The Kingdom

Foreign Rule

Armed Forces




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The Majapahit Empire rule over Bali became complete when Gajah Mada, Prime Minister of the Javanese king, defeated the Balinese king in Bedulu in 1343. The Majapahit capital in Bali was established at Samprangan and later Gelgel. Gelgel remained the paramount kingdom on Bali until the second half of the 17th century.

With the rise of Islam in the Indonesian archipelago, the Majapahit empire finally fell, and Bali became independent at the end of the 15th or beginning of the 16th century, with much of the Javanese aristocracy finding refuge in Bali, bringing an even stronger influx of Hindu arts, literature and religion. According to later chronicles the dynasty of Majapahit origins, established after 1343, continued to rule Bali for 5 more centuries until 1908, when the Dutch eliminated it in the Dutch intervention in Bali (1908). In the 16th century, the Balinese king Dalem Baturenggong even expanded in turn his rule to East Java, Lombok and western Sumbawa


In the late 1890s, struggles between Balinese kingdoms in the island’s south were exploited by the Dutch to increase their control. A war of the Rajas between 1884 and 1894 gave another pretext to the Dutch to intervene. In 1894, the Dutch defeated the Balinese ruler of Lombok, adding both Lombok and Karangasem to their possessions.

A few years later, with the pretext of stopping the plundering of shipwrecks, the Dutch mounted large naval and ground assaults at the Sanur region in 1906 in the Dutch intervention in Bali (1906), leading to the elimination of the royal house of Badung and about 1000 deaths. In the Dutch intervention in Bali (1908), a similar massacre occurred in the face of a Dutch assault in Klungkung, sealing the end of the Majapahit dynasty which had ruled the island, and the total rule of the Dutch over Bali.

Imperial Japan occupied Bali during World War II with the declared objective of forming a “Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere” that would liberate Asian countries from Western domination.

After the capitulation of Japan a province was founded on 19 August 1945 called Soenda Ketjil (The Lesser Sunda Islands). Its capital was on Bali. On 10 October 1945 the Japanese ceded the province to the Republic of Indonesia but, when the maintenance of law and order quickly deteriorated, the Republic had to cede the province to the Dutch at the end of January 1946.

In 1946 the Dutch constituted Bali as one of the 13 administrative districts of the newly proclaimed State of East Indonesia, a rival state to the Republic of Indonesia. Bali was included in the United States of Indonesia when the Netherlands recognised Indonesian independence on 29 December 1949. In 1958, the present Bali Province was established by law Undang-Undang No. 64/1958.


KINGS OF BALI 1343 - 1908

Majapahit Suzereinty 1343 - ca. 1527

Dalem Samprangan

14th century or c. 1502?

Dalem Ketut

late 14th century or c. 1520?

Sovereign Kingdom ca. 1527-1843

Dalem Baturenggong

mid 16th century

Dalem Bekung

1558-1578 or 1630s

Dalem Seganing

c. 1580-1623 or ?-1650

Dalem Di Made

1623-1642 or 1655–1665

Dewa Pacekan


Dewa Cawu

1651-c. 1655

Anglurah Agung


Titulary kings of Bali in Klungkung

Dewa Agung Jambe I

1686-c. 1722

Dewa Agung Gede

c. 1722-1736

Dewa Agung Made

1736-c. 1760

Dewa Agung Śakti

c. 1760-1790

Dewa Agung Putra I Kusamba

c. 1790-1809

Gusti Ayu Karang

regent 1809-1814

Dewa Agung Putra II


Dutch suzerainty 1843-1908

Dewa Agung Putra II


Dewa Agung Putra III Bhatara Dalem


Dewa Agung Jambe II


Direct Dutch rule 1908-1941

Japanese Occupation 1941-1945

Incorporated in Eastern Indonesia 1946-1950

Incorporated in the Indonesian unitary state 1950-present




Little or no artefacts seem to have been preserved which can be ascribed with certainty to any Balinese ruler.

Nevertheless heraldic symbols are quite common in Balinese art and are well known by amateurs of  Balinese culture, even when they seem not to be labelled as such.

