Bali culture stems from many sources. Let's take one example, the Goa Gajah (or Elephant Cave) near Ubud. This area of religious shrines shows several of the influences shaping Bali culture. It is likely that the first area of interest to worshipers was the nearby ravine and spring with large, unusual stones. Animist worship, as of the fern draped gushing spring, is still a part of religion practices in Bali.

Perhaps next developed on the site were the large ceremonial baths reminiscent of the baths in the center of Mohenjo-Daro, largest city in the first Indus River civilization (2500-1700 BC.) Ritual bathing was incorporated into the Hindu religion, established by Aryan invaders about 1500 BC. Later, traders from India brought the Hindu culture to Southeast Asia, including Bali.

The cave near the baths is thought to date from 1000 AD, and contains both Shiva (Hindu) and Buddhist statues. On the outside it has carvings that look like an elephant - not native to Bali. There is another Buddhist shrine nearby, plus an old Buddhist statue by spring. It is likely that Hindu and Buddhist missionaries purposely built close to the original nature worship area of the spring.

Arab traders later came to Indonesia, and converted all of the islands but Bali to Islam. Dutch traders came to Indonesia starting in the 1600's, but were not successful in transmitting their religion. Red tile roofs and Heineken beer seem to be the only Dutch legacies in Bali! American influence in Bali includes the Internet, movies, and rock music, but not religion.


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