Balinese caste system
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The Balinese caste system is a system of social organization similar to the Indian caste system. However, India's caste system is far more complicated than Bali's, and there are only four Balinese castes.
The four castes of Bali are:
- Shudras – peasants making up more than 90% of Bali's population. They constitute close to 93% of the population.
- Wesias (Vaishyas) – the caste of merchants and administrative officials
- Ksatrias (Kshatriyas) – the warrior caste, it also included some nobility and kings
- Brahmins – holy men and priests
Note the similarity of the castes to the four varnas (shudra, vaishya, kshatriya, brahmin) of India.
The members of the four castes use different dialects of the Balinese language to address members of a different caste. Middle Balinese is generally used to speak to people whose caste is unknown in an encounter. Once the caste status of the participants are established, the proper language is used to address each other.
Nowadays, the caste system is used more in religious settings where the members of the lower caste would ask the members of the Brahman caste (the Pedandas) to conduct ceremonies. Since the Dutch colonial years and more recently after the Indonesian independence, the differences in the economic roles of the members of the caste system are slowly eroding as the government prohibits treatments based on the caste system.
Most of the Kshatriya families in Java and Bali became extinct during the fall of the Majapahit and the numerous Javanese wars. Almost all of the Balinese Kshatriyas trace their origin to the royal family of King Deva Agung, who ruled 500 years before. Some of the original Kshatriyas, like those claiming descent from Arya Damar were relegated to Wesia status, so only those claiming descent from Deva Agung are recognized as proper Kshatriya in Bali.
During the 1950s and 1960s there were conflicts between supporters of the traditional caste system in Bali and its opponents. Many of the latter were affiliated with the PKI, the Communist Party of Indonesia, which was violently oppressed during the Indonesian killings of 1965–1966.
- Vickers, Adrian (1995), From Oey, Eric (Editor) (1995). Bali. Singapore: Periplus Editions. pp. 26–35. ISBN 962-593-028-0.
- Taylor, Jean Gelman (2003). Indonesia: Peoples and Histories. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 358. ISBN 0-300-10518-5.