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When a King Ruled Baliís North Shore

A Glimpse at the Monarchial Economy of North Bali in the early 1800s.

(5/14/2017) Beritabali.com has explored the nature of Bali’s economy during the early 19th Century when 8 separate kingdoms ruled the Island.

W.H. Medhirst and Tamlin, quoted in Adrian Vicker’s book Bali Tempo Doeloe (2002), described the kingdom of Baliling (current day, Buleleng) that stretched in North Bali from Seng-sit in the east to Bateman in the west, bordered on the north by the sea shore.

In the early 1800s, the King of Baliling, Gedem-goorah Ratna Ningrat, who by all accounts lived a licentious and indulgent royal lifestyle, derived his royal income from 5 principal sources that included:

1. Customs Duties on Chinese Goods Passing through North Bali’s Seaports.

Chinese merchants paid both a yearly honorarium to the King and made regular gifts to the King Ningrat and his subjects. 

2. Land Taxes

Those growing rice and other crops in North Bali paid an annual “per hectare” tax to the King. Payment of the tax allowed agriculturalists to tap into the water resources needed to grow crops.

3. Purchase of Marriage Licenses and Fines

Those living in the Kingdom followed an elopement system of marriage in which young men ran away with their intended brides to live for a period in the surrounding jungles. The couples were only allowed to return to their families and villages after paying a “fine” that varied depending on the type of matrimonial ceremony presented. 20% of these fines were claimed by the King as His due. Similarly, divorcesalso  incurred a fee, part of which was paid to the King.

Reports say that tradition held that the King considered the women of the kingdom as his chattel, individuals that could be sold and traded at the wish of the King.

4. Death Inheritance

During this period in North Bali's history, whenever the male head of a household died all his property, including his wife and children, automatically became the property of the King.

After the cost of burial and living expenses for the Deceased’s parents (if they were still living) was deducted from the Estate, what remained was the property of the King who was able to do what he liked with the dead man’s wife and children. If the surviving woman had talent in trading and commerce she was allowed to work in the local market, paying a portion of her income to the King. If the widow was attractive, she might be made a minor wife of the King. Women were also assigned roles as dancers or comfort woman, expected to pay a regular fee to the King.

5. Slave Trade

Criminals and men under the King’s control were often sold as slaves to the Chinese, Dutch and other foreigners visiting Bali’s north shore.