the Indonesian official decadal census of over 4 million.[6] Nevertheless as of 2017, Indonesia has the largest number of Hindus living in the region and outside of South Asia.


The natives of Indonesian Archipelago practiced indigenous animism and dynamism, beliefs common to the Austronesian people. Native Indonesians venerated and revered ancestral spirits; they also believed that some spirits may inhabit certain places such as large trees, stones, forests, mountains, or any sacred place. This unseen spiritual entity that has supernatural power is identified by ancient Javanese, Sundanese and Balinese as "hyang" that can mean either divine or ancestral. In modern Indonesian, "hyang" tends to be associated with God.[7]

Arrival of Hinduism[edit]

Hindu influences reached the Indonesian Archipelago as early as the first century.[8] Historical evidence is unclear about the diffusion process of cultural and spiritual ideas from India. Java legends refer to Saka-era, traced to 78 AD. Stories from the Mahabharata Epic have been traced in Indonesian islands to the 1st century; whose versions mirror those found in southeast Indian peninsular region (now Tamil Nadu and southern Andhra Pradesh).[8] The Javanese prose work Tantu Pagelaran of the 14th century, which is a collection of ancient tales, arts and crafts of Indonesia, extensively uses Sanskrit words, Indian deity names and religious concepts. Similarly ancient Chandis (temples) excavated in Java and western Indonesian islands, as well as ancient inscriptions such as the 8th century Canggal inscription discovered in Indonesia, confirm widespread adoption of Shiva lingam iconography, his companion goddess Parvati, Ganesha, Vishnu, Brahma, Arjuna, and other Hindu deities by about the middle to late 1st millennium AD.[9] Ancient Chinese records of Fa Hien on his return voyage from Ceylon to China in 414 AD mention two schools of Hinduism in Java,[8] while Chinese documents from 8th century refer to the Hindu kingdom of King Sanjaya as Holing, calling it "exceedingly wealthy," and that it coexisted peacefully with Buddhist people and Sailendra ruler in Kedu Plain of the Java island.[10]

The two major theories for the arrival of Hinduism in Indonesia include that South Indian sea traders brought Hinduism with them, and second being that Indonesian royalty welcomed Indian religions and culture, and it is they who first adopted these spiritual ideas followed by the masses. Indonesian islands adopted both Hindu and Buddhist ideas, fusing them with pre-existing native folk religion and Animist beliefs.[11] In the 4th century, the kingdom of Kutai in East Kalimantan, Tarumanagara in West Java, and Holing (Kalingga) in Central Java, were among the early Hindu states established in the region. Excavations between 1950 and 2005, particularly at the Cibuaya and Batujaya sites, suggests that Tarumanagara revered deity Wisnu (Vishnu) of Hinduism.[12] Ancient Hindu kingdoms of Java built many square temples, named rivers on the island as Gomati and Ganges, and completed major irrigation and infrastructure projects.[13][14]

Several notable ancient Indonesian Hindu kingdoms were Mataram, famous for the construction of one of the world's largest Hindu temple complexes - the Prambanan temple, followed by Kediri and Singhasari. Hinduism along with Buddhism spread across the archipelago. Numerous sastras and sutras of Hinduism were translated into the Javanese language, and expressed in art form. Rishi Agastya, for example, is described as the principal figure in the 11th century Javanese text Agastya parva; the text includes puranas, and a mixture of ideas from the Samkhya and Vedanta schools of Hinduism.[15] The Hindu-Buddhist ideas reached the peak of their influence in the 14th century. The last and largest among the Hindu-Buddhist Javanese empires, Majapahit, influenced the Indonesian archipelago.

