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Hindus in Indonesia

Hindus in Indonesia

Indonesia, News
July 4, 2011 10:59 pm

Hindu culture and religion arrived in the Indonesian archipelago in the first century, later coinciding with the arrival of Buddhism,[26] resulting in a number of Hinduism-Buddhism empires such as Kutai, Mataram and Majapahit. The Prambanan Temple complex was built during the era of Hindu Mataram, during the Sanjaya dynasty. The greatest Hindu empire ever flourished in Indonesian archipelago was Majapahit empire. The age of Hindu-Buddhist empires lasted until the sixteenth century, when the archipelago’s Islamic empires began to expand. This period, known as the Hindu-Indonesia period, lasted for sixteen full centuriesThe influence of Hinduism and classical India remain defining traits of Indonesian culture; the Indian concept of the god-king still shapes Indonesian concepts of leadership and the use of Sanskrit in courtly literature and adaptations of Indian mythology such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Hinduism in Indonesia takes on a tone distinct from other parts of the world. For instance, Hinduism in Indonesia, formally referred as Agama Hindu Dharma, never applied the caste system. Another example is that the Hindu religious epics, the Mahabharata (Great Battle of the Descendants of Bharata) and the Ramayana (The Travels of Rama), became enduring traditions among Indonesian believers, expressed in shadow puppet (wayang) and dance performances. Hinduism has also formed differently in Java regions, which were more heavily influenced by their own version of Islam, known as Islam Abangan or Islam Kejawen

All practitioners of Agama Hindu Dharma share many common beliefs, mostly the Five Points of Philosophy: the Panca Srada. These include the belief in one Almighty God, belief in the souls and spirits and karma or the belief in the law of reciprocal actions. Rather than belief on cycles of rebirth and reincarnation, Hinduism in Indonesia is concerned more with a myriad of local and ancestral spirits. In addition, the religion focuses more on art and ritual rather than scriptures, laws and beliefs.[28]

The official number of Hindu practitioners is 10 million (2007),[31] and currently giving Indonesia the fourth largest number of Hindus in the world. This number is disputed by the representative of Hinduism in Indonesia, the Parisada Hindu Dharma. The PHDI gives an estimate of 18 million.[32] Of this number, 93% of the practitioners are located in Bali, the majority of the population of which is Hindu. Besides Bali, Sumatra, Java, Lombok and Kalimantan island also have significant Hindu populations. Central Kalimantan is 15.8% Hindu.

Indonesian hindu women offering daily prayers to god

The natives of Indonesian Archipelago practiced an indigenous animism and dynamism, beliefs common to austronesian people. Native pre-Hindu Buddhist Indonesia venerated and revered an ancestral spirit; they also believe that some spirit may inhabit certain places such as large trees, stones, forests, mountains, or any sacred places. This unseen spiritual entity that had supranatural power is identified by ancient Javanese and Balinese as “hyang” that can mean either divine or ancestral. In the modern Indonesian, “hyang” tends to be associated with God.

Arrival of Hinduism and Buddhism

The 9th century Prambanan Shiva temple, the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia.

Hindu influences reached the Indonesian Archipelago as early as first century. In 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. Several notable ancient Indonesian Hindu kingdoms are Mataram, famous for the construction of the majestic Prambanan temple, followed by Kediri and Singhasari. Since then Hinduism along with Buddhism spread across the archipelago and reached the peak of its influence in the 14th century. The last and largest among Hindu-Buddhist Javanese empires, Majapahit, influenced the Indonesian archipelago.

Like Hinduism before it, Islam first advanced into the archipelago along powerful trade networks, gaining a firm foothold in Java with the rise of early Islamic polities along the northern coast. Early sultanates such as Demak Sultanate and Banten Sultanate were established on the northern coast of Java and expanded across the Indonesian archipelago as more tribes adopted Islam.

General beliefs and practices

Acintya is the Supreme God in Balinese Hinduism.

Practitioners of Agama Hindu Dharma share many common beliefs, which include:

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.[1]

A belief in the Trimurti, consisting of:

Brahma, the creator

Wisnu or Vishnu, the preserver

Ciwa or Shiva, the destroyer

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. They are the basis of Balinese Hinduism. Other sources of religious information include the Puranas and the Itihasa (mainly Ramayana and the Mahabharata).

Supreme Hindu God of Balinese

One of Hinduism’s primary ethical concerns is the concept of ritual purity. Another important distinguishing feature, which traditionally helps maintain ritual purity, is the division of society into the traditional occupational groups, or varna of Hinduism: Brahmins (priests, brahmana in Indonesian), Kshatriya (ruler-warriors, satriya or “Deva”[2] in Indonesian), Vaishya (merchants-farmers, waisya in Indonesian), and Shudra (commoners-servants, sudra in Indonesian). Like Islam and Buddhism, Hinduism was greatly modified when adapted to Indonesian society.


Javanese Hindu Girl

The caste system, although present in form, was never rigidly applied. The epics Mahabharata (Great Battle of the Descendants of Bharata) and Ramayana (The Travels of Rama), became enduring traditions among Indonesian believers, expressed in shadow puppet (wayang) and dance performances.

The Indonesian government has recognized Hinduism as one of the country’s five officially sanctioned, monotheistic religions. Partly as a result, followers of various tribal and animistic religions have identified themselves as Hindu in order to avoid harassment or pressure to convert to Islam or Christianity. Furthermore, Indonesian nationalists have laid great stress on the achievements of the Majapahit Empire – a Hindu state – which has helped attract certain Indonesians to Hinduism. These factors have led to a certain resurgence of Hinduism outside of its Balinese stronghold


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