Bali has a vast and rich literature that dates back many centuries but which remains largely unknown outside Bali. Many different genres are represent ed in the Balinese literary corpus, ranging from prose and poetic works written in Kawi - a name that encompasses a number of related idioms including Old Javanese, Middle Javanese and Javanese-Balinese - to works in literary Balinese and modern novels, short stories and poetry written in Balinese and Indonesian. Among these literary genres is kakawin literature, one of the oldest written genres in the Indonesian archipelago, with its roots deep in the earliest period of Hindu-Javanese civilization and culture. Kakawin are written in Old Javanese (Kawi), in verse form according to a set number of syllables per line, and in fixed metrical patterns of long and short syllables that are based on the principles of Sanskrit poetics. Most are epic tales, although a number are also concerned with didactic and religious themes.
The story of kakawin literature is closely bound up with the processes by which Indian, largely Sanskrit-derived, cultural, literary and religious practices were adapted in the Indonesian world. Sanskrit literature in particular had a profound effect on Javanese literature...