Bali is famous for its arts and Hindu religion, embedded in the daily lives of its people along with its music, dance, carving, painting and theatre traditions.
Those cultural riches are on ample display each year at the annual Bali Arts Festival, an event that draws visitors from all over the world.
This year, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) chose it as the venue to condemn those who would harm Indonesia's traditions of diversity and tolerance with ethnic or religion-based violence.
"We will not tolerate senseless violence committed in the name of religion or identity," SBY said as he opened the 35th edition of the festival on June 15th, at the Werdhi Budaya Arts Centre in Denpasar.
"We will make sure those who harm the characteristics of unity and harmony or commit intolerant acts will be brought to justice."
He praised Bali for its openness and creativity. "Balinese art has integrity and so do the people. We want to send the message to the world that Bali is safe to visit," he said.
Parade of performers
After opening speeches, the month-long festival kicked off with a parade of performers and artists winding through main roads in Denpasar.
According to Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika, more than 15,000 artists participated, costing the local government approximately Rp 5 billion ($503,796).
"The festival will declare to the world that Bali is an open society, and we welcome everyone with peace, harmony, and tolerance," he said.
Mangku added Bali simultaneously hosted the World Hindu Summit at the Arts Centre in Denpasar from June 13th-16th, attended by hundreds of Hindu leaders and high priests from around the world.
The festival is important not only for Bali, but for Indonesia in general.
"Bali is an international tourist destination. Therefore, it is no wonder that the Indonesian president makes time to come to Bali to open the event," said I Ketut Adriantara, one of the festival's organisers. People from around the island have been preparing for the festival for months, he added.
"We want to make sure that we deliver the message," Ketut said. "We want to send the word of peace. If this event is successful, it will give a positive image for the country as well as increasing our country's income. We want more tourists to make Bali their first destination."
Source of income … and inspiration
Yunita Sari, 34, sells batiks and handmade jewelry at the festival, and enjoys the performances.
"I am originally from Java, but I have been here for more than 10 years. Each year I've seen the Bali Arts Festival, I've never felt bored," she said.
The festival also has an important mission to educate children about cultural traditions, whether from Bali or beyond.
"I saw people admiring the artists' paintings. I want to be one of those talented painters," said Hari Gunawan, a 12-year-old boy visiting from Solo.
Asked why, Hari said, "Painting can make people happy and think. It also brings you some peace when you enjoy it. And when you make it, it teaches you to be patient. It gives you a good feeling," he added.
Ni Komang Untari, a 31-year-old Denpasar resident, is performing at the festival. For the dancer, the arts are a source of tolerance, harmony, and a way to pass the qualities along.
"I want people to love each other and not hate each other," she told Khabar. "We learn that from Hinduism."
Ni Komang said she wants to be an ambassador someday. "But if it's not possible, I want to be an ambassador of love through the dances that I perform," she said.