Author: I Ketut Gunawan
Address: Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Mulawarman University, East Kalimantan, Indonesia
Author: Iván Győző Somlai
Address: Ethnobureaucratica; & Centre for Asia Pacific Initiatives, University of Victoria, Canada
E-mail: Ivan.Somlai@INSEAD.edu (http://ethnobureaucratica.weebly.com)
Issue: 1/2023 (20)
Page Range: 43–72
No. of Pages: 30
Keywords: Bali-centrism, Balinization, domestic diaspora, exclusiveness, intrareligious, Hindu
Abstract: Many Balinese Hindus have migrated to East Kalimantan for official assignments, as part of transmigration programs, and for advancing economic opportunities, thus initiating a domestic Balinese diaspora. This diaspora maintains its identities and practices, as in Bali, and seeks to replicate Balinese symbols and practices when connecting with other Hindu communities from different cultures and traditions. This article sheds light on “Bali-centrism” and “quasi-exclusiveness” when the Balinese diaspora interacts with non-Balinese Hindus within East Kalimantan. The authors argue that Bali-centrism and Balinization might alienate and socially exclude non-Balinese Hindus from mainstream Hindu development. To cope with the grief of losing Hindu ‘friends’ from another tradition, a mindset shift is required. Furthermore, with the relocation of the Indonesian capital city from Jakarta to Nusantara, the influx of various ethnic and religious groups, including Hindu adherents, would be unavoidable, although admittedly it is impossible to know at this juncture about the eventual admixture of administration, commerce and culture that the city would comprise. The authors propose a “salad bowl” concept to build Hindu communities in a multicultural state with its new capital city. To augment understanding of the multiplicity of components and attributes influencing a diasporic community, the authors have drawn from applicable, non-religious diasporic experiences as well as from the historical manoeuvring of different religious groups globally; this knowledge may help researchers and community development practitioners understand the prevalence of bonding issues and interaction by sects within all religions.
I Ketut Gunawan, lecturer and researcher at Mulawarman University, Indonesia, has an MA from Monash University, Australia, and Ph.D from University of Bonn, Germany. With special interests in politics, conflict resolution and cultural issues, he has been a visiting research fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs, an advanced conflict resolution training participant in Sweden and Finland, and a Nippon Foundation researcher in Japan, Philippines and Thailand.
Iván Győző Somlai, educated in Europe, the Americas and Asia, has worked full-time with University of Calgary, Thompson Rivers University, Tribhuvan University, World Trade University, and guest-lectured and consulted at institutions globally. Ivan was also involved in a multi-year collaboration with Mulawarman University. He has had long-term professional collaborations with Muslim Imams, Christian missionaries, Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic colleagues, as well as Jewish anti-racism groups. An immigrant himself, Ivan is highly empathetic to the issues herein.
Celý příspěvek / Full Text Paper: PDF
East Kalimantan province, with an area of 127,347 km2, and a population of 3.8 million, is rich in natural resources, from fertile agriculture land, forests, timber, gold, coal and liquid natural gas, to sea and inland fisheries. This has attracted many companies and businesses which, in turn, tend to attract transmigrants, migrant workers and job seekers.
The diverse population from across the Indonesian archipelago has gradually transformed this area into a multi-ethnoreligious province, with Hindu adherents at 0.96% (36,333 people) of the total population, originating mostly from Bali, Sulawesi, and Kalimantan itself. The largest portion, the “Balinese diaspora”, has replicated its identities, customary laws (adat), traditions, and religious practices (symbols, rituals, prayer dress code, celebrations). So, this was a cultural and physical migration. While Balinese Hindus are scattered around the province, they do regularly gather in a Hindu temple (Pura) for community and religious activities, as back in Bali. A few other Hindu communities are also found in Balinese transmigration areas, such as in Teluk Dalam and Separi, often replicating Balinese culture and tradition.
Inevitably, the Balinese diaspora meets both local and migrant non-Balinese Hindus, with some interactions being rather awkward. In 1990s, many Javanese Hindus came to the temple of Samarinda wearing Batik headgear (blangkon), shirt, and trousers for praying. When the Pura was magnificently reconstructed and a new Balinese white dress code was adopted, Javanese Hindus praying in this temple felt obliged to follow new (i.e. Balinese) rules. Buginese Hindus of Tolotang had similar experiences. Many of them used to interact with the diaspora, but rarely do so now. Native Hindus in Paser district also feel different from mainstream Hindu development.
