It was 6 o’clock. I decided to take a walk through the neighboring streets near the hotel. I proceeded northbound along the sidewalk. European style bungalows stand tall among the countryside yards. Woman porters return from the market, shouting gossip. I crossed three or four roads and reached a corner of the village. The name on a wooden board at the end of a road caught my attention: “Jalan Puputan,” that is the Puputan Street. It is a name that reminiscents of a bloody chapter of the first attack of the white in the history of Bali. In order to truly understand the importance of Puputan Street, we must first take a closer look
into a historical time of Bali island.
It was a time that growing divisions and rivalries between the local kings of Bali were leading to foreign domination.
With the utter fall of the Mujahideen Empire in Java around 1520 AD, the island of Bali, which had been under Mujahideen’s domination for 175 consecutive years, became independent. The kings and princes of Bali became independent governors of their lands. Most of these rulers they appointed at each time to rule Bali were the descendants of the Mujapahit dynasty and the Javanese aristocracy.
The hatred and war between the rulers was most evident in Southern Bali.
In those days It was difficult to see provinces in Southern Bali that were in harmony with each other. If there was a reconciliation between the two governors, -that relationship was questionable. Hidden in their temporary resignation was a conspiracy to overthrow a third force.
‘Gianyar’ in southern Bali was a relatively strong country at that time. ‘Gianyar’ was ruled by King ‘Devamangis’. Forming a unity, the Kings of neighboring kingdoms ” Badung”, “Klungkung”, “Bangli” prepared to oppose ‘Gianyar’.
Understanding that the fall of ‘Gianyar’ would affect his own survival, “Chekordegaide” -the powerful king of ‘Ubud’- approached ‘Devamangis’ to understand him the gravity of the situation and propelled him to enlist the help of the Dutch to escape from danger. That policy did work.
The king of Gianyar approached Dutch for help. The Dutch, who were waiting for a chance to enter Southern Bali, immediately sent a backing force to Gianyar.
Thus, the sticking forces of neighbouring kingdoms faded. But the Dutch did not leave, coveting the adjacent regions, the military remained in Gianyar.
Gradually, the spite of neighbouring kingdoms with Gianyar turned to Dutch.
Recently, another incident happened that led the king of ‘Klungkung’ to grow enmity towards the Dutch.
Two daughters of King “Deva Angkung” of ‘Klungkung’ were perverted. If such misconducts of *Kshatriya (second superior cast in Hindu religion) women were convicted, it was capital punishment that given to both accused participants. The king of ‘Klungkung’ tied the hands and legs of his daughters, and immersed them into the sea and gave them up to sharks. And cruelly slaughtered one of the lovers. Somehow, the other one invoked the help of Dutch in northern Bali. Knowing this news the king of ‘Klungkung’ requested the Dutch to leave his prisoner. But the Dutch did not renounce that heroic lover.
“Unless you release that dog who insulted my family, no matter, I would be satisfied if you slice his throat.” The king informed the Dutch. The Dutch government minded neither this request. And it was then at the time the King of ‘Klungkung’ was spiteful, the Dutch arrived in Gianyar as the saviour of ‘Devamangis’.
One day, in the morning, a happy news was spread in ‘Sanur’ village. “Bumped on a cliff, a ship was broken and being floated at the shoreline.” That was the news. Fisherman Sampi was the discoverer of that sight. As usual, carrying his fishernet, and a bamboo basket in his hand, he approached his skiff. It was then he saw the broken ship nearby. Throwing the net and basket on to the sand, he rushed to the village.
“Oh people! Oh friends!.. come along, a ship has broken and is floating at the shore. It is a merchant ship!” Sampi announced at all the doors. Within one hour all the people of Sanur village spread at the seashore.
— A small steamer rests nosedived in the sand. Some boxes and baskets are dancing nearby in the waves. The village headman and some young men entered into the ship and began hunting. It was a small Chinese ship called “Sreekumali” coming through Borneo. There were five or six Chinese people lying half -dead on the ship.
And There were many valuables such as silk cloths, spices, silverware, jars, and knives in the ship. The villagers swept them all to the shore and shared.
It was not a looting for them. At the event of a shipwreck, the cargos in the ship belong to the natives – a portion of which must be given to the king. This is a long-standing folk law.
The Balinese took everything -from the salt to the camphor- and divided them at the sight of the Chinese crew.