It seems quite obvious that symbols of authority in Bali are strongly influenced by Hindu examples and this can be explained by the fact that Bali was ruled for centuries by kings from the Hindu Majapahit dynasty and the fact that Hinduism is the religion of more than 93% of the population.


The Kingdom


Vishnu, the Ruler


In Hinduism Vishnu is the God of preservation and he belongs, together with Brahma the creator and Shiva  the destroyer, to the heavenly trio.

As such and in the socio-political context Vishnu is depicted with the symbols of the universe, of religious authority, administrative- and armed authority, that is to say the cakra (wheel), the śankha (conch), the padma (lotus) and the gada (club).

Some striking examples of a Visnu statue are known from Majapahit Java. In Bali there is a statue of Vishnu in Denpasar.


Hindu rulers very often are considered to be a incarnation of Vishnu and therefore their heavenly mandate includes supreme religious, administrative and armed power. Consequently he is the head of the church, of the administration and of the army.


Naga, Serpent


We also meet the Naga or snake in Balinese symbolism. The Naga in general is a manifestation of the royal dynasty. As such he is depicted on the royal kris (which is literally the royal arms) but he can also be consisdered as the symbol of the armed force in a wider sense. For that reason the Naga as a supporter of  his person means that the king is ruling by the grace of his dynasty.


An example of such a configuration can be found on the royal sedan today in Musum Nusantara in Delft. 



This shows a seat (on which the ruler is lacking of course) supported by two crowned naga’s.  As this sedan was donated by a Dutch officer to the Museum shortly after 1864, it may have been the sedan of a ruler defeated in one of the military expeditions between 1846 and 1849.

A candidate for this ruler is Dewa Agung Putra II (1814–1850; ruler (susuhunan) of Bali and Lombok until 1849). He was the titulary king of Bali in Klungkung, and the litter is decorated  in Kamasan style, named after the village near Gelgel where Klungkung court painting was produced. [1] 

Another sedan is preserved in the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam. It is a miniature of a royal sedan, also with two naga


Garuda, the Vehicle of the Ruler



The Garuda is the vehicle of Vishnu and symbolizes the state in which the three spheres of authority are united. For that reason Garuda is very often depicted bearing Vishnu on his back. Many examples of such a Vishnu-Garuda combination are known from Bali art.  We may suppose that some of the older Vishnu’s on Garudas’ back in fact are depicting Balinese kings but of course that is a supposition that will be very difficult to prove.















Garuda bearing Vishnu.

As the Vishnu-figure bears a wheel and a conch he is depicted as the supreme religious authority. His features do not rule out the possibility that a king of Bali is depicted.


Sapi, Ox


Sculptures of oxes are found in the court of the royal hall Kertha Gosa in Klungkung. They are the decoration of the seats facing the seats of the royal representatives, decorated with royal naga or serpents

Sapi-seats in Kertha Gosa royal hall.

We may safely suppose that the seats with the sapi are those of the representatives of the people in court even when we do not know anything about the procedures of royal audiences or the administration of Balinese justice. [2]

As the sapi was the most important asset of the Balinese peasant, it makes an excellent symbol of the people of Bali. [3]The adoption of an animal to represent a people matches the many other animals symbolizing societies all over the world. Some greek city-states for example were symbolized by animals like the owl for Athens and the pegasus for Corinth. Many other peoples in the world are symbolized by their totem which usually has the form of an animal. Still others are symbolized by the mythical animal from which they trace their descent.

In a monarchy however, it is quite exeptional to find a symbol for the people as it is considered to be composed of subjects and as such does not have an identity other than the monarch’s. [4]


See also: Cattle in Religion and Bull.





The flag of Bali consisted of nine stripes red, white and blue, the red symbolizing Shiva, the white Brahma and the blue Vishnu.


