Bali Hinduism is a combination of elements from Indian Shivaite and Buddhist traditions with older beliefs and practices. One of the oldest names for the Balinese religion is "Agama Tirtha" or religion of Holy waters. Tirtha (holy water) has always been used in Hindu religious ceremonies. The word tirtha comes from Sanskrit and means 'holy' or 'to cleanse'. The holy water possesses the means of opening our hearts to prayer.
The aim of Agama Hindu Bali (the religion of most Balinese) is to reach peace of spirit and harmony in this material life. In practicing their faith, Hindu communities try to achieve a spiritual balance of worship between Tattwa (philosophy), Susila (etiquette/morals), and Upacara (rituals). On Bali there are two ways to pray: 'mbakti' and 'muspa'. The first is worship through devotion, the second shows respect with flowers.
According to the Balinese the Universe is divided into three realms: the realm of the gods, the realm of the demons and ground spirits and the realm of the people. Their universe is divided into three areas; the mountains are the home of the gods; the sea where the powerful forces of dissolutions dwell; and the intermediary region, where people live. This three part layout is repeated endlessly in the villages, homes and shrines of Bali.
Bali is known as the Island of the Gods. This is because there are thousands of temples from the state temples Bali's (Sad Kahyangan) 6 major temples honored by all the Balinese (we will visit three) to Village temples, every village has three the Puri Puseh or ancestor temple nearest the mountains, the Puri Desa the central village temple and the Puri Dalem or temple dedicated to Siwa, or the god of dissolution, usually nearest the cremation ground. Then every home has temples and shrines. Finally there are temples in the rice fields dedicated to Dewi Sri, goddess of Rice. Of course the Balinese honor nature, and power spots like Banyan trees, Caves, and rivers they bring offerings to.
Balinese religion is embedded in deep tradition of animism and the veneration of ancestors. Their Hindu gods are abstractions associated with natural forces. Vishnu with rain and water, Brahma with Creativity Fire and volcanoes. Shiva with flowers and wind. This is the Hindu Trinity Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva (Siwa) the renewer.
The Supreme Being is referred to as Sang Hyang Widhi Wisa. He falls in line with religious beliefs that resolve around a single god of whom all other gods are manifestations.
Hinduism is a monotheistic religion with one Godhead. In Bali, this is called Ida Sanghyang Widi Wasa or Sang Hyang Tunggal or Sang Hyang Cintya. These are all words for the one God. Hinduism is often misunderstood as being a faith with many Gods and Goddesses (Dewas and Bhataris). These other Gods are merely the realization or manifestations of the holy rays from the One God.
The word Dewa (Deva) comes from the Sanskrit word Dev, meaning ray. Bhatara comes from the word Bhar, meaning protector. The Dewas (holy manifestations of God), which appear most often in Balinese religion are called the Tri Murti, or sometimes the Holy Trinity.