Hinduism in colonial era[edit]

Sunni Muslim traders of the Shafi'i fiqh, as well as Sufi Muslim traders from India, Oman and Yemen brought Islam to Indonesia.[16] The earliest known mention of a small Islamic community midst the Hindus of Indonesia is credited to Marco Polo, about 1297 AD, whom he referred to as a new community of Moorish traders in Perlak.[17] Over 15th and 16th centuries, a Muslim militant campaign led by Sultans attacked Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms and various communities in the Indonesian archipelago, with each Sultan trying to carve out a region or island for control.[18] Four diverse and contentious Islamic Sultanates emerged in north Sumatra (Aceh), south Sumatra, west and central Java, and in southern Borneo (Kalimantan).[19]

These Sultanates declared Islam as their state religion and pursued war against each other as well as the Hindus and other non-Muslim infidels. Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian and Animist communities in these Indonesian Sultanates bought peace by agreeing to pay jizya tax to the Muslim ruler, while others began adopting Islam to escape the jizya tax. For example, jizya was imposed on unbelievers of Islam in Sumatra, as a condition for peace by the local Sultan.[20] In some regions, Indonesian people continued their old beliefs and adopted a syncretic version of Islam. In other cases, Hindus and Buddhists left and concentrated as communities in islands that they could defend. Hindus of western Java, for example, moved to Bali and neighboring small islands.[21] While this era of religious conflict and inter-Sultanate warfare was unfolding, and new power centers were attempting to consolidate regions under their control, European colonialism arrived.[21] The Indonesian archipelago was soon dominated by the Dutch colonial empire.[22] The Dutch colonial empire helped prevent inter-religious conflict, and it slowly began the process of excavating, understanding and preserving Indonesia's ancient Hindu-Buddhist cultural foundations, particularly in Java and western islands of Indonesia.[23]

Hinduism in the modern era[edit]

After Indonesia gained its independence from Dutch colonial rule, it officially recognized only monotheistic religions under pressure from political Islam. Further, Indonesia required an individual to have a religion to gain full Indonesian citizenship rights, and officially Indonesia did not recognize Hindus.[24] It considered Hindus as orang yang belum beragama (people without religion), and as those who must be converted.[24] In 1952, the Indonesian Ministry of Religion declared Bali and other islands with Hindus as needing a systematic campaign of proselytization to accept Islam. The local government of Bali, shocked by this official national policy, declared itself an autonomous religious area in 1953. The Balinese government also reached out to India and former Dutch colonial officials for diplomatic and human rights support.[25] A series of student and cultural exchange initiatives between Bali and India helped formulate the core principles behind Balinese Hinduism (Catur Veda, Upanishad, Puranas, Itihasa). In particular, the political self-determination movement in Bali in mid 1950s led to a non-violent passive resistance movement and the joint petition of 1958 which demanded Indonesian government recognize Hindu Dharma.[24] This joint petition quoted the following Sanskrit mantra from Hindu scriptures,[26]

Om tat sat ekam eva advitiyam

Translation: Om, thus is the essence of the all prevading, infinite, undivided one.

— Joint petition by Hindus of Bali, 14 June 1958[24]

The petition's focus on the "undivided one" was to satisfy the constitutional requirement that Indonesian citizens have a monotheistic belief in one God. The petitioners identified Ida Sanghyang Widhi Wasa as the undivided one. In the Balinese language this term has two meanings: the Divine ruler of the Universe and the Divine Absolute Cosmic Law. This creative phrase met the monotheistic requirement of the Indonesian Ministry of Religion in the former sense, while the latter sense of its meaning preserved the central ideas of dharma in ancient scripts of Hinduism.[24] In 1959, Indonesian President Sukarno supported the petition and a Hindu-Balinese Affairs section was officially launched within the Ministry of Religion.

Indonesian politics and religious affairs went through turmoil from 1959 to 1962, with Sukarno dissolving the Konstituante and weakening the impact of communist movement in Indonesia along with political Islam.[27] Nevertheless, officially identifying their religion as Hinduism was not a legal possibility for Indonesians until 1962, when it became the fifth state-recognized religion. This recognition was initially sought by Balinese religious organizations and granted for the sake of Bali, where the majority were Hindu. Between 1966 and 1980, along with Balinese Hindus, large numbers of Indonesians in eastern Java, as well as parts of South Sulawesi, North Sumatra, Central and South Kalimantan officially declared themselves to be Hindus.[28] They politically organized themselves to press and preserve their rights. The largest of these organizations, Parisada Hindu Dharma Bali, changed its name to Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia (PHDI) in 1986, reflecting subsequent efforts to define Hinduism as a national rather than just a Balinese concern.[29]