Why does this happen? What are the stumbling blocks faced by non-Balinese Hindus in interacting with the Balinese diaspora or other sects? This article examines Bali-centric and social exclusion phenomena, exhibits some relevant comparative practices past and present in other religions, and proffers a mindset shift in Hindu community relations and interactions.
The first author applied qualitative analysis, with primary and secondary data obtained through library research, field interviews and observations. In library research, both authors collected data and information on related topics from online and print sources. This data was then analyzed by corroborating and comparing with related issues. Our research used purposive sampling by interviewing key informants from various Hindu ethnic groups in East Kalimantan. In the observation techniques, the first author applied both participant as well as non-participant observation of Balinese Hindus. Visits were also made to perceived important and relevant historical sites and temples to gain a broader understanding on the research theme.
Supplementing this research was the second author with his 45 years field work within Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Jewish communities in several countries, wherein he encountered warm humanity as well as bitter prejudice, and unceasingly tried to increase understanding between and among people from different backgrounds. Harmonizing coexistence among cultures and religions has been his prime effort, including consulting with the Canadian Government’s Multiculturalism Secretariat.
Influences on diasporic adjustment
Certain key characteristics impact how an internal migrant may adapt to new socio-cultural environment; so we look at the migrant’s original community (from where one departs) and the destination community (to where one arrives to stay). Note the summary in Figure 1.
- One’s own sect and customary practices
Naturally one is most cognizant about the community wherein, perhaps, several generations have lived, and all aspects of daily life are familiar.
- Degree of religiosity
Every religion has those who are orthodox, liberal or only occasional adherents.
Ethnicity often can overshadow doctrine and contribute to sectarian rifts.
- Culture and traditions
As one transitions into a new environment, the boundary between religion and culture may become ambiguous; different cultures may experience friction in trying to overcome internal differences elsewhere.
If one’s language or dialect is unique to the present residence, it may yet be an issue in the new destination.
One’s education level may affect decisions as to destination and desired community.
- Social class
Certain congregations attended by mostly highly educated individuals with a high socio-economic background may, in turn, weaken integration efforts with less educated or poorer members.
- Political preference
Involvement or support of a particular political party in one’s current community may be regarded as out of place in the new destination.
- Pre-migration preparation and orientation
Advance learning about the destination community may help in a “softer landing” at the new environment.
Figure 1. Influences on diasporic adjustment (I. G. Somlai, 2022)
What are local environmental peculiarities? How distant are familiar amenities, including schools, stores health services? Access to these contributes to comfort for new arrivals.
- Linkages and networks (old & new)
Is contact with fellow migrants or connections with members of the same ethnolinguistic group and religious sect available? Are there contacts with others for mutual support?
- Local pluralism and majority views on minorities
How homogenous or heterogenous is this community; how do they perceive new arrivals?
- Relations within new community
Is everyday contact pleasant, cordial? How different is it from one’s original community? Are neighbours friendly, helpful?
- Depth of welcome by and integration in host community
Has any welcome been expressed by one’s religious sect, workplace or neighbours? How safe and secure do you feel?
- Proximity to co-religionists
Does one’s sect already convene in an accessible locale? Does the sect in this new location actually have the same practices as the one “back home”?
- Occupation and economic practices
What type of work and shopping habits does the migrant have? Is it possible to continue similar functions in the new location?
- Generational differences
If travelling with children, be prepared for their probable adjustment and integration at a rate different from that of adults.
So we can see that achieving an acceptable level of comfort in a new environment can be a complex process, with or without the factor of religion.
Hindu Population in East Kalimantan
Hinduism arrived in Indonesia in the 1st century CE, evolving thereafter a fusion with Buddhist thought. A major Hindu kingdom– Kutai Martadipura in Muara Kaman, Kutai Kartanegara district– had been established in the 4th century by King Kudungga. He was succeeded by his son, King Aswawarman, and then by his grandson, the well-known King Mulawarman. The kingdom existed continuously until the 17th century, when it was defeated by the (Islamic) Kutai Kartanegara. The conquerors renamed their new integrated kingdoms “Kutai Kartanegara ing Martadipura”, known also as the Sultanate of Kutai Kartanegara. Since then, Hinduism has been fading, beginning with its king, minister, royal family and army, noblemen, and eventually the people.
Collective memory regarding the Hindu golden era in East Kalimantan began to revive three centuries later after the arrival of Hindu communities in three waves from Bali and Java. The first wave began in 1960s for professional government assignees, such as armed and police force personnel (TNI/Polri), as well as medical doctors. They brought their families, interacted with each other, and established small, often scattered communities in their various locales.
