The Balinese sense of identity is all bound up with the Hindu caste system, which had its origins in India and was introduced to the island by the Javanese in the 14th century.

In Bali there are four castes, as opposed to the Indian five: Brahmans (priests and teachers), Satria (kings and warriors), Wesia (merchants) and Sudra (peasants and craftsmen, who make up 95% of the population).

Every Balinese person belongs to a caste. The distinctions are most obviously carried in the naming system – different names correspond to the different castes – and the language.

Like in Sanskrit, there are four levels of formality and politeness in the Balinese language. However, it’s illegal in Bali to discriminate by caste, and the system no longer carries real weight in terms of power or political status. Castes are inter-marrying with ever-greater frequency, and it’s not uncommon to see a Brahman working as a parking attendant, a Satria running a coffee shop and a Sudra flashing around the substantial wealth he’s accumulated from his string of rental villas.

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