While Hindus in Bali, with their large majority, developed and freely practiced their religion, in other islands of Indonesia they suffered discrimination and persecution by local officials as these Hindus were considered as those who had left Islam, the majority religion. However, the central government of Indonesia supported the Hindus.[28] In the 1960s, Hinduism was an umbrella also used by Indonesians whose faith was Buddhism and Confucianism, but when neither of these two were officially recognized. Furthermore, Hindu political activists of Indonesia worked to protect people of those faiths under rights they had gained at the Indonesian Ministry of Religion.[30]

To gain official acceptance and their rights in a Muslim-dominated country, Hinduism in Indonesia was politically forced to adapt.[11] Currently Hindu Dharma is one of the five officially recognized monotheistic religions in Indonesia.[11][31]

Folk religions and animists with a deep concern for the preservation of their traditional ancestor religions declared their religion to be Hinduism, considering it a more flexible option than Islam, in the outer islands. In the early seventies, the Toraja people of Sulawesi were the first to realize this opportunity by seeking shelter for their indigenous ancestor religion under the broad umbrella of 'Hinduism', followed by the Karo Batak of Sumatra in 1977. In central and southern Kalimantan, a large Hindu movement has grown among the local indigenous Dayak population which lead to a mass declaration of 'Hinduism' on this island in 1980. However, this was different from the Javanese case, in that conversions followed a clear ethnic division. Indigenous Dayak were confronted with a mostly Muslim population of government-sponsored (and predominantly Madurese) migrants and officials, and deeply resentful at the dispossession of their land and its natural resources.

Compared to their counterparts among Javanese Hindus, many Dayak leaders were also more deeply concerned about Balinese efforts to standardize Hindu ritual practice nationally; fearing a decline of their own unique 'Hindu Kaharingan' traditions and renewed external domination. By contrast, most Javanese were slow to consider Hinduism at the time, lacking a distinct organization along ethnic lines and fearing retribution from locally powerful Islamic organizations like the Nahdatul Ulama (NU).

Several native tribal peoples with beliefs such as SundaneseSunda Wiwitan, Torajan Aluk To Dolo, and BatakMalim, with their own unique syncretic faith, have declared themselves as Hindus in order to comply with Indonesian law, while preserving their distinct traditions with differences from mainstream Indonesian Hinduism dominated by the Balinese. These factors and political activity has led to a certain resurgence of Hinduism outside of its Balinese stronghold.[32][33]

General beliefs and practices[edit]

See also: Hinduism and Balinese Hinduism

The general beliefs and practices of Agama Hindu Dharma are a mixture of ancient traditions and contemporary pressures placed by Indonesian laws that permit only monotheist belief under the national ideology of panca sila.[11][34] Traditionally, Hinduism in Indonesia had a pantheon of deities and that tradition of belief continues in practice; further, Hinduism in Indonesia granted freedom and flexibility to Hindus as to when, how and where to pray.[34] However, officially, Indonesian government considers and advertises Indonesian Hinduism as a monotheistic religion with certain officially recognized beliefs that comply with its national ideology.[11][34][35] Indonesian school text books describe Hinduism as having one supreme being, Hindus offering three daily mandatory prayers, and Hinduism as having certain common beliefs that in part parallel those of Islam.[34][36] Scholars[34][37][38] contest whether these Indonesian government recognized and assigned beliefs reflect the traditional beliefs and practices of Hindus in Indonesia before Indonesia gained independence from Dutch colonial rule.

Some of these officially recognized Hindu beliefs include:[34][36]

  • A belief in one supreme being called 'Ida Sanghyang Widi Wasa', 'Sang Hyang Tunggal', or 'Sang Hyang Acintya'. God Almighty in the Torajanese culture of Central Sulawesi is known as "Puang Matua" in Aluk To Dolo belief.
  • A belief that all of the gods are manifestations of this supreme being. This belief is the same as the belief of Smartism, which also holds that the different forms of God, Vishnu, Siva are different aspects of the same Supreme Being. Lord Shiva is also worshipped in other forms such as "Batara Guru" and "Maharaja Dewa" (Mahadeva) are closely identified with the Sun in local forms of Hinduism or Kebatinan, and even in the genie lore of Muslims.[39]
  • A belief in the Trimurti, consisting of:
  • A belief in all of the other Hindu gods and goddesses (Hyang, Dewata and Batara-Batari)