The second wave occurred under the New Order regime’s (1966–1998) transmigration programs. Hindu communities from Java and Bali were sent to designated areas across East Kalimantan, such as Samarinda, Kutai Kartanegara, East Kutai and Berau. Hindu communities from Java established Javanese Hindu traditions; while Balinese continued their own.
The third wave was the arrival of Hindu communities from across the Indonesian archipelago under the banner of self-transmigration programs, business related movements, job-seeking, contractual work migration, and so on.
Bimas Hindu Kaltim, the East Kalimantan Office for Guidance of Hindu Community, found native Hindus residing in a remote area of Paser district, about 250 km from Samarinda, as well as small Buginese Hindu communities around Segiri Market in downtown Samarinda. As well, informants from Toraja and Laham informed the authors about a Toraja Barat/Mamasa Hindu community in Samarinda and Dayak Kaharingan Hindus in Mahulu district.
According to BPS Statistics, as of 2021 the total Hindu population in East Kalimantan was 8,552 people. Of these, the largest Hindu populations reside in Kutai Kartanegara (29.73%) and Kutai Timur districts (29.26%), followed by Balikpapan (16.01%) and Samarinda (9.51%) municipalities; these pockets are about 70% Balinese Hindu transmigrants.
Balinese Diaspora in East Kalimantan
Bali province’s population is predominantly Hindu, being 83% of the total population, and many ethnic Balinese are devoted to Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, even Kong Hu Chu (Confucianism); but in this article, Balinese diaspora refers to Balinese Hindus residing in East Kalimantan, recreating “back home” communities.
People do not necessarily migrate as a religious group, nor even as a group; however, there are those who gravitate toward a religious group in their new host community which already has geographic representation from the migrants’ home area, or which is even nominally of the same religion with which the migrants are familiar– in either case, searching for “comfort” (i.e. safety, security, support during any hardship and spiritual uplift) in their new environment.
Diasporic groups in a sampling of religions show that divisions among sects are normal, organic givens. Thus our civil task is to recognize differences while simultaneously striving for acceptance of commonalities and harmonizing the collective, societal relationships. While not all have intentions to amalgamate or even cooperate, there are indeed examples of discrete groups colligating for mutual advantage as well as the occasional merger.
Estimations show there are more than 200 Christian denominations in the U.S. and a staggering 45,000 globally. Splits or independent germination of separate denominations arose as a result of varied interpretations of the Bible, along with “differences in belief, power grabs and corruption” (ibid). Despite these historical divisions, reconciliations have also taken place, such as the conciliation in 1965 of the 911 years’ split of the Eastern Orthodox Christians and the Western Roman Catholics; and later a rift healed among the Presbyterians in 1983.
The Jain community in the United States of America took the initiative to engage holistic discussions among the various sects regarding not only common compromise efforts, but a deeper delving into “sub-sects, caste, language, cultural and geographical affiliations”; in turn, this resulted in an enhanced “invented tradition” which coincidentally mirrored the smooth functioning of the sectarian negotiations themselves. Participants harmoniously developed a new form of Jainism by deemphasizing, eliminating and re-organizing the sect specific doctrinal differences…(and) how the sectarian unity created as a result, motivates the Jains to identify the approaches and methods they can use to manage the accordance at the doctrinal level”.
Judaism today has four main branches diverging into numerous streams. Dispersed since two millennia into other lands, Jewish community organizations often evolved to reflect the host country’s social structures, such as happened in India. This “resulted in their adopting particular Hindu like traits and applying them to their own religious and social codes of conduct”, resulting, at times, in discrimination versus other Jews at lower social strata requiring different synagogues for the divergent groups. It was about five centuries before the divisions healed.
Nowadays, most branches are reasonably inclusive and may even coordinate the planning of various religious events, educational programmes and Holocaust Memorials. Nor is it unusual for people to simultaneously hold cross-branch memberships for reasons such as availability of a good children’s programme; preference by one’s spouse; convenient location and desirable amenities; offering of interesting religious courses; broadening one’s understanding, etc.. Therefore, resolving to remain separate from or else to join a particular group may be as much an intellectual decision as a practical one, providing one can also accept some compromise.
Research among diasporic Muslim adherents reveals “self-conscious exploration of the religion which was not relevant to the first generation”. In new homelands, youth could be drawn into a vortex of self-identification and projected identity, being compelled to deal with parental guidance, possibly insufficient orientation to the new context, fluctuating religious attraction and an overall ambiguity in acceptance by, as well as level of integration and “fit” within the majority community. Swedish and Danish young Muslims have been found to have dissimilar understanding from their elders of the meaning and evolution of their religion.