About 1880 the rulers of Bali and Lombok, when asked about the use of flags, answered that no flags were ever used in their kingdoms. Following the example of the Dutch Government however, they used the Dutch flag on their vehicles. [5]

The nine-striped flag, consequently, was adopted after 1880, probably after the loss of independence (1908)


Foreign Rule


Dutch Direct Rule


Residentie Bali en Lombok (Bali and Lombok Residence)


In the time of Dutch Direct Rule the symbols of the Dutch Government, as laid down in 1907 were also valid on Bali. The achievement of the Dutch government can be considered to be the successor of the Balinese Garuda.


The residents wore the royal arms of the Netherlands within a garland as a cap-badge.



This emblem was laid down by Decision of the Governor General of the Netherlands-Indies of 12 April 1908 No 12.


Japanese Occupation


The Dutch symbols were abolished by the Japanese who placed the Eastern Islands under the jurisdiction of the Japanese Navy

The emblem of the Japanese Empire was the imperial Kiku-mon or golden chrysantemum.



East Indonesia Rule



On 24 of December 1946 the State of East Indonesia was established by a decree signed in Denpasar.

Its emblem consisted of a bird called Garuda sitting on a bundle of rods. [6] This emblem could be placed on a dull black shield. [7]

On 17 August 1950 the State of East Indonesia was dissolved and Bali became a part of the Republic of Indonesia.


Daerah Provinsi Bali


The emblem of  present Bali province is on a five-cornered dark-blue shield surrounded by a white line


Emblem: Azure, Pahlawan Margaran Temple and its split gate Or, between a garland of cotton and rice proper, in chief a five-pointed star Or, in base a chain per fess Gules, a fan Or and a Red Lotus (Nelumbium nelumbo Druce) proper.

Motto: BALI DWIPA JAYA  in blue lettering on a ribbon Argent.


  • The Temple represents the spirit of heroism of the people of Bali in particular and of all the people of Indonesia
  • The Split Gate, the entrance to the outer court of a temple, is the emblem of the main religion of the people of Bali.
  • The rice-and-cotton garland symbolizes prosperiy
  • The five-pointed golden star symbolizes Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa or the belief in the one and only God, the first principle of the Pancasila.
  • The Fan symbolizes the art and culture of Bali
  • The Red Lotus (Nelumbium nelumbo Druce) was the emblem of Singgasana Siwa
  • The motto means:  Bali, blessed island


Dark blue symbolizes tolerance

Gold symbolizes nobility and greatness

Red symbolizes heroism

White symbolizes purity


šSee illustration in the head of this essay.








Thunderbolt, 14th Cent.. Jembrana, Bali. (National Museum, Jakarta.)


The most ancient arms of a Balinese ruler is a thunderbolt from Jembrana, West Bali. The thunderbolt from Jembrana is a pastiche of the trisula  (trident) of Vishnu on the one hand, and  a vajra of tantric origin on the other hand. It fits into the hindu-buddhist heraldic system of  the early Indonesian empires of Mataram, Srivijaya and Majapahit.

The thunderbolt is dated in the 14th century, the time of the conquest of Bali by Majapahit and the growth of the Majapahit to a regional power. Consequently it could have been the attribute of one of the last independent  rulers of Bali or of one of the first Majapahit military governors.


The vajra is also the attribute of Tunggal (Balinese: “Unity”) (also: Acintya, (Sanskrit: “the unthinkable”, “the inconceivable”, “he who cannot be imagined”) the supreme god of Hinduism and venerated most of all on the island of Bali.

Having the thunderbolt as its attribute Tunggal can be compared with the Hellenistic gods Zeus and Jupiter and with the Assyrian god Ninurta.

Conceived as a personification of thunder itself, it could have been derived from a


Acintya at the Bali Museum.

Standing on a viśvajra or double thunderbolt

symbol of the arms of heaven and is, in that case, comparable with the hellenistic and tantric thunderbolt, being the symbol of the army.


Singa / Lion


In general a lion is the symbol of a guardian or a high ranking military officer. The unwinged version, clewrly meant to be the symbol of a guardian can be found on the Borobudur on Java.