The sacred texts found in Agama Hindu Dharma are the Vedas and Upanishads.[29] They are the basis of Indian and Balinese Hinduism. Other sources of religious information include the Universal Hindu Puranas and the Itihasa (mainly Ramayana and the Mahabharata). The epics Mahabharata and Ramayana became enduring traditions among Indonesian believers, expressed in shadow puppet (wayang) and dance performances. As in India, Indonesian Hinduism recognizes four paths of spirituality, calling it Catur Marga.[40] These are bhakti mārga (path of devotion to deities), jnana mārga (path of knowledge), karma mārga (path of works) and raja mārga (path of meditation). Bhakti marga has the largest following in Bali.[40] Similarly, like Hindus in India, Balinese Hindus believe that there are four proper goals of human life, calling it Catur Purusartha - dharma (pursuit of moral and ethical living), artha (pursuit of wealth and creative activity), kama (pursuit of joy and love) and moksha (pursuit of self-knowledge and liberation).[41][42]

Hinduism in Bali[edit]

Main article: Balinese Hinduism

Balinese Hinduism is an amalgamation of Indian religions and indigenous animist customs that existed in Indonesian archipelago before the arrival of Islam and later Dutch colonialism.[43] It integrates many of the core beliefs of Hinduism with arts and rituals of Balinese people. In contemporary times, Hinduism in Bali is officially referred by Indonesian Ministry of Religion as Agama Hindu Dharma, but traditionally the religion was called by many names such as Tirta, Trimurti, Hindu, Agama Tirta, Siwa, Buda, and Siwa-Buda.[44] The terms Tirta and Trimurti emanate from Indian Hinduism, corresponding to Tirtha (pilgrimage to spirituality near holy waters) and Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) respectively. As in India, Hinduism in Bali grew with flexibility, featuring a diverse way of life. It includes many of the Indian spiritual ideas, cherishes legends and myths of Indian Puranas and Hindu Epics, as well as expresses its traditions through unique set of festivals and customs associated with a myriad of hyangs - the local and ancestral spirits, as well as forms of animal sacrifice that are not common in India.[44]

Balinese Hindu temple

The Balinese temple is called Pura. These temples are designed on square Hindu temple plan, as an open air worship place within enclosed walls, connected with series of intricately decorated gates to reach its compounds.[45] Each of these temples has a more or less fixed membership; every Balinese belongs to a temple by virtue of descent, residence, or affiliation. Some house temples are associated with the family house compound (also called banjar in Bali), others are associated with rice fields, and still others with key geographic sites. In rural highlands of Bali, banua (or wanwa, forest domain) temples in each desa (village) are common.[46] The island of Bali has over 20,000 temples, or about one temple for every 100 to 200 people.[47] Temples are dedicated to local spirits as well as to deities found in India; for example, Saraswati, Ganesha, Wisnu, Siwa, Parvati, Arjuna, and others. The temple design similarly amalgamate architectural principles in Hindu temples of India and regional ideas.

Each individual has a family deity, called Kula dewa, who resides in the temple called the family temple that the individual and his family patronize. Balinese Hindu follow a 210-day calendar (based on rice crop and lunar cycles), and each temple celebrates its anniversary once every 210 days.[43] Unique rituals and festivals of Balinese Hindus, that are not found in India, include those related to death of a loved one followed by cremations, cockfights, tooth filings, Nyepi and Galungan. Each temple anniversary, as well as festivals and family events such as wedding include flowers, offerings, towering bamboos with decoration at the end and a procession. These are celebrated by the community with prayers and feast.[43] Most festivals have a temple as venue, and they are often occasions for prayers, celebration of arts and community. Some traditions, in contrast, involve animist rituals such as caru (animal blood sacrifice) such as Tabuh Rah (lethal cockfighting) or killing of an animal to appease buta kala (spirits of the earth) - however, the animal sacrifices are conducted outside the premises of a temple.[46][48]

