The Gelgel Period
In the 14th century a Javanese settlement was established at Samprangan, at the foot of Gunung Agung. The capital was then moved to the south coast at Gelgel in Klungkung Regency.
Gelgel did not wield direct political power over the other courts but became the passive and much respected nucleus around which the other kingdoms revolved. Its powerful succession of rulers was distinguished by the semidivine title of Dewa Agung ("Grand Lord") and was no less than the titular leaders of Bali.
Here, for two centuries, successive kings of Bali resided, developing unique Bali-Hindu customs and institutions and welding together the traditions of East Java and old Bali. Complex death rituals, offerings, and high ceremonial language were all probably introduced during this period.
The greatest ruler at Bali's Gelgel dynasty, Dalem Batu Renggong, expanded the island's influence east by conquering and colonizing Lombok and Sumbawa, and the Blambangan Peninsula of East Java. Whole colonies of court artisans, carvers, men of letters, painters, architects, and gold and silversmiths created the lavish trappings of royalty. Theater associations and orchestras sprang up, folk art flourished.
The arts were indistinguishable from the life of the courts and the religious activity of the people. Art was never executed for its own sake but presented as an offering or prayer in service to the community and the gods. A woodcarver carved the eaves on a royal bale from an almost client-like obligation to his lord. An architect designed a stone altar in the temple as an act of faith in his religion. Gratuity for the craft, product, labor, or service was given in the form of rice, privileges, and/or political patronage.
During Dalem Batu Renggong's rule, the saka calendar of Hindu Java and 30-week Balinese wuku calendar were combined into the intricate schedule of religious ceremonies that exists today. Cremations, until the Gelgel period the privilege of the nobility, began to be practiced by the common people.
The Dewa Agung also constructed nine great temples throughout the land, with Pura Besakih serving as the island's "mother temple". Numerous present-day Balinese temples: Gunung Kawi, Pura Penulisan, are actually memorial shrines to ancient rulers and their families.
Around the mid-17th century, the dynasty moved north to Klungkung. Countless micro-revolts erupted among Bali's seven principalities, sparked by conflicts over status relationships, prestige, and pressure from upwardly mobile commoners. A state of constant war prevailed throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and ended only when the various kingdoms were forced to integrate into the Netherlands East Indies in the early 20th century.
Gelgel remained the island's center of political power, if only in name, until its final defeat at the hands of the Dutch.
The Balinese consider this dynasty their great classical period. Even after the Dutch conquests of 1906 and 1908, the local regents of the Gelgel and Klungkung districts retained their autonomy into the 1950s, when finally the Indonesian republican government stripped them of their lands and feudal authority.
Yet seven of the secondary principalities of Batu Renggong's time survive as administrative districts today: Badung, Gianyar, Bangli, Tabanan, Karangasem, Buleleng, and Jembrana, all based on the seven kingdoms that emerged from the 17th-century Gelgel dynasty.
The metropolitan area of Denpasar, Bali's largest urban area and government center, was declared regency in the early 1990s.
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