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Islam is the prominent religion in Indonesia. In total 87 per cent of the population are muslim, making this the largest Islamic nation.

It is only from 15th century on that Islam imposed itself in Java. Repelled on the island of Bali, javanese hindus settled there, and the small island kept its religion until now.
Although founded on the same texts as indian hinduism, and having several epics in common, like the Mahabaratha and the Ramayana, hinduism practiced in Bali is quite different from the one practiced in India. In particular, the casts system doesn't exist in Bali.

 But Indonesia also supports many other religions from Buddhism to Hinduism and even Christianity.




The largest concentration of Muslims is to be found in Java and on the Island of Lombok, home to the Sasak people. Crossing the narrow straits to Bali, you move to a world of good and evil spirits, of rain gods, rice gods and the endless circle of death and rebirth.

Hinduism was introduced sometime during the 5th century by pilgrims from India. Today the religion has been influenced by Buddhism and animism and absorbed into every day life.

Whatever the religion, ritual play a crucial part in everyday life in Indonesia.As well as the greater duties of a pilgrimage to Mecca, a muslim must pray five times a day, give alms to the poor and fast during daylight hours in the holy month of Ramadan.

The Balinese Hindus, who worship Tintaya, Brahma the creator, Shiva, the destroyer and Vishnu the presever, must also make daily offerings to, and tend the shrines of, their ancestors.

In Bali and Java, boys and girls marry as young as 14, celebrating their union with feasts and music. Arranged marriages are rare and divorce is almost unheard of. Women, although subservient to their husbands, do have an element of independance.

In the rural villages and towns, where the mjority of Indonesian's live, the extended family remains the heart of traditional society. Living as one unit, eating, sleeping and working together. As with many traditional cultures the elderly are to be financially and spiritually supported by their offspring.

In fact Indonesians suffer very little of the feeling of isolation felt by many of their progressive neighbours, relying on the gods and the community to help them through the ups and downs of everyday life.


When on Bali or Lombok, keep an eye out for the small spirit houses or shrines which are built to honour the spirits, the most important inhabitants on the island. If treated with respect they ensure plentiful crops, good health and happiness. If over looked they cause drought,death and a thousand traumas. To ensure harmony, good spirits must be thanked with offerings and colourful festivities, and bad spirits appeased by gifts of rice and joss sticks placed on the ground every morning.

It is not just the spirits who must be honoured. In every village you will find temples and shrines dedicated to the gods Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu, as well as temples for the dead and founding village.

There are plenty of temples on Java, too, from the Buddhist temple of Borobudur to the Hindu Candis at Prambanan and Dieng Plateau.


Whether its is a temple, a spirit house or a mosque filled with prostrate Muslims, treat it as you would any place of worship. Before entering a Balinese temple you will be expected to tie a sash around your waist and leave a small donation.

Most temples forbid menstrating women as it is seen as unclean, some even ban women who are pregnant or insane.

On Java and Lombok everyone can enter a mosque, but always observe the appropriate customs. Remove your shoes before entering and wash you feet in the facilities provided. Women should always dress conservatively and avoid shorts or short skirts.


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