Winged versions can be found on Bali and are probably the symbol of members of the Satria caste. They were attached to the houses of that nobility and an important specimen is found in the royal hall Kertha Gosa in Klungkung. This hall was build in the 18th century and was used by the royal council. The winged lion may refer to the Satria origin of the royal house and the guardian function of the Satria in matters of state. After the abolition of the kingdom Kertha Gosa was made a courthouse by the Dutch, thus continuing one of its former functions.

Winged Lion from a nobleman’s house.

From Sukasada village, Singaraja 19th c.


Kertha Gosa Winged Lion


Bali warriors armed with keris,  spear and shield.  About 1880.

 (Photo Coll. KIT Amsterdam)


No documentation about flags, banners and armament available. Acintya may have been the symbol of the army.


Balinese krisses, when heirlooms, can be compared with western personal- or familiy-arms. Decorated with a naga they are royal arms.




After 1908 Bali was controlled by the K.N.I.L.

Helmet-hat badge of the K.N.I.L.

So-called Zonneplaat (sun badge) consisting of an eight-pointed radiating orange sun, charged with the royal arms of the Netherlands, surrounded by a garland of oak and olive branches.




In the time of Japanese Occupation Bali was controlled by the Japanese Navy which had an anchor, charged with a cherry blossom (sakura) as its emblem.



Stamp as printed on Kartoe Pos issued by the Japanese Postal Services


After WWII


In 1946 divisions of the Royal Dutch Indies Army (KNIL) and the Royal Dutch army were stationed on Bali. These were the:


Territoriaal & Troepencommando Bali en Lombok (Territorial and Army Command Bali and Lombok)

This TTC had two fighting cocks on a grey background as its emblem. The fighting cocks were chosen because cock-fighting was (and is) an important popular amusement on Bali.

The arms were adopted by decree Clg. nr. 7492/GS/35 of. 1946.11.11


Subordinated to TTC Bali and Lombok was the Bali-Lombok Brigade, from which originated X, XI and XII KNIL Infantry Battalions. From these XII KNIL Inf.Bat., founded 15 May 1946 was stationed on Bali.

Arms of Bali-Lombok Brigade

Arms of XII Inf.Bat.


The Bali-Lombok Brigade was founded in Thailand and composed of former prisoners of war. Initially a white elephant, the symbol of the Thai army, was chosen as its emblem but this was disapproved by the Thai king. Instead an red elephant attackingto the sinister, the Gaja Merah, was adopted.

By decree Clg 7492/GS/35 of 11 November 1946 the arms of XII Inf.Bat were adopted. These showed the Gaja Merah to the dexter and standing on the roman cypher XII.


Today Bali is controlled by Komando Daerah Militer Kodam IX/Udayana.







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© Hubert de Vries 2011-03-09

[1] Ibbitson Jessup, Helen: Court Arts of Indonesia. New York 1990. Fig 163, No. 29.

[2] Documentation needed.

[3] A bull’s head is the symbol of the sovereignty of the people in the arms of the Republic of Indonesia.

[4]  Information about the relation between the balinese kings and their peoples would help.

[5] Register op de Notulen der vergaderingen van het Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen, vol. XIX (1881), p. 68. “7 Juni [18]81, II f-h]f. Het renvooi van den Gouv. Secretaris, dd. 28 Mei jl., No. 10538, ten geleide van de missive van den Resident van Banjoewangi, dd. 17 Mei jl. No. 94.

[6] For unknown reasons most birds in modern Indonesian heraldry are wrongly called Garuda even when a phoenix or a pigeon is meant. The East Indonesia bird most resembles a Sulawesi Serpent Eagle (Spilornis rufipectus - Accipitridae) and thus could refer to the fact that Garuda usually has a serpent in its claws.

[7] Besluit N° 28/PrB/47 dd. 2 Augustus 1947. In: Bijvoegsel Staatscourant van Oost-Indonesiė 1947 N° 8, A. III   „……… een gouden garoeda-embleem omkranst met gekruiste padi-aren, het geheel op een dofzwart schild.” In this act the flags, uniforms and badges of rank of the government officials were adopted.