Bali’s neighbor: Lombok history

by Nick on October 18, 2006

by Nick | October 18th, 2006  

Lombok is Bali’s neighbor to the east. While tourism has run rampant in Bali, it has progressed at a crawl in Lombok. A trip to Lombok can be like going back 40 years in Bali.

Here’s a run down of the history of Lombok.

In the 14th Century, Lombok was settled by Hindu-Javanese under the auspices of the powerful Majapahit Empire. Islam was brought to Lombok between 1506 and 1545 by Sunan. In the 17th Century, the island was divided into a number of petty princedoms. In return for Balinese support, in their struggle against the raja of Sumbawa in the early 18th Century, the native Sasaks allowed the Balinese to settle in western Lombok. The Balinese king of Karangasem, took advantage of the disunity of the fueding princes, conquered Lombok in the mid 17th Century, enslaving the Islamic Sasaks in the western part of the island. At the same time, Islamic Makassaresse traders from Sumbawa, colonized Lombok’s eastern half, converting the Sasaks to Islam. Though the Massakaresse were expelled by a joint Balinese / Sasak force in 1677, the Sasaks soon found themselves oppressed by the newcomers from Bali. Over the next several hundred years, they became second classs citizens on their own island.

The Dutch colonists used the conflict between the 2 groups to their advantage. In the late 19th Century, the Sasaks sought assistance from the Dutch, who had occupied northern Bali in 1882. In 1894, the Dutch mounted an elaborate military expedition to Lombok and demanded a war indemnity of 1 million guilders, to be paid by the old raja. The raja accepted, but the princes rose up and attacked the main Dutch encampment in Cakrenegara. Afterr 3 days of fierce fighting, the Dutch retreated to the sea, leaving almost 300 wounded and 100 dead.

Large reinforcements of men and heavy artillery were brought from Java. After a bitter month-long campaign of destruction, with the Dutch razing Balinese villages and the Sasaks looting them, the Balinese stronghold at Cakranegara was finally taken. The crown prince, Anak Agung Ketut, a bitter enemey of the Dutch, was murdered; the old raja was captured and sent into exile. Soon after, Lombok formally became part of the Dutch East Indies. Strained feelings still exist between the Sasaks and the Balinese.

Interesting stuff and somewhat surprising to find Balinese communities still living in Lombok.

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