The villagers of Sanur, celebrated that day as a festival. They slaughtered ten buffaloes and sixty pigs and dusted off the feasts and feasts. The whole night was full of songs and dance. Gamelan instruments, patriarchal songs, and ‘janger’ dances resounded in the village. The heads of the men and the waist of the women who took part in those dances of that day were covered with coloured Chinese silk.
The Chinese shipowners approached the Dutch, and demanded the payment of 3,000 silver dollars against the looters of their cargo ship. The Chinese believed that it was the Dutch who ruled South Bali. That was the reason for their approach to the Dutch government. The Dutch government, on the other hand, was waiting to get their power approved by someone to acknowledge their authority in Bali, and as soon as the Chinese objected, the Dutch sent envoys to King ‘Anak Agungmade’ of Badung to immediately pay the Chinese ship 3,000 silver dollar in compensation for the plundering of the ship Sreekumali.
The King of Badung was blown away when he heard the command of the Dutch. He summoned the ministers and others and read the command to them. The Cabinet unanimously opined that the Dutch are pure fishermen who are not sure of justice and law. The king immediately summoned ‘Ikbo Ijo’, the court jester, and ordered him to prepare an appropriate reply to the Dutchs’ letter. “The Chinese were fined silver dollar -500/-, for the spoilage of rock in the Sanur sea, and 10 silver dollars as they broke skiff of Sambi, and so, a total of 1011.5 silver dollars is to be paid immediately by Chinese to the king of Badung. That was the bill prepared by the court jester.
‘Ikbo Ijo’ also wrote in it thus ‘ only pay this if you feel like to’. The king and the ministers read the copy and laughed heartily. But the king did not send the copy to the Dutch. Actually the king sent no reply. Everything seemed to them to be just a joke. They slowly forgot about it. But the Dutch did not give up. They repeatedly repeated the order to pay compensation – the king informed the Dutch that he was not willing to do anything against the custom. The Dutch insisted that the looting would not be spared and that those involved in the looting would be captured and punished. These arguments continued for two years. Eventually, the king of Badung told the Dutch that he was not prepared to pay a single penny for the loss. When the Dutch realized that the King of Badung would not yield to their orders, they decided to teach him a lesson. They ordered a ban on all entry into Badung port. An Economic blockade. The Dutch believed that Badung would become weak and isolated due to the stagnation of trade. They appealed to all the kings of Badung’s neighborhood to cooperate with them in this matter. But those free kings of neighborhood provinces rejected the whites’ pleas. For the time being, the Kings responded to the whites that their port matters would be settled by themselves and no advice from Dutch was required in it.
In addition to this response, the frustration of Dutch that came with this also turned into intense anger.
Then their pleas became threatening. – Signs of the beginning of a tug-of-war between the rapacity of Dutch who aim to impose their power in Bali and the persistence of Balinese Kings to maintain independence- started to be visible.
The Dutch decided to test their weapons. On September the 16, 1906, a large contingent of Dutch troops landed at Sanur, at the same place where the ship Sreekumali collapsed and landed. It is barely three miles from here to Denpasar -the capital of Badung.
It was to shower fire-balls upon a folk -of optimistic and glad who have always believed that the heaven is Balinese island and that no human race can conquer their freedom- the Dutch ship was waiting.
The people did not know what was going to happen. The peace-loving Brahmin priests remained silent about the impending danger. People did not think about it. They pretended that, In these battles between kings and monarchs, the subjects were unanimously recognized as having no role in this war. They had heard that the king had enough soldiers in the palace wearing swords, and spears. There was not even a distant connection between the palace and the people.
They were sure that no matter who ruled the country, their tax burden would not be reduced. They have to hand over the tax to Dutch , that’s all.
The Dutch waited at Sanur for a whole day, and not a single child came to object. The passive approach of the people really surprised The Dutch. The people were immersed in their daily routine as if nothing had happened in Bali – only the squirrels were making a small noise. Brahmin-priests did not warn the people about the impending catastrophe of the king.
But on the second day, the scene changed. With gold spears, a team of Balinese warriors arrived in Sanur from Denpasar. And suddenly started to attack the Dutch. It lasted until the evening. Some of the Dutch soldiers got silly scratches. Hundreds of Balinese warriors victimized fire bullets and died. The remaining local warriors retreated to Denpasar by the evening.
