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  Bali Aga

As you climb into upland Bali the people become harder looking, their faces less expressive, less likely to smile, reflecting the harshness of their lives.

On Bali there's still a distinction between the Wong Majapahit, descendants of 16th-century migrants of East Java's fallen Majapahit Empire, and the Bali Aga, the original inhabitants of the island who retreated into the mountains where they're found to this day, indifferent to outsiders.

The Bali Aga never came under the religious and despotic influence of the Javanese nobility, and thus still reflects the true, republican nature of original Balinese society. In their reclusive communities they constitute a nation within a nation.

As a people, the Bali Aga are woefully understudied, their archaic dialect dying, many of their rituals abandoned. They are known for their great austere temples - striking examples in Taro and Trunyan - and the peculiar social divisions of their communities.

There has long been an unfavorable social stigma attached to the Bali Aga; they're looked down upon by lowlanders. But as time wears on, education, intermarriage, interdependent economies, and the Indonesian language work to blur the distinctions between the Bali Aga and Wong Majapahit Balinese.

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