When it comes to the island’s ‘progress’ and its ‘preservation’, it is the Balinese themselves who must live through the dichotomous balancing between past and future. Whilst many on the outside have their own views, to see the Balinese perspective is paramount, as it is provides a window into their values and priorities.

We at NOW! Bali have asked a handful of Balinese friends from different backgrounds to share their thoughts on the modernisation of the island and society, and whether they believe modern life leaves space for heritage and history, or if ‘progress’ inevitably dilutes Balinese identity.

Marmar Herayukti


Culture always has a place in the midst of progress because progress itself is the result of cultural development. In Bali, culture has been deeply rooted where generations have had access to their ancestral heritage and developed it with respect and care. “Modern” is a word describing progress, which for me does not describe physical progress, but rather mental and spiritual — and this kind of modernity has been around for a long time. Like flying a kite, it is a game of tug o’war.

Between progress and setbacks that occur in the midst of the modern world, this is just a game of life that must be played seriously. However, culture is a moving force based on Budhi or goodness. Bali has experienced many eras of progress when viewed from its past history, from century to century it has for thousands of years developed itself without leaving its roots. As if it still looks the same, but invisibly the culture in Bali has undergone many developments to adapt to the progress of the times; it shows that the basic principles of culture are still present. As a Balinese, I have absolutely no worries or even the intimidation of modern ideas “that Balinese culture will lose its identity” because I see the younger generation of Bali moving in harmony in the midst of a “modern” world. My optimism is not simply to humour myself, as I can see beyond the surface, deeper than the average person, that actually Bali continues to respect and pursue the intellectual knowledge inherited from ancestors in very dynamic ways. It is proof that Bali is not anti-progress, from the past until today. The struggles to advance mentally and spiritually always occurs in society, encouraging discussions from the community level to the government. As a young Balinese, I am increasingly proud of the knowledge and cultural heritage of Bali’s past, and also of the extraordinary archipelago, which may not necessarily be physically preserved but in principle it continues to grow and advance. As an artist, it is my duty to serve this nation to ignite the fire everywhere, because without the spirit of progress, “modern” is only a label for an era, not a society or an individual who should be surfing on the waves, not being crushed. And as long as the sun rises in the east, the fired of progress will not be extinguished -marmar herayukti-.

Dewi Anggraini

Director of Marketing Communications of The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali

Dewi Anggraini

We understand that modernisation will make an impact to most aspects of people’s lives, tradition and culture. As a Balinese, I am confident that the roots of Bali’s culture are strong enough that they will not fade easily in the face of modernisation. Bali itself is a culture, with traditions carried through generations.

The Balinese believe in karma and purnabawa, two of five important beliefs in Hinduism. These make the culture resilient. Yes, there will always be changes, but this will not dilute the culture itself. From many examples I can pick Nyepi, which started back in the year 78AD and continues to this day. As for our offerings, these used to be made from fresh coconut leaves, often prepared close to the ceremony so that they are fresh in presentation; whilst we do this still, modern Balinese adapt, we have limited time and so we find other options like buying our offerings from the market, or use materials that may last longer. The biggest concern I have when it comes to Balinese modernisation centres on land-use. It worries me if Balinese find it hard to access the beach to carryout ceremony rituals, if the green rice fields decrease, my concern mainly surrounds preserving nature. I believe that the Balinese understand that tourism is important to the island, and that what makes Bali the number one destination in the world is its culture and so we are keenly aware of preserving our traditions on the island.

Anggara Mahendra

Photographer and Journalist

Anggara Mahendra

A more practical way of life makes people ask why they have to practice complex customs and cultures. “Why must I do this, why should we do that?” It is a lack of literacy that makes people see only the surface level of their own customs and culture, and thus they do not grasp the meanings behind them. 

An inquisitive mind, good literacy, wise use of technology, and broad insight can actually bring customs, arts and culture into a contemporary form without reducing their meaning.

It is people with this passion and belief who will make Bali’s cultural heritage relevant throughout the ages.

A.A. Dewandra Djelantik



Bali is famous and well-known for its culture, as it is certainly one of the most unique and intriguing around the world. This culture, and the traditions within them, are different even with Bali, depending on the area you are in. Each regency, for example, will have their own take on an activity or even way of life. Thus, visitors come to the island because they want to experience all of this first hand.

Nonetheless, it is crucial for the Balinese people, especially the younger generations to adapt and welcome modern technology and other changes. Even if modernisation is here upon us, with the risk of it dissipating culture away slowly, the Balinese should be prepared to welcome such technologies so that Bali itself can develop into a better and more modern destination. We should be able to use advancements to improve our culture, so that visitors and locals alike can enjoy it even more. The younger generations should think about the ways in which Bali can be a cultural destination without wiping our history and traditions away, but modernisation is definitely important; I am definitely concerned about the youth not seizing opportunities when it comes to the improvement of Balinese culture, as they have been educated to differently.

For me, Balinese culture and Bali are dependent on the capabilities of the younger generation to use modern technology in order to improve what exists already, without forgetting the roots of our traditions and our history. There should be more information regarding the importance of Balinese culture for the younger generations so that they are able to understand and realise that Balinese culture is much more important than they think. Bali’s identity is found in our culture and history. 

Ni Nyoman Clara Listya Dewi

Director of Communications, BASABali


During the 27 years I was born and raised in Bali, I realised that modernising Balinese culture and society is a matter of mindset built on communication, trust and transparency. This is what affects the way in which we view and adapt to the demands of today. For us in Bali, our challenge is how to adapt to the onslaught of information technology. 

Our predecessors entrusted our traditions on palm leaves, now we entrust them to the digital world. Texts that were previously only written on palm leaves, can now be typed easily with the help of a computer. Balinese words that were only spoken verbally have now been archived in the digital world. For me, this adoption changes the cultural experience in terms of access, production, and community participation but does it also reduce the original spirit of Balinese culture? At BASAbali Wiki, we’ve created a platform which uses digital media to archive words and information about Balinese culture, but more than creating a repository, it provides a vehicle for the community to use technology to express and celebrate culture:  the community can share the way they celebrate holidays during Covid-19, how they understand traditional text (lontar) and what they think about modern issues.

Accessed by more than 2 million users, the BASAbali Wiki demonstrates and amplifies the community’s interest in preserving and strengthening culture in the modern world using modern techniques. Our challenge going forward will be how to welcome new ideas and technologies without having it overwhelm us.

NOW Bali Editorial Team

NOW Bali Editorial Team

This article has been written or uploaded by NOW! Bali's in-house editorial team.