Today’s Tip: Pura Tirta Empul – Tampak Siring, Bali
Ubud and the surrounding villages in the middle of the island are thought of as the spiritual heart of Bali. And the purification and water temples at Tirta Empul are thought of as among the most important spiritual places in Bali.
Foreigners are able to visit the temples, but I suggest going with a guide to avoid making any cultural faux pas.
The Hindu temple was originally built in the 10th century in 926 AD around a natural spring. According to legend, the Hindu god Indra created the spring and it is still believed to have healing and purifying qualities. People have been making pilgrimage to the site for over a thousand years to give offerings and bathe in the waters.
Within the grounds there is a main pavilion and courtyard with changing facilities for worshipers to use.
There is an ornate temple where purification ceremonies take place, and a large modern villa, which was used in the 1950’s for President Sukarno’s visits.
But the focal point are the rectangular pools thought to be filled with holy water bubbling up from a natural spring.
Worshipers first make a blessing, burning incense and offering red, white, and yellow flowers to the different Hindu gods, before climbing into the main pool which has a row of 12 fountains, each pouring sacred water into the pool.
Wearing traditional clothing, people line up in the water and duck under the spouts three times. Each fountain has a different significance, providing things like protection from evil spirits, blessings for fertility and wealth and also blessings for the dead.
A guide can explain fully the meaning each fountain an which ones are appropriate to bathe in.
After bathing in the purifying waters, worshipers proceed to the temple where they participate in a purification ceremony, performed by holy men. Here worshipers make more offerings of flowers and are anointed with holy water and rice.
As a viewer or participant, the ceremonies at Pura Tirta Empul are otherworldly. If you have a chance to see it, I would highly recommend it.