The Holy Springs of Tirta Empul: Tampaksaring, Bali

by Barrie on July 18, 2006

by Barrie | July 18th, 2006  

North of Tampaksaring on the road to Kintamani you will see the turnoff to Tirta Empul. It is to here that the Balinese come from all over the island on pilgrimages to bathe in the holy springs and thus cleanse themselves spiritually.

Legend tells how the springs were first tapped by the god Indra during his battle with the evil Mayadanawa who was an early ruler of Pejeng. Mayadanawa had poisoned the nearby river and made hundreds of Indra's retainers ill, so Indra pierced the earth to release a spring of pure and sacred water, the elixir of mortality, thus reviving his ailing troops. This new spring was named Tirta Empul and ever since has been considered the holiest place in Bali since the 10th century.

Around the pools an elegantly ornate temple has been built and, whilst I was there, devotees were in prayer and others leaving after finishing their devotion and with even more entering to pray and bathe in the pools. Everywhere you looked in the complex Balinese in ceremonial attire carrying offerings and receiving blessings were prominent as were a multitude of Pedanda's.

I walked through the Jaba, or outer courtyard, of the temple where the red-brick bathing pools are sunk. Here, men and women as well as priests were bathing in the holy water fed from the springs in the Jeroan, or inner sanctuary of the temple.

Interestingly, for pregnant women, bathing in the holy waters of Tirta Empul is significant. It is one of three places they must bathe for a special ritual called Melukat. This ritual involves the total immersion in the holy waters. The three places of the holiest springs are at Tirta Bungkah - the holy waters of the mountain, Tirta Empul - the holy springs of the plain, and, Tirta Selukat - the holy springs of the sea.

In the Jeroan, I was fascinated with the clarity and freshness of the spring water bubbling out into the enclosed and rectangular pool. It truly is mesmerising. I really felt like going for a swim, but at that time I had more temples to see.

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