Hindu caste system as it is found today in Bali was not firmly
implanted until after the conquest by the Famous Gajah Mada. Then
Hindu-Javanese rule was definitely established, the island was
divided into vassal territories paying tribute to the local princes
that were given control. The natives lived under a class system
of their own long before that time, however they had their ranks,
with a sort of aristocracy that combined government and priesthood.
Javanese penatration did not reach many of the remote mountain
communities, which remained outside the fudal territories. There,
even today, live the conservative old-fashioned Balinese, entrenched
against the landlords regarding them as intruders. In these villages
the Hindu castes are not recognized and the descendants of the
primitive aristocracy proudly retain their titles and their authority..
At the top of the long list of native ranks are the pasek and
the bandesa, the heads of -the two central institutions of the
old-style community: the temple of " origin., " and
the assembly hall, ritually belonging to the "right"
and "left." I was told that a girl of these castes who
marries a man of the Hindu aristocracy is publicly renounced by
her family and spiritually " thrown out " of the village.
Also held in respect are the blacksmiths, a caste in themselves,
pande, the ancient fire-priests who made the magic krisses, symbol
of the family's virility. Even Brahmanas, highest among all classes,
must use the high language when addressing a pande who has his
tools in his bands.
the tributary districts the natives coordinated their castes with
those of the new nobility, in a great scale of ranks that have
now become so muddled through intermarriage that they appear confused
even to the Balinese themselves. The original castes still remain
as subdivisions of the fourth and lowest of the Hindu castes,
the Sudras, who constitute about ninety-three per cent of the
population of Bali.
Hindu-Balinese nobility is divided into the three well known groups:
the priests,. Brahmanas (Brahmins of India) ; the ruling royalty,
Satrias (Ksatriyas) ; and the military class., Wesias (Vesiya)
. They are supposed to originate directly from the gods According
to the legends, the Brahmanas sprang out of the mouth of Brahma,
the Satria from his arms, and the Wesia from his feet. Perhaps
the reason why the common people look upon their nobility with
such respect is that they have still an unshaken belief in their
divine origin. The true Balinese religion consists mainly in the
worship of the family ancestors, with the patriarch founder of
the village as the communal god Thus it was easy for the conquerors
to establish their own dead kings as ancestral gods, since they,
too, descended from canonized kings and holy men who were in turn
descendants of the highest divinities. This fitted perfectly with
the Balinese idea of rank and with of ancestors. In many legends
the great kings and religious teachers of the past were considered
as reincarnations of gods, so I was never surprised when a priest
or a prince assured me in all seriusness that his family descended
from Indra or Wisnu, or some such divine character.
is the caste complex of some Balinese that I often found silly
boys from Denpasar posing as members of the higher castes when
they visited a strange town where they were not know. Some common
people say that once they were of a higher caste and that their
present state is due to faults committed by their, ancestors.
Good behaviour on this earth brings a raising of in the next incarnation,
and bad behaviour the opposite; consequently social position in
the world of men is the result of behaviour in former lives. Many
Wesias claim that their families Satrias lowered in rank while
they were ordinary humans such. was the case of the ancestor of
the royal families of Badung and Tabanan, the legendary Arya Damar,
who was lowered to Wesia. On the other hand, the Balinese insist
that the raja Karangasem was a Wesia who had himself elevated
to the satria caste after the fall of the k1ungkung dynasty.
" highest of the high," the Brahmanas, claim descent
from the great priest Wau Rau'h, who wandered all over bali in
legendary times creating children with women of all classes even
the servant women of his wives. These children, the future priests,
were. the heads of the various brahmana families some of, which
are higher than others, according to their purity of blood on
account of the origin of their various mothers. The. brahmanas
are further divided into two sects: the Siwa and budha: the descendants
of the two famous brothers, the religious ers Mpu' Kuturan and
Mpu' Bbarada, who created the the laws for Balinese. A distinction
is made between initiated brahmanas, the priests, and the uninitiated.