Muslims originating from Russia have tended to regroup in Turkey while keeping to their distinct sects, “in most cases within close networks based on ethnicity, faith and place of origin”; while those landing in Western Europe have been “more likely to attend mosques that draw an international congregation”. In all cases, members not adhering to community strictures, particularly LGBTQ+, feel safer by not associating with the main Russian groups.
Thoughts on non-relevancy can also lead to decisions on another sect being deviant, thus causing “conflict between adherents with different theological understanding, such as those between Sunni and Shi’a,” in Pakistan and Indonesia, amongst other countries.
The preceding briefly illustrate that when diasporas face adjustment difficulties, reasonable options often can be found. For example:
- Proactively engaging in a structured dialogue amongst adherents of various sects, aiming for meaningful, mutually acceptable accommodation, as well as shared use of prayer and social facilities.
- Accepting compromise in order to expand the scope of involvement with different sects.
- Congregating with a different sect to enlighten one’s own understanding.
To liberally paraphrase Boyarin and Boyarin while capturing their broader application, we can note that despite diasporic attachment to one’s original home community, religious leaders may gradually, even imperceptibly, “selectively reinvent (their religion) as a religion of portable texts rather than temple” worship. Such transition into and within a new community may also foster a realisation that preservation of one’s religion may be optimized by mixing with the new host community, rather than by striving to stay aloof.
Examples from Hinduism within Indonesia
The 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia mandates a state guarantee of religious freedom for all citizens, including efforts to create religious harmony, focusing on the principle of Pancasila (monotheism, civilized humanity, national unity, deliberative democracy, and social justice). In practice, Pancasila was resisted by religious radicals, as exemplified by the Tanjung Priok incident, which led, to the post New Order decision to allow religious-based political parties. In 1962, Hinduism became the fifth state-recognized religion; this was sought by Balinese religious organizations and granted for their sake. The largest of these organizations, Parisada Hindu Dharma Bali, (renamed Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia in 1964), reflected subsequent efforts to define Hinduism as a national, rather than solely Balinese, affair.
The Ministry of Religion regulates religious harmony via the Joint Regulation of the Minister of Religion Number 9 (2006) and the Minister of Home Affairs Number 8 (2006) concerning Guidelines for the Implementation of the Duties of Regional Heads/Deputy Regional Heads in Maintaining Religious Harmony, Empowerment of Religious Harmony Forums, and Establishment of Houses of Worship (abbreviated as PBM No. 9 and 8 of 2006).
In every day practical terms, there has been much resistance from certain provincial and regional governments, not to mention intolerant community members. In 2022 for instance, in certain districts in West Sumatra province and in Cilegon City in Banten province, the proposed establishment of Christian Churches had been rejected by their local governments and religious-based majority community organizations. Elsewhere, land was made unavailable for the construction or rental of house of worship; and regulations stipulated that the establishment of such facility should have written permission from a minimum of 60 people residing in the vicinity of the proposed establishment as well as a minimum of 90 worshipers. Lastly, had any of the applications been granted, without extra land for funereal practices, deceased Hindus would need be transported to Bali or Lampung.
On November 7, 2017, the Constitutional Court broadened official acceptance of various faiths by permitting their inclusion on government identity cards. The Ministry of Education and Culture data in that same year revealed 187 faith sects across 13 provinces. In effect, from the government’s perspective, an Indonesian citizen should believe in the existence of God, through religion or aliran kepercayaan (Sunda wiwitan, kejawen, kaharingan, etc,);  and although they pray for their ancestors or unseen mystical power, they should transcend their belief in the existence of God. To obtain the government’s official recognition, they could register their belief in aliran kepercayaan at the government office; once interviewed a decision shall be made.
It is accepted that traditional cultures in Indonesia have been influenced by the advent of expansive religions, in particular Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. Likewise, some of the traditional practices have, perhaps imperceptibly, contributed to the syncretism of the 6 major religions (Islam, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism) .
“There are currently various layers of Hinduism, which include folk Hinduism (local indigenous beliefs which mixed with Hindu ones): Agama Tirtha (religion of holy water, which emphasizes ritual and is largely Saivite), and Agama Hindu Dharma (emphasizes ethics, philosophy and social responsibility). These may be mixed, and practiced simultaneously.”
As in most other countries, a belief system would be influenced by other religions in the surrounding area, as well as by proximity to other adherents, etc. (See Figure 1). Thus it is not unexpected that Hinduism continued to both absorb from, as well as influence, other religions. In turn, sometimes imperceptible changes in one’s religion abetted the evolution of unique practices including technology, new deities, altered shrines and related practices.