The Dutch waited even the next day. Nothing happened. Performing band instruments and love songs, they stayed again two more days in Sanur.
-“They might be focused in the town with total force”- assumed the Dutch.
Finally, the Dutch began to move to Denpasar with all regiments.In some places along the way, the Badung soldiers did not keep themself without turning against them. In front of the Dutch guns, the native army died like bees – the Dutch army marched ahead.
The assailants marched on the Kesiman Palace on the outskirts of the town of Denpasar. It was here that they anticipated the first fierce counterattack by the king’s army. But when the Dutch arrived here, they were disappointed and surprised. Kesiman Palace and its surroundings lie as lifeless as a graveyard!
The diplomatist of the King of Badung, lived in the palace. When he heard that the Dutch military had started to march towards the palace, there arose a dispute between the diplomat and the chief priest, as to whether to oppose them or surrender peacefully. The ‘Om Shanti’ that the Brahmin priest settled the disputation, killing the diplomat with a dagger. And all the members of the palace ran to Denpasar leaving everything they had there. That was what happened there.
The Dutch camped at Kesiman Palace that morning – in the morning of September 20th – and began firing artillery shells at the Denpasar. The townspeople were seen panicking and taking what they could get their hands on and ran to the villages. During the shower of the Dutch fire, the royal palace and the new residences collapsed and appeared to have conflagrated. All the townspeople had fled. About two thousand persons remained in the castle, including the king, his concubines, his soldiers, and his servants.
The royal guards stood ready to defend, armed with swords, and spears. According to the local custom, the king and his soldiers thought that the enemy’s attack would begin from front of the main entrance to the palace. The main tower stands on the south side. But, contrary to expectations, the Dutch moved to the north of the palace and began to attack from the north. This caused more trouble inside the palace.
All hopes of the King were dashed. He remained calm for a while. Then he turned towards Mount holy Agung – to the northeast – and prayed. Then he opened his eyes and looked pitifully into the distant Agung mount. Holy Agung! The gods, fathers and ancestors of Bali reign on that mountain. Heaven, earth, hell -the three worlds, the past, the present, the future and the three ages inhabit that mountain with magic. The dead, the living, and those to be born are the essence of Mount Agung … The king looked on excitedly. The garlanded deities, the ancestral warriors with jeweled carvings around their waists, and the revered fathers line up on the navaratna-steps of the hill at the top and beckoning him.
The king awoke from his meditation.
Dutch cannons are landing in the courtyard of the palace, in the synagogue, in the bedroom, and so on. Bright flames of fire dance on the roof of the palace. The women of harem scream. The moon-like calmness played on the king’s face. Addressing the crowd at the palace, he said:
“O reverend priests, brave soldiers, noble ministers, majestic gentlemen, dears, behold, hearken! It is not possible to save our castle from artillery and fire traps of our enemy. In a few hours the Dutch will rush into our palace – they will take me prisoner – and exile to some distant island. Thus, I will have to die in some other land out of Bali. I am not ready for that. I want to die in the land of Bali itself. And I must join with my ancestors on Mount Agung. If it is a death in someone else’s land I receive, I would be a traitor…”
Tears flowed down through the cheeks of the King. The women those who saw it, wept. The men stood with their faces down and wiped their eyebrows. The shadows of depression do not fall on the hearts of Balinese girls except for funny smiles and funny bursts of laughter – once it is imprinted, they will not be escaped.
The king continued, comforting his subjects those helplessly floating in the ocean of sorrow;
” Yes, laying on the holy land of Bali, I want to die. I am going to execute Puputan. Those who like to join Puputan with me, adorn yourself in a hurry.
In between weep and scream, it resonated from that two thousand throats, thus; “we are with you. We too want to die in the land of Bali near to your holy body.
Next day, near to the fourth hour of sunrise, a strange procession streamed from the palace to the street. Not only men and women but also little children were there in that association. Men line up and move in red and white silk robes and turbans on their heads. All the women are dressed in white and come out in all sorts of ornaments – the jewels are glistening on their uncovered breasts. Everyone is wearing a spear and a dagger. Leaving the long hair that touches the shank behind, securing the dagger and short spear in hands, they are moving shudderingly as though they were in demonic possession.
Mothers who picked up their young children were also in the group. 250 women. The boys and girls were walking with an enthusiasm of going to a festival, and there were little daggers in their tender arms.
