This regency was born of cruelty, incest, betrayal, and murder. In Bali, where legend and history are so intertwined, the history of Bangli reads like a story from one of the Panji tales.
In the 18th century, the ruthless king Dewa Rai of Taman married his cousin, Dewa Ayu from the Bangli Denbancingah family, and immediately began plotting to overthrow his uncle, the ruler of Nyalian. Dewa Rai adopted Dewa Gede Tangkeban, the son of the ruler of Nyalian, but the son fell in love and had an affair with his adoptive father's wife, the queen. She persuaded her lover to turn Dewa Rai's dissatisfied subjects against their despised king.
After Dewa Rai was murdered in the courtyard of the Puri Agung of Bangli, Dewa Gede Tangkeban married his stepmother and became king of Bangli. Since this marriage was not sanctioned by the religious 'adat' of the time, seven generations of rulers were cursed with bad luck.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, a time when maritime trade was paramount, only those kingdoms with ports were economically and politically powerful. To trade, Bangli was forced to transport its goods through other territories, paying heavy tribute to their sovereigns. Bangli's luck changed in 1849 when its king Dewa Gede Tangkeban II was appointed by the Dutch to rule the northern regency of Buleleng.
This vast area came under Dutch control after Buleleng's King Gusti Ketut Jelantik committed 'puputan'. This confederation was of great advantage to Bangli. It was then able to gain access to the sea. Buleleng could also benefit, as it was able to irrigate its rice fields with Bangli water. But the union was short lived. In 1854, Buleleng rebelled against Bangli.
No matter, in 1882, all of northern Bali came under direct Dutch colonial administration. Bangli first became known to the Western world when a German doctor, Gregor Krause (1883-1959), was appointed to the Dutch hospital here from 1912 to 1914. An avid photographer and amateur ethnologist, Krause took over 4,000 photos during his tenure. Four hundred of them, together with his reports on Balinese cultural life, were published in Germany in 1922 and distributed worldwide.
The book's effect on Europe, having just emerged from four years of war and still struggling with poverty, was electric. The majority of photos was shot in Bangli and constitutes an invaluable historic record of the time; the 'puri', aristocratic life, raja and princesses in ceremonial attire, royal Topeng dancers.
Another famous literary personality, Scottish-born Muriel Pearson, under the pen name Ketut Tantri, wrote Revolt in Paradise, a fascinating tale of her life in Bali and Java from 1932 to 1947. Inspired by the early Hollywood film The Last Paradise, she came to Bali, settling first in Denpasar, Soon growing restless, she drove inland in search of the real Bali. Her car ran out of gas in front of the Puri Denpasar in Bangli.
The raja of the time invited her into the palace and eventually she became his quasi-adopted daughter. He gave her the name Ketut Tantri, ketut meaning fourth-born child. She wore traditional clothes and at the raja's suggestion dyed her red hair black, only 'leyak' have red hair on Bali.
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