Indonesia’s education system includes religious grounding in a student’s own religion, as well as some key aspects of the other official religions; but such paedogogic background does not, by itself, guarantee total harmony; for example, “there are dozens of Buddhist factions in Indonesia that disagree with each other.”
Religious leaders play a critical role in forming their congregants’ perspectives, thus “contribut(ing) significantly towards shaping the outlook of the community in relation to other faiths”. “Building inter-religious harmony is very important to maintain the economy, politic, and national stability”. Thus if effort is expended in harmonizing with other faiths, surely at least equivalent effort must be spared for ensuring intra-faith concordance in a spirit of tolerance, mutual acceptance, respect and cordial cooperation.
Normuslim provides interesting historical notes about the Dayak Ngaju tribe families in Central Kalimantan, who originally practiced Kaharingan and over centuries absorbed various aspects of Islam, Christianity and Hinduism. A most interesting characteristic of the Ngaju’s present context is their acceptance and cohabitation with families of different religions. “The process of the conversion took place until now so that one family can have various religions”.
Non-Balinese Hindu Communities
Hinduism in East Kalimantan had been practiced for over a thousand years, with the golden era under Mulawarman, the third king of Hindu Kutai Martadipura in the 4th century.
At the site of the ancient Kutai Martadipura kingdom, seven inscribed stone pillars (yupas) were found, of which six had been relocated to the National Museum in Jakarta, and one is still in Muara Kaman, the former Hindu kingdom site. Batu Lesung, the one left, had remained uninscribed. Some tried to relocate it to Jakarta, but naturomagical phenomenon on the planned day of its relocation (immovability; flood; thunderbolt) kept it from removal. Author I.K. Gunawan had twice visited this yupa complex, where on the first trip one associate became entranced at the site; while on the second trip, the author’s niece was also ensorcelled.
According to Ardita, a Kutai chief asked to build a place of worship for maintaining harmony and the “security” of the surrounding areas. When Hindu communities carried out ceremonies therein, some local people in the surroundings asked for the edible offerings as blessings from those in “sacred” power. This site then became cultural heritage (cagar budaya) managed by the Kutai Kartanegara district government.
Figure 2. Kutai Yupa ceremony (Photo: Bimas Hindu)
Although Hinduism has existed for twelve centuries in East Kalimantan, there are no iconic physical legacies of the ancient Hindu kingdom of Kutai Martadipura, except for the yupas. In the interview with the first batch of Hindu migrants in Samarinda, a police pensioner maintained that there are no longer native Hindu communities there. Bimas Hindu also determined that not one native Hindu was left in the area.
Native Hindu: Dayak Paser Hindu
The only native Hindus found in East Kalimantan are in Tanjung Pinang and Rantau Atas villages, and Muara Saman Sub-District, in Paser District. The total Hindu population in these villages, situated about 300 km from the ancient Hindu Kutai kingdom, is 174 and 46 people respectively, These people have a simple place of worship built with wood as a place for a sacred stone. Declining to be called Dayak Kaharingan (Dayak Hindus in Central Kalimantan), they prefer to be called Dayak Paser, a community with its own culture and traditions.
Javanese Hindus trace their origins to Java. Our informants were from Blitar and Kediri in East Java province, where these people’s ancestors had been under the jurisdiction of the Hindu kingdom of Majapahit they continue to practice religious activities in their own traditions without many religious rituals, nor many offerings (banten/sesajen), but having a specific dress code. Eight historical temples from the kingdom’s era remain as heritage sites. 
Buginese Hindus: Tolotang Communities
Another Hindu group residing in East Kalimantan, the Tolotang, originated from Sulawesi with Bugis ethnic group. These people used practice aliran kepercayaan (indigenous beliefs), but as Indonesia only recognized five religions, they claimed to be Hindu. These Hindu migrants, mainly petty traders, live around Segiri market in downtown Samarinda. Their total numbers are unknown, but in their place of origin their population amounted to 50,000 people.
Dayak Kaharingan Hindus
While having indigenous beliefs, Kaharingan Hindus claim to be Hindus, and live close to the border with Central Kalimantan, such as at Long Bagun, where author I.K. Gunawan met 12 Hindus and Laham, where he counted 51.
Toraja Hindus: Hindu Alukta/Aluk Todolo
This Hindu group comes from the Toraja and Mamasa ethnic groups, originating in west part of Toraja district (South Sulawesi province) and Mamasa district (West Sulawesi province) respectively. Similar to Tolotang, this community used to adhere to indigenous beliefs, but later claimed to be Hindu. Their population in Samarinda is unknown; and they have a community organization (paguyuban) often called Kondosapata. In Mamasa they number about 10,000.