Balinese Hindu arts

Dance, music, colorful ceremonial dresses and other arts are a notable feature of religious expression among Balinese Hindus. As in India, these expressions celebrate various mudra to express ideas, grace, decorum and culture. Dance-drama is common. Various stories are expressed. For example, one involves a battle between the mythical characters Rangda the witch (representing adharma, something like disorder) and Barong the protective spirit represented with a lion mask (representing dharma), in which performers fall into a trance, the good attempts to conquer evil, the dancers express the idea that good and evil exists within each individual, and that conquering evil implies ejecting evil from oneself. The dance-drama regularly ends undecided, neither side winning, because the primary purpose is to restore balance and recognize that the battle between dharma and adharma (good and evil) is within each person and a never ending one.[49]Barong, or dharma, is a major symbolic and ritual paradigm found in various festivities, dances, arts and temples.[50]

Rituals of the life cycle are also important occasions for religious expression and artistic display. Ceremonies at puberty, marriage, and, most notably, cremation at death provide opportunities for Balinese to communicate their ideas about community, status, and the afterlife.

Balinese Hindu society

Scholars[44][51] dispute the degree and nature of social stratification in medieval and contemporary Balinese Hindu society. The social structure consisted of catur wangsa (four varnas) - brahmana (priests), satriya or "Deva" (warriors), waisya (merchants), and sudra (farmers, artisans, commoners).[52] There is no historical or contemporary cultural record of untouchables in Balinese Hindu society. The wangsa - termed castes by some accounts, classes by other accounts - were functional, not hierarchical nor segregated in Hindu society of Bali or Java. Further, there was social mobility - people could change their occupation and caste if they wished to.[53][54] Among the interior highlands of Bali, the desa (villages) have had no wangsa, the social status and profession of a person has been mutable, and marriages not endogamous.[46] Historical inscriptions suggest Balinese Hindu kings and village chiefs have come from all sections of its society - priests, warriors, merchants and artisans.

Javanese Hinduism[edit]

Main article: Hinduism in Java

Both Java and Sumatra were subject to considerable cultural influence from the Indian subcontinent. The earliest evidences of Hindu influences in Java can be found in 4th century Tarumanagara inscriptions scattered around modern Jakarta and Bogor. In the sixth and seventh centuries many maritime kingdoms arose in Sumatra and Java which controlled the waters in the Straits of Malacca and flourished with the increasing sea trade between China and India and beyond. During this time, scholars from India and China visited these kingdoms to translate literary and religious texts.

From the 4th to the 15th century, Java had many Hindu kingdoms, such as Tarumanagara, Kalingga, Medang, Kediri, Sunda, Singhasari and Majapahit. This era is popularly known as the Javanese Classical Era, during which Hindu-Buddhist literature, art and architecture flourished and were incorporated into local culture under royal patronage. During this time, many Hindu temples were built, including 9th century Prambanan near Yogyakarta, which has been designated a World Heritage Site. Among these Hindu kingdoms, Majapahit kingdom was the largest and the last significant Hindu kingdom in Indonesian history. Majapahit was based in East Java, from where it ruled a large part of what is now Indonesia. The remnants of the Majapahit kingdom shifted to Bali during the sixteenth century after a prolonged war by and territorial losses to Islamic sultanates.[23]

The heritage of Hinduism left a significant impact and imprint in Javanese art and culture. The wayang puppet performance as well as wayang wong dance and other Javanese classical dances are derived from episodes of Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Although the majority of Javanese now identify as Muslim, these art forms still survive. Hinduism has survived in varying degrees and forms on Java; in recent years, conversions to Hinduism have been on the rise, particularly in regions surrounding a major Hindu religious site, such as the Klaten region near the Prambanan temple. Certain ethnic groups, such as the Tenggerese and Osing, are also associated with Hindu religious traditions.[53]

Hinduism elsewhere in the archipelago[edit]

Among the non-Balinese communities considered to be Hindu by the government are, for example, the Dayak adherents of the Kaharingan religion in Kalimantan Tengah, where government statistics counted Hindus as 15.8% of the population as of 1995[update]. Many Manusela and Nuaulu people of Seram follow Naurus, a syncretism of Hinduism with animist and Protestant elements.[6] Similarly, the Tana Toraja of Sulawesi have identified their animistic religion as Hindu. The Batak of Sumatra have identified their animist traditions with Hinduism. Among the minority Indian ethnic group, Tamils and Punjabis of Medan, Sumatra and the Sindhis in Jakarta practice their own form of Hinduism which is similar to the Indian Hinduism, the Indians celebrating Hindu holidays more commonly found in India, such as Deepavali and Thaipusam[55] The Bodha sect of Sasak people on the island of Lombok are non-Muslim; their religion is a fusion of Hinduism and Buddhism with animism; it is considered Buddhist by the government.


