Your Ultimate Bali Guide

A Look into the Balinese Caste System

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Bali with its Hinduism has adopted caste system into their culture. Children of Bali were named respectively based on their caste and their order of birth. Here is a look at the Balinese caste system that you need to know.

Balinese are divided into four castes; Brahmana, Ksatria, Waisya, and Sudra. Brahmana is the highest caste, mostly from religious leaders and saints. Ksatria is mostly from royalties and nobles. Waisya is from merchants, and Sudra is the lowest caste that mostly farmers.

Caste system also makes the Balinese using different language when they talk to people from another caste. Usually they will talk in Bali Madya language if they did not know a person’s caste to avoid rudeness or disrespectful. They also have unique names to distinguish each other caste, but they use the same name for both man and woman. To identify man and woman, they put ‘I’ for man’s first name and ‘Ni’ for woman’s first name.

For Brahmana, they usually use the name ‘Ida Bagus' for man, and ‘Ayu' or ‘Dayu' for a woman.
Ksatria usually uses ‘Anak Agung', ‘Agung', ‘Dewa' for man, and ‘Anak Agung', ‘Agung', ‘Dewi', and 'Dewayu' for the woman. For the powerful royalties, they will use ‘Cokorda' or "Dewa Agung'. Ksatria caste also put middle names to distinguish their siblings, like ‘Raka' for the oldest sister/brother, ‘Oka' for the youngest, ‘Rai' for the youngest sister/brother, ‘Anom' for a young woman, and ‘Ngurah' for someone with authority.

For Waisya, they usually use ‘Gusti’ for both man and woman, ’Desak’ for a woman, and ‘Dewa’ for man.

The last one, Sudra, they use ‘Wayan, Putu, Ikuh' for the oldest child (daughter); ‘Wayan, Putu, Gede' for the oldest child (son); ‘Made, Kadek, Nengah' for the second child both man and woman; ‘Nyoman, Komang' for the third child both man and woman; and ‘Ketut' for the fourth child both man and woman. If they have a fifth child, then they will give him/her the same name as the first child. Since 90% Balinese are Sudra, there many people with the same name.

Another unique case of the caste system is marriage. Marriage in Bali is patrilineal; it means the bride will follow the groom’s family. It is a common thing for a woman from a lower caste to marry a man from a higher caste. The otherwise, if a man from the lower class is marrying a higher caste woman, they called it ‘nyerod’ or relegate. It is actually prohibited by the woman’s family, and mostly it becomes a secret marriage. However, if they don’t have a son, the groom will be the one who follow the bride’s family. It is called matrilineal marriage, and it is popular lately. But, it will only happen if they come from the same caste. If they’re not, usually it is not acceptable to the bride’s family, and then it will be confusing to decide their child’s caste later.

From this caste system, we could see that for Balinese, every person is born with a certain fate and skill. However, there is a polemic about the real meaning of the caste system in Bali’s Hinduism. In Hinduism, caste system does not exist. In Vedas, the word that has been used to describe the society class is ‘color’, while in Bhagavadgita the word ‘catur warna’ or four colors are used. It means, the society class is divided based on Swadharma: their profession. While for Balinese, they believe in Wangsa: that the society class is based on lineage.

That is a look into the Balinese caste system, you might find it confusing, but that is a part of their culture and religion. So we must respect them.

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