Figure 3. Dispersal of Hindu Diaspora in East Kalimantan
Bali-Centrism and Balinization
When individuals migrate and establish an ethnic diaspora, they bring themselves, their families, belongings, and also their cultures: this is globally common. In certain countries, however, this could create rejection from the recipient countries, as when a new group’s tradition does not fit with common values practiced by the recipient country’s citizens, such as “unequal treatment of women, forced marriages, honor killings, and female genital mutilation”.
The Balinese diaspora in East Kalimantan also bring Balinese religious practices, cultures, and traditions to East Kalimantan, such as Tri Hita Karana, Adat Rule (Awig-awig), etc. This is not a problem as Balinese values brought to East Kalimantan fit with common values. However, when non-Balinese Hindu meet and would like to become part of Hindu Balinese religious diaspora, difficulties arise from their different cultural backgrounds.
As observed, all temples of this diaspora tend to resemble those in Bali, as do religious rites, cultural activities, and community traditions. Being mainstream Hindu in Indonesia, when Balinese experience different temples and rites of non-Balinese Hindus, they would prefer to Balinize them with their own familiar traditions–an approach observed across the archipelago.
Balinization commonly follows Bali-centrism. While Bali-centrism is a mindset owned by most Balinese diaspora, Balinization is the implementation of Bali-centric thought and practices as observed from the replication of all Balinese identities: temples, symbols, religious rites, ritual offerings (banten/sesajen), and adat community organizations.
While Javanese Hindus use the same sacred Vedas as other sects, they have simpler temple construction and rites. When Balinese diaspora join non-Balinese Hindus’ temples and rites, most Balinese will try to introduce or impose Balinese temple style, rites, and offerings.
In the discourse of interaction between cultures, the term “social exclusion” refers to a community being exclusive or implementing exclusiveness in relations with other communities, whether affiliated in any way or not. One can differentiate two types of exclusion: pure exclusion (exclusiveness) and quasi-exclusion (quasi-exclusiveness).
In East Kalimantan, the authors have observed the Tolotang community, in Samarinda. This Hindu community of Buginese ethnic background from South Sulawesi used to pray in the Samarinda Temple, but eventually they discontinued attending because of the architecture which overwhelmed their more rustic comfort of annual worship by an ancestral sacred well and stone in an open area (komunitas Hindu Tanpa pura).
Figure 4. Ornate Samarinda Hindu Temple (Photo: Bimas Hindu)
In addition, a Bali dress code for men (white udeng headgear, shirt, and white fabric covering colourful Balinese sarong), and for women (white traditional kebaya) had been imposed for praying. Our Balinese diaspora is definitely friendly and welcoming to all Hindu friends from other ethnic and denominational backgrounds; so in the Balinese view it is not exclusive, but from the other community’s perspective the Balinese are indeed being exclusive by having created participatory boundaries. Thus the Tolotang, feeling “out of place”, are reluctant to pray at the temple, as the elaborateness and dress code hampers their engaging in further socio-religious interaction, similarly affecting Toraja/Mamasa Hindus, Dayak Kaharingan Hindus and to some extent Dayak Paser Hindus in East Kalimantan. The authors call this as “quasi-exclusiveness”.
Melting Pot or Salad Bowl?
On 18 January 2022, the Indonesian parliament passed law on the establishment of Indonesian Capital City (Ibu Kota Nusantara/ICC) in East Kalimantan, situated in two districts/regencies, Penajam Paser Utara and Kutai Kartanegara. Presently, the total population of 113 Hindu adherents in the ICC areas is small.
In the heart of ICC, only 19 Hindus are thus far residing in Ring Area 1 of the new capital city’s planned 3 Ring Areas. In short, the total population of Hindu communities in the ICC areas is small. However, as the planned ICC is a magnet for migrants from across the country, the influx from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, including Hindu, is unstoppable.
As aforementioned, Bali-centrism and Balinization may alienate and socially exclude non-Balinese Hindus with those feeling socially excluded potentially renouncing Hinduism. During the New Order era, citizens were forced to adhere to one of the five official religions (Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism), and have it stated in their identification cards; but with subsequent political reform, they can include a sixth official religion (Confucianism), and even revert to aliran kepercayaan.