The Hindu organisation Ditjen Bimas Hindu (DBH) carries out periodic surveys through its close connections with Hindu communities throughout Indonesia. In 2012 its studies stated that there are 10,267,724 Hindus in Indonesia.[56] The PHDI (Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia) along with other some other religious minority groups claim that the government undercounts non-Muslims in census recording.[57] The 2010 census recorded the number of Hindus at 4,012,116, some 80% of them residing in the Hindu heartland of Bali.[1]

Official Census (2010)[edit]

According to the 2010 Census, there were a total of 4,012,116 Hindus in Indonesia,[1] compared to 3,527,758 Hindus in 2000 Census. While the absolute number of Hindus increased, the relative percentage of Hindus in Indonesia decreased from 2000 to 2010 because of lower birth rates among the Hindu population compared to the Muslim population. The average number of births per Hindu woman varied between 1.8 and 2.0 among various islands, while for the Muslim population it varied between 2.1 and 3.2 per woman.

ProvinceTotalHindu 2010[1]% Hindu 2010% Hindu 2000Change
Sumatera Utara12,982,204122,6440.11%0.17%-0.06%
Sumatera Barat4,846,9092340.00%0.00%0.00%
Sumatera Selatan7,450,39439,2060.53%0.26%0.27%
Kep. Bangka Belitung1,223,2961,0400.09%0.01%0.08%
Kepulauan Riau1,679,1631,5410.09%0.37%-0.28%
DKI Jakarta9,607,78720,3640.21%0.23%-0.02%
Jawa Barat43,053,73219,4810.05%0.02%0.03%
Jawa Tengah32,382,65717,4480.05%0.09%-0.04%
DI Yogyakarta3,457,4915,2570.15%0.09%0.06%
Jawa Timur37,476,757112,1770.30%0.27%0.03%
Nusa Tenggara Barat4,500,212118,0832.62%3.03%-0.41%
Nusa Tenggara Timur4,683,8275,2100.11%0.15%-0.04%
Kalimantan Barat4,395,9832,7080.06%0.08%-0.02%
Kalimantan Tengah2,212,08911,1490.50%5.89%-5.39%
Kalimantan Selatan3,626,61616,0640.44%0.21%0.23%
Kalimantan Timur3,553,1437,6570.22%0.13%0.09%
Sulawesi Utara2,270,59613,1330.58%0.56%0.02%
Sulawesi Tengah2,635,00999,5793.78%4.84%-1.06%
Sulawesi Selatan8,034,77658,3930.73%1.13%-0.40%
Sulawesi Tenggara2,232,58645,4412.04%2.97%-0.93%
Sulawesi Barat1,158,65116,0421.38%1.88%-0.50%
Maluku Utara1,038,0872000.02%0.02%0.00%
Papua Barat760,4228590.11%0.68%-0.57%

Official Census (2000)[edit]

According to the 2000 census, Hindus made up 1.79% of the total Indonesian population. Bali had the highest concentration of Hindus with 88.05% of its population professing Hinduism agama. The percentage of Hindus in the total population declined from the 1990 census, and this is largely attributed to lower birth rates and immigration of Muslims from Java into provinces with high Hindu populations. In Central Kalimantan there has been progressive settlement of Madurese from Madura.[58][59][60][61] The details are given below:

