Most of the north coast falls under the regency of Buleleng, the capital city of which, Singaraja, was once Bali's chief port. This long contact with outside influences in reflected in the ethnic diversity of its population and as a starting place for new artistic developments, which later spread south.
During the 14th century northern Bali came under the rule of the Javanese nobles of east Bali's Gelgel dynasty. In 1584 the legendary Panji Sakti built a palace called Puri Sukasada where Singaraja is today, extending his rule all the way to east Java. Panji Sakti broke with the overlords of the south and established a powerful maritime kingdom, which survived through 12 generations and into the mid-19th century.
In 1814, while Sir Stamford Raffles was busy founding Singapore, a British force spent several months here. Alarmed at the increasing involvement of the English in the region, the Dutch were next on the scene. Determined to grab all the islands of the Indies for themselves, the Dutch in 1846 sent ashore a military expedition to capture Singaraja, then known as Buleleng.
The Dutch made Singaraja the island's first capital, as evident in the abundance of colonial architecture that remains standing there to this day. The attack ended in a stalemate and a shaky treaty was signed with the ruling princes. Two years later, the troops of Prince Gusti Ketut Jelantik lured a Dutch force to the town of Jagaraga, killing 264. Hollanders and mercenaries while losing 2,000 of their own men.
In 1849, a much larger and better-equipped Dutch engaged the Balinese. A Dutch general was killed and Jelantik committed suicide by poison. Although the Balinese were extraordinarily brave, they were no match for the repeating rifles and modern howitzers of the Dutch. Another truce led to the 1855 separation of Buleleng from Jembrana, and the regency became the first on the island to fall under the direct political control of the empire-building Dutch.
Singaraja became the district's capital in 1882, and served as a major transshipment point for Nusatenggara throughout the colonial period. The descendants of the local regent became bureaucratic officials in the employ of the Dutch. Feudal rule came to an end here a full 60-years prior to colonization of the more bucolic south.
Even today northern Bali retains an anachronistic European air, the caste system ignored and the social order centering more on the family than on the communalized, institutionalized agricultural 'banjar' of the south. Because of their strong egalitarian spirit, the cosmopolitan and well-mannered people of Buleleng are considered 'kasar' by other Balinese.
In 1945 Anak Agung Panji Tisna, an 11th generation descendant of the Gelgel dynasty, became the first Balinese king to convert to Christianity. Tisna was the son of Anak Agung Putu Jelantik, who wrote much of Buleleng's history on 'lontar'. His new faith, coupled with the perception that he was more artist and writer than ruler, drove Tisna to resign as raja in 1947. He was replaced by his brother. When Tisna died in 1978 he became the first Balinese king to be buried and not cremated.
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