Bali-centrism and Balinization are responsible for future exodus of Hindu adherents to indigenous beliefs as already occurred amongst Toraja/Mamasa Hindus. Bali-centrism and Balinization are practiced due to adherence to the “melting pot” mindset in building the community, meaning that all Hindu communities from different ethnic backgrounds are directed to be one, single, blended community. The weakness in such mindset is that new arrivals feel a lack of autonomy to express their own culture. Worst, they may perceive that they are subdued and culturally colonized so as to override their different ideology, culture, and tradition, all of which they wish to preserve. To avoid this, it is imperative to consider a mindset change, from a “melting pot” to a “salad bowl”. In the latter mindset, all community groups are respected and united in a “bowl”, but they still have their own identities and cultural autonomies. Unity in diversity is more imperative than uniformity with disgruntled followers.
Reflections for Better Understanding and Harmony
Putting the preceding within a more holistic frame, we need acknowledge that a shift in mindset of both active and aspiring adherents together with the high priests (Pendandas) or temple priests (Pemangku) of Hindu temples need be synchronised in a vision of fellowship.
All major religions have branches, interchangeably called denominations, sects, schisms or traditions, wherein disagreements over practice, invocation, and interpretation of certain sacred texts could arise from any combination of deliberate, legitimate or innocent misunderstandings, or even wilful disobedience; certain individuals may also have difficulty handling conflicting views. Splits evolve as understanding of the basic sacred text(s) of a religion diverges over time; but pride, cognitive frailty and material issues may also affect decisions. Furthermore, life circumstances such as local geography, as well as the composition and culture of the surrounding community can also have a major influence on thinking and practices.
We have noted earlier that traditions also potentially contribute to fracturing or to hesitancy in linking with a new group. Having been commonly passed down through several generations, traditions are understood and manipulated differently by each person. Individuals must pay attention to the process of adjustment –i.e. the ability to observe, listen, learn, discuss, understand, synthesize –that ultimately determines the quality and longevity of social integration. For this process itself to be credible and gainful, it requires genuine interest, mutual effort, a proactive blending of learning styles, as well as patience. Unsurprisingly, individual human elements of effort and patience can guide or pressure a person’s decisions.
Halman and Riis, in reference to considerable literature from Europe, portray a continuing role for religion in modern societies. “It is less the teachings of a specific denomination that seem most important today, however; rather, it is religious practice, or what sociologists refer to as religiosity, that is more important.” While this need be explored in the Asian context, the authors’ extended personal experience in the region does indicate a similar social environment.
Factionalism is a global reality. While it may present different practices and ritualistic expectations of participants making adjustment for newcomers possibly difficult, each temple group is nonetheless an integral aspect of religiosity. Providing a particular temple is peaceful, honest and cooperative, its practices need not be regarded as harmful nor debilitating to the religion as a whole.
Protocol puts the onus of inviting or permitting new members from different traditions to join a temple on the current membership and leadership; while corresponding responsibility in seeking to join a particular temple is with the newcomers. Therefore, in the spirit of being both citizens (warga negara) and adherents to the faith (penganut agama), the hosts and adherents have a moral obligation to together discuss any issues causing discomfort. An invitation and request to join must be sincere and open to frank exchanges so that both sides truly understand the requirements, dispel misunderstandings and be enabled to make a comfortable decision.
With increasing migration due to work or conflicts, it is crucial in today’s world that the numerous faiths and denominations illustrate practical and sincere collaboration within their respective faith communities as a practical example to the society at large. Thus, even if continuing to worship separately, one must accept that people from different backgrounds may naturally have different ways to worship: but approach this as an opportunity to learn from such diversity, to identify those doctrinal and practice areas where there is controversy –as well as those which resonate with both groups.
Moreover, even if remaining separate, the groups could collaborate in establishing a local Hindu umbrella organization (Parisada Hindu Dharma) through which members could enhance mutual understanding; share and explain certain practices unique to one group or another; accept flexibility in interpretations of sacred sects and rituals; cooperate in particular holy day ceremonies; and create amity amongst all members.
Varying degrees of religious pluralism in Indonesia, clearly demonstrates that ethnic and social differences can nonetheless jointly affect the diversity in religious practices: skillfully manoeuvring this complexity optimally requires an interdisciplinary approach to understand, develop, maintain and improve harmony amongst the variety of adherents. If such interaction be encouraged, it could set an example for friendly association with other local religions in a progressive trajectory of harmonization amongst all faiths in Indonesia.
