Balinese Culture Corner: How did Bali choose its airport name?


I Gusti Ngurah Rai airport. What’s the story behind the name?

I Gusti Ngurah Rai was a Balinesse hero who made a huge contribution to Bali’s freedom and community and had a big influence in the Indonesian military.

Ngurah Rai was born in Carangsari, Badung Regency, Bali, on 30 January 1917. He was a well studied man. After high school, he received Dutch military training at Military Cadet Schools in both Bali, and Central Java. Upon graduation, he joined the Dutch-sponsored military as a second lieutenant in Bali and continued his study at Corps Opleiding Voor Reserve Officieren (CORO), Magelang and Artillery education in Malang, Central Java.

After the Indonesian Declaration of Independence, he established the People’s Security Army, which was the forerunner of the current military of Indonesia, for the Lesser Sunda Islands. He then left for the republican capital, Yogyakarta, to receive orders before returning to Bali to oppose approximately 2,000 Dutch troops that had landed on 2 and 3 March 1946. Ngurah Rai found that the republican forces were divided and he worked hard to reunite them and organized the first attack against the Dutch forces headquarters at Tabanan. The Dutch then attempted to locate Nguraha Rai’s base and offered to negotiate, which he refused.

On 20 November 1946, the Dutch launched a large attack on Marga with the assistance of troops from Lombok and supported by aircraft. Lt. Col Ngurah Rai ordered a Puputan, or a fight to the death. He died along with all of his troops. The battle is now known as the Battle of Margarana. Because Ngurah Rai’s entire force was wiped out, including the military leadership, the Dutch forces were subsequently unopposed and were able to regain control of Bali.

On 9 August 1975, he was made a national hero via Presidential decree and was honored by giving the International Airport his name. He also appears on the IDR50,000 note.

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