The king of Badung is leading that colourful procession at the front.
The commander carries the king on his shoulders. Above the royal head, the minister holds a gold umbrella. In the streaks of morning sun, a dagger with a jewel-encrusted grip shines in the hands of the all-adorned king. The procession proceeded silently. There is no one to appreciate the compactness, the dignity and the spirit of the procession. The streets and houses are deserted. From the cages in the veranda of the empty barns, the cackling of the asil chickens were disturbing the peaceful atmosphere from time to time. The procession marched through the main street of Denpasar to the corner where the Dutch troops were stationed. The king gazes at the distant Agung mount and immerses himself in heavenly dreams and thus flows before the procession. The procession thus moved on and approached near three meter at the corner of the street where the Dutch had lined up.
The battalion commander stopped when he saw the strange procession approaching them in silence. What does this mean? When he saw the king riding on the human shoulder under a golden umbrella, and the colorful crowd circling far behind him, it seemed to the Dutch commander that a giant golden serpent was coming towards him with hood.
It has no intention to be stopped. It reached almost a hundred feet near to the Dutch military. Their target is Dutch troop itself. The exclamation of the Dutch commander turned to compassion. He blocked the king and his escorts. Brushing aside the commander, they did proceed. The dazed Dutch commander again tried to block them. But the procession had reached the array by that time. The scene just changed at once. Taking the daggers and spears, the king and his retinue at the front rushed and attacked the Dutch.
The Dutch army started incessant firing. In the first round itself, the king fell and died. As they witnessed the end of the king, princesses all together, leaped and began their dagger operation upon the Dutch. The daggers and spears those warrior women brought in their hands, were only able to defend from a very close range. The spectacle of approaching royal beauties all together with glittering daggers, worn precious gems and jewels, -showing the bare chest, could not be related to reality but in a dreamy hallucination by the Dutch force.
They became alert only at the time they realized that the spear tips and daggers made scratches on their face and body. For their self-defense, they started to fire. Many of the women fell right there.
The princesses and the maidens who were fired, crawled to the body of the king. Lying at the feet and head and the sides of the King, those goddesses thrust dagger themselves on their own bosom and sacrificed their life. Some of the women of harem, without waiting to be fired by enemies, straightly reached the king and thrust the dagger upon their bosom and received death at once. It happened to appear that hundreds of dead bodies were heaped upon the corpse of the King within half an hour. Still women with dagger-teeth, -like gold serpents, had been sallying upon the Dutch troop.
The firing kept on resonating.
A young man was walking with a dagger stabbing members of the group who were shot and unable to crawl. The Dutch soldiers found his work and shot him immediately. Then another young man came forward with a weapon to take over his service and the Dutch shot and killed that new fatal servant too. The souls-palpitating darling bodies were scattered there again. An old woman slowly came forward and finished off the story of all those half corpses.
The deaths and massacres that took place before their eyes and the organized suicides caused disgust and animosity in the minds of the Dutch soldiers. They stopped firing. Then the women, who were waiting for their turn behind, rushed forward, threw gold coins at the Dutch soldiers and shouted: “Kill, kill! Kill us quickly – take these gold coins as a pay to kill us quickly!”
When they saw the Dutch army staring at them in disbelief, the Balinese woman stabbed themselves in the nude chest with their daggers and fell to their deaths. So when the Dutch thought that all the members of the procession had been killed or were killed, a new procession appeared. Of the King’s younger brother – a group of children led by a boy of twelve-. With a spear in his hand, the prince confronted the infantry with his younger comrades. The Dutch commander tried to stop the child warrior. That did not work. Like ants, the group of children attacked the Dutch. The army was forced to shoot. Thus, including the last group of children joined the majority.
All obstacles on the way to Badung Palace were removed. So that the Dutch could enter there. But on the way to that goal, the floor was a pool of cruel blood. The steps there belong to corpses.
Some of the Dutch soldiers felt lunacy by the sight of gold daggers, jewelers, tender bodies, silk robes, and infants scattered in the streets. The wealth of the Badung palace, the royal pride, the youth, the elegance, and all the vitality are shattered on that street; needed for no one – at no value.
The only casualty to the Dutch army in this ‘struggle’ was the death of Sergeant ‘Baker, by an old woman.
(This is a translation of the sixth chapter of a Malayalam travelogue -Bali island by SK Pottekatt).