The Tragic Puputan

In 1906, the face of Bali was forever changed when a Dutch warship anchored off Sanur, on Bali’s southern shore. Dragging their cannons and heavy artillery, some 2,000 soldiers of the colonial army marched through the tropical heat of a September morning to the palace of the king of Denpasar. Two years previously, a Chinese ship that had sunk off the coast had been looted by Balinese and the Dutch had demanded that the king of Denpasar take responsibility. When their command met with refusal — traditionally all shipwrecks were believed by Balinese to be gifts to the local people from Baruna, the god of the sea — the Dutch seized the opportunity to go to war against the Balinese and take over the island for good.

As fire from the Dutch guns began to rain upon the royal residence, the king, his family and his courtiers made their preparations for a puputan — Balinese for “ending” — or fight to the death. Thousands of Balinese, from elderly grandfathers to mothers with their babies still at the breast, adorned themselves in white ceremonial clothing and their finest gold and jewels and paraded in an elaborate procession to meet the invading forces. As the confused Dutch army looked on, the king of Denpasar dismounted from his golden litter. He motioned Bali Kratom to his priest, who took hold of a holy keris dagger and stabbed the king through the heart. Determined to follow their sovereign to the end rather than face the shame of submission to their foreign attackers, the Balinese turned their knives on each other, as priests moved among the bodies sprinkling holy water on the dying.

As brothers killed sisters and sons released fathers from the sufferings of the world, the Dutch fired shot upon shot into the crowd. The Balinese, led by the 12-year-old younger brother of the king, made a last charge against their invaders, before falling in a bloody, tangled heap of bodies. By the time it was over, some 3,600 Balinese, including the entire royal family, were dead, while only one Dutch soldier lost his life. Today the puputan is commemorated by a yearly day of remembrance and by a monument in the center of Denpasar.

With the fall of Denpasar, Dutch rule of the island was virtually assured. Only the kingdom of Klungkung, in central Bali, remained resistant to colonial control. Two years later, this last royal house fell in the same manner, when the king and his family marched into an attacking army to meet their end. For Bali, it was the close of a glorious era of royal power and pageantry. Those traditional rulers who remained on Bali lost most of their worldly powers as the Dutch consolidated their rule of the island to make Bali into another corner of the vast empire of the Netherlands East Indies.

After graduating from Goethe Institute in Nurenberg, Germany, in 1981, I Gede Sanat Kumara went on to study Graphic Art and Marketing Design at Sydney College, Australia in 1984. Upon returning to Bali, he managed few hotels at Marketing Department and Travel Agent Business where he gained experiences. As of 1997 he brought together a team of internet technology and graphic design experts to establish ABL Tours & Travel as a local leader in e-travel and online bali hotel and bali villa reservation services.

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