The Bali Aga: The Original Inhabitants and Owners of Bali Island

Did you know that there is a group of indigenous people in Bali with a rich culture and traditions that have been passed down for centuries, and that are still alive and well today? Meet the Bali Aga.

Tenganan village girls called “daha” sit on swings wearing traditional golden-colored cloth. The swings, which are placed in the village courtyard, are moved by two young men. This swinging process symbolizes the constantly turning life, sometimes up, sometimes down.

In this article, we will explore the unique culture and traditions of the Bali Aga, a group of indigenous people who have lived on the island of Bali for centuries. Information about the Bali Aga is somewhat limited due to the strict rules of their community, which are not easily accessible to the outside world. Our information is based on an article written in Indonesian that we used as a reference. The Bali Aga are known for their distinctive cultural practices and traditions, which have been passed down through the generations. Despite the challenges they have faced in recent years due to the increasing influence of modern society and tourism on the island, the Bali Aga continue to hold on to their cultural traditions and are proud of their unique identity as the original inhabitants of Bali. In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the rich culture of the Bali Aga and learn more about their traditions, customs, and way of life.

As translated from

The people who inhabit the island of Bali can generally be divided into two groups: the “Bali Aga” and the “Bali Majapahit“. The distinction between these two groups of people is made to differentiate between those who came to Bali earlier and those who came later. The Bali Aga are the group of people who came to Bali earlier, inhabited the villages in the mountains of Bali, and were less influenced by Majapahit. On the other hand, the Bali Majapahit are the group of people who came to Bali later, generally inhabited the lowland areas (urban areas), and were more influenced by Majapahit.

The Bali Aga have a culture that is slightly different from the culture of the Bali Majapahit (mainland Bali). The Bali Aga culture existed before the culture of Majapahit entered Bali in 1343 AD. The Bali Aga/Kuna culture is the result of syncretism between prehistory culture and Hindu culture, resulting in a culture with distinctive characteristics different from prehistory culture, Hindu culture, or Bali Majapahit culture. The characteristics of Bali Aga culture can be broadly understood from Reuter’s explanation (2005: 421), which are:

  1. Bali Aga people do not burn the deceased,
  2. Bali Aga people do not recognize the caste system,
  3. Bali Aga people do not consult with Brahmana priests (Pedandas/High Priest),
  4. Bali Aga people do not use Sankrit mantras (sacred words) in offerings,
  5. Bali Aga people do not choose village leaders based on intelligence.

Dharmayudha also clearly outlines the characteristics of the Bali Aga people, which are:

  1. In Bali Aga villages, village government is led by groups led by Kubayan, Kebau, and Senggukan,
  2. In Bali Aga villages, there is no recognition of the caste system,
  3. Bali Aga villages recognize the existence of Druwe Desa (that owned by the village) lands,
  4. The Bali Aga people have many unique words (Dialect Bali Aga),
  5. The influence of Hinduism is not as strong among the Bali Aga people,
  6. In the ngaben (cremation) ceremony, the Bali Aga people do not burn the body.

Some of the villages in the mountains of Bali that have Bali Aga traditions and culture include Trunyan village, Tenganan Pagringsingan village, Sukawana village, Selulung village, Bayung Gede village, Manikliu village, and so on.

SOURCES: Dharmayuda, Made Suasthawa. 1995. Bali Culture: Pre-Hindu, Hindu, and Post-Hindu. Denpasar: Kayumas Agung.

Pitana, I Gde. 1994. “The Mosaic of Bali Society and Culture”. In Dynamics of Bali Society and Culture (Editor: I Gde Pitana). Denpasar: BP Offset. Pages: 3-16.

Reuter, Thomas A. 2005. Custodians of Sacred Mountains: Culture and Society in the Mountains of Bali (Editor: I Nyoman Dharma Putra; translated by: A. Rahman Zainuddin). Jakarta: Yayasan Obor Rakyat.

Each of Bali Aga village have a very unique traditions, we will explore them more on another blog post and you can find them by following our blog tags.

Scroll to Top