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Puputan: Echoes from Bali's Past

Bali History: Klungkung Puputan of April 28, 1908

Bali News: Bali, Indonesia, Klungkung, Puputan, Gelgel, Dewa Agung Jambe, Dewa Agung Muter, Cokorda Gelgel, Dewa Agung Gde Semarabawa, Semarapura, Satria, Lieutenant Haremaker, IB Putu Gledeg, Cokorda Gelgel, fight to death, Dutch massacre, Kusamba, Jumpai
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April 28, 1908 is a date that will life forever in the collective memory of the people of Klungkung, East Bali. On that day, the Raja of Klungkung, Dewa Agung Jambe, his loyal troops, family members and followers died valiantly defending their Kingdom form the Dutch.

The Puputan of Klungkung on April 28th was the climax of a long-standing dispute over Dutch intervention in local issues ranging from border disputes to the monopoly in the trade of opium. Puputan is a Balinese term used to describe a traditional heroic “fight to the death” and remains a reoccurring theme in the history of the Island.

in 1908, warfare between the Kingdom and the Dutch Colonialist broke out initially in Gelgel. Tension rose between April 13-16, 1908, when Dutch troops were deployed to conduct inspections and safeguard depots used by the Dutch to sell the opium controlled under a colonial monopoly.

Leading figures from the Klungkung palace opposed these patrols, seen as infringing on the sovereignty of the Rajah. Cokorda Gelgel of the Royal Household was on the frontline of the resistance. An attack was eventually launched on the patrolling Dutch troops, leaving 10 Royal Dutch conscripts dead, including the man leading the patrol, Lieutenant Haremaker. The Gelgel insurgents also suffered 12 casualties, with IB Putu Gledeg numbering among the dead.

Some contend that the Dutch were, in fact, waiting for such an incident and the justification it would offer for launching a large-scale offensive on the Balinese of  Klungkung.

According to this scenario, the Dutch accused Klungkung of rebelling against the colonial Dutch-Indies government resulting in a special expeditionary force being dispatched to Bali from Batavia. Meanwhile, the Raja and people of Klungkung were given the ultimatum of surrendering to the Dutch forces before April 22, 1908 or face unspecified dire consequences. Fearing exiled from his beloved Kingdom, the Raja of Klungkung boldly rejected the Dutch demands, an announcement  to that effect precipitating shelling by Dutch cannons on the royal palaces at Semarapura, Gelgel and Satria.

On April 27, 1908, the special expeditionary force from Batavia arrived in Bali aboard a fully armed Dutch war ship. The Dutch forces made landings in Bali at Kusamba and Jumpai - a day's march from Klungkung.

The ensuing war saw Kusamba and Jumpai quickly fall into the hands of the better-armed Dutch forces. Gradually, the Dutch soldiers began a march from the seaside to Klungkung, whilst the palace at Semarapura was quickly surrounded by the Dutch troops.

Cokorda Gelgel and Dewa Agung Gde Semarabawa fell in battles with the Dutch at the southern defenses. Upon hearing of the death of his Father, the 12-year-old Crown Prince joined his widowed mother, Dewa Agung Muter, on the battlefield. On the field of battle, all came dressed in white in anticipation of the certain death that awaited them. And, indeed, Dewa Agung Muter and her princely son soon lay dead cut down by bayonets and bullets from the Dutch troops.

Hearing of the death of the Queen Mother and the Crown Prince did not, however, deter Dewa Agung Jambe. Hardened in his resolve by their deaths, Dewa Agung Jambe led his royal household and loyal troops in a direct frontal assault on the advancing Dutch.

Badly out gunned, the Balinese King and his entourage quickly fell in a hail of bullets fired by the Dutch forces and the town of Klungkung was taken into Dutch hands at 3:00 pm on April 28, 1908.

Like the Puputan of two years before in Denpasar, hundreds of dead laid scattered on the ground now occupied by Dutch forces, all that remained on the physical plane of the proud Balinese who refused to bow down before the colonial forces occupying their homelands.

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