Through our brief peregrine insights above, there are several takeaways—some unique to a particular religion, others cross-cutting– which should sharpen our understanding and help both domestic as well as diasporic Hindus in their adjustment, as follows:
- Learning about another religion need not be uncomfortable or antagonistic, so long as it be sincerely respectful and promote coexistence. Chayes and Minow offer practical suggestions for engendering harmonious coexistence “where religion plays a role in the conflict or where religious resources can help build peace”:
- Try to understand the varied interpretations, backgrounds and current applicability of one’s own religion and sect in ever-evolving traditions, White, et al, note that “religious traditions are not static or homogenous—they evolve over time in response to various social, demographic, political, and ecological pressures, which may result in corresponding changes in cultural values, beliefs, and preferences”. Diaspora members seek to retrieve or even invent a common origin and tradition and then commemorate “idealized geographic spaces as a way to dwell in an inhospitable present and perhaps bring about a return” of what used to be. (This) often involves intense ritualized and momentary fusions of past and future, along with patience and compromise in the process of reconstituting habitual practices within a different social milieu.
- Foster interfaith/intrafaith ceremonies to demonstrate cooperation and healing “for cultivating relationships, active listening, and rituals of respect across differences”.
- Changes in tradition need not mean diminution of one’s religion, as certain changes may enhance understanding, effectiveness and accessibility by a broader population of a common faith. “The religious institutions (migrants) build, adapt, remodel and adopt become worlds unto themselves, ‘congregations’, where new relations among the members of the community – among men and women, parents and children, recent arrivals and those settled – are forged”.
- Diasporic communities going through adjustment and seeking like-minded co-religionists can expect ambiguities to surface in distinguishing between religion and culture, the latter often considered as “secular”. For an apt illustration, see Pocock.
The preceding has strived to clarify our holistic approach to appreciating the (potential) complexities of migration and religious affiliation. It is indisputable that every major religion has had internal frictions, with multifarious ways of accommodating or avoiding each other. We need accept that groups of one religion may have inequalities or different social positionings; but even within a presumed homogenous group there is often a dynamic multiplicity of relatively autonomous positions; any tension within or among groups may be normal, and the effort may result in reaching mutual accommodation via assimilation, integration, hybridity or syncretism.
Hindu Balinese migrants to East Kalimantan brought themselves together with their culture and traditions. When this diaspora meets non-Balinese Hindus, there emerges a gap, a boundary line of social exclusion. Efforts to incorporate them within the Balinese system tend to create alienation. Some keep their distance from the perceived Balinese exclusiveness, even though Balinese are friendly and welcome all as family or friends. This quasi-exclusiveness is highly connected to Bali-centrism and Balinization in the development of mainstream Hinduism.
Bali-centrism and Balinization result from a melting pot mindset in the development of Hindu communities– meaning a desire to blend all indigenous beliefs in a single pot, creating uniformity and ignoring cultural diversity. This may lead to alienation and dissatisfaction that could later stimulate its adherents to convert to other religions or revert to indigenous beliefs. To prevent this from happening, a shift is needed to a “salad bowl” mindset wherein the diverse groupings interact with each other while still maintaining their identities and cultural traditions.
The establishment of a new capital city produces an auspicious momentum to apply a salad bowl mindset in building Hindu communities, since such a mindset will go hand in hand with the plan of the Indonesian government to build a modern multicultural capital.
Hinduism in Indonesia has been, and is, practiced within a spectrum: from influencing Buddhism as witnessed by “the use of similar artistic motifs and the depictions of Hindu deities in Buddhist art”, as well as passages in the Mahayana; to being counterinfluenced by Buddhism; to being used as a nomenclature for a variety of localised ethnic religions; to being “seen as a religion at the fringe of a ‘true religion’”; to being one of the major religions whose elements are osmotically incorporated by millions who practice traditional streams of faith.
Centuries of such admixtures, influenced and interlinked by deputations for work to unfamiliar regions among scattered islands; heterogenous ethnocultural communities; long-term residents and newly arriving migrants; bustling commerce; internet….and it is inevitable that cultures and religions would be at least tweaked, if not substantially modified!
What this means is that along with differences in other aspects of life, for example language accent, traditions, behavioural traits, ethnicity, origin, level of education, status, or income, it would be expected that some differences should be evident. In the same way, “distances between religious denominations could be as large as or larger than cultural distances between other demographic groups”.
Nonetheless, while realising that there could be major differences between sects, with certain ones not as welcoming as others; and while it is at times easier and appropriate to organize separate devotional congregations, the most important consideration should be an accommodating, visible friendship and support between and among separate sects. The authors strongly feel that the Balinese Hindus, with their evidential organizational strength, could set an example in spearheading improved accommodation of other Hindu sects seeking spiritual solace. Indonesia, in the Javanese culture’s own favouring of consultation and consensus (musyawarah and mufakat), can set an enduring example of tolerance to the world.
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