Province (2000 Cen)HindusTotal % Hindu
North Sumatra18,90711,429,9190.17%
West Sumatra04,220,3180.00%
South Sumatra17,8746,756,5640.26%
Bangka Belitung Islands76945,6820.01%
DKI Jakarta19,3318,482,0680.23%
West Java8,17735,279,1820.02%
Central Java28,67730,775,8460.09%
D.I. Yogyakarta2,7463,026,2090.09%
East Java92,93034,456,8970.27%
Nusa Tenggara Barat115,2973,805,5373.03%
Nusa Tenggara Timur5,6983,904,3730.15%
West Kalimantan2,9143,721,3680.08%
Central Kalimantan105,2561,785,8755.89%
South Kalimantan6,2882,956,7840.21%
East Kalimantan3,2212,414,9890.13%
North Sulawesi10,9941,972,8130.56%
Central Sulawesi99,4432,053,1674.84%
South Sulawesi87,6607,759,5741.13%
Southeast Sulawesi52,1031,755,1932.97%
Irian Jaya2,0682,094,8030.10%

Hindu holidays in Indonesia[edit]

  • Hari Raya Galungan occurs every 210 days and lasts for 10 days. It celebrates the coming of the gods and the ancestral spirits to earth to dwell again in the homes of their descendants. The festivities are characterized by offerings, dances and new clothes. The ancestors must be suitably entertained and welcomed, and prayers and offerings must be made for them. Families whose ancestors have not been cremated yet, but remain buried in the village cemetery, must make offerings at the graves. Kuningan is the last day of the holiday, when the gods and ancestors depart until the next Galungan.
  • Hari Raya Saraswati is dedicated the goddess of learning, science, and literature. She rules the intellectual and creative realm, and is the patron goddess of libraries and schools. Balinese Hindus believe that knowledge is an essential medium to achieve the goal of life as a human being, and so honor her. She is also celebrated because she succeeded in taming the wandering and lustful mind of her consort, Brahma, who was preoccupied with the goddess of material existence, Shatarupa. On this day, offerings are made to the lontar (palm-leaf manuscripts), books, and shrines. Saraswati Day is celebrated every 210-days on Saniscara Umanis Wuku Watugunung and marks the start of the new year according to the Balinese Pawukon calendar. Ceremonies and prayers are held at the temples in family compounds, educational institutions and temples, villages, and businesses from morning to noon. Teachers and students replace their uniforms for the day with bright and colourful ceremonial clothing, filling the island with color. Children bring fruit and traditional cakes to school for offerings at the temple.[63]
  • Hari Raya Nyepi is a Hindu Day of Silence or the Hindu New Year in the Balinese Saka calendar. The largest celebrations are held in Bali as well as in Balinese Hindu communities around Indonesia. On New Year's Eve the villages are cleaned, food is cooked for two days and in the evening as much noise is made as possible to scare away the devils. On the following day, Hindus do not leave their homes, cook or engage in any activity. Streets are deserted, and tourists are not allowed to leave hotel complexes. The day following Nyepi night, everything stops for a day except emergency services such as ambulances.[64] Nyepi is determined using the Balinese calendar, the eve of Nyepi falling on the night of the new moon whenever it occurs around March/April each year. Therefore, the date for Nyepi changes every year. Nyepi night is a night of community gathering and burning of effigies island-wide (similar to Holika in India), while the next day is the day of total peace and quiet (unlike Holi which is full of dancing, coloring, merry making and noise).

Social life[edit]

A common feature among new Hindu communities in Java is that they tend to rally around recently built temples (pura) or around archaeological temple sites (candi) which are being reclaimed as places of Hindu worship.

The Parisada Hindu Dharma changed its name to Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia in 1984, in recognition of its national influence spearheaded by

Religion map in Indonesia with Hinduism shown in red
Archeological evidence suggests Tarumanagara as one of the earliest known Hindu kingdoms in Indonesia. The map shows its geographic spread in West Java in the 5th century CE.
A Balinese-style sculpture of the Hindu deity Saraswati installed by the Indonesian government.
One of many Hindu temples in Bali
The 9th century Prambanan Shiva temple, the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia.
Java's Hindu temple, Candi Sambisari.
A child dressed up for a festive Hindu dance in Ubud, Bali
Balinese pura (Hindu temple) dance
Street decoration in Bali for the Hindu festival Galungan. It celebrates the victory of dharma over adharma (right over wrong).[62]