I have been wanting to visit Tirta Empul for a long time. Tales of the holy temple and its sacred water’s curative powers had a strong appeal for someone like me, in a constant quest for soul feeding experiences. But as ever in Bali, I believe that each event has a specific timing, and I somehow put the trip on the back of my mind. Then my friend Celine came to visit and I thought it would be a nice experience to share together. The last weeks I had also grown restless, sensing a need for healing and more meaningfulness, and the time finally felt right. Here I take you on a journey to the sacred temple, its history and share how it brought me a renewed sense of peace and direction…
Tirta Empul is a Balinese Hindu temple located in the village of Tampak Siring, northeast of Ubud. It has gained popularity for its holy waters, said to have magical curative powers. The temple was constructed in 960AD during the rule of Warmadewa and there is an extraordinary story behind it.
Legend has it that the holy spring was created following an epic battle between the powerful king Mawadenawa and the God Indra
Mawadenawa had the exceptional power of being able to take any form, as well as to appear and disappear at will. Emboldened by his special skills, the king became arrogant, turning into black magic and prohibiting his subjects to pray to the Gods. The God Indra took offence of this and decided to fight Mawadenawa with his army. But upon hearing of his plans, Mawadenawa sneaked into Indra’s army camp one night and created a poisonous pond; Indra’s men unsuspectingly drank water from it and fell dead one after another. To revive them, Indra pierced the ground and as a fountain of water sprung out of the hole, touching his soldiers, they came back to life, eventually defeating Mawadenawa.
Ever since, worshipers have been drawn to the temple, keeping in a tradition almost unchanged for the last thousand years.
The temple is divided in 3 courtyards and include shrines of Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu, Indra and Mount Batur. The most popular part of the temple is called the Jaba Tenga, which contains the two purification pools. The 15 fountains are said to cure a range of illnesses and are used for symbolic cleansing of your mind, soul and spirit.
Worshipers follow a special ritual: They first make an offering to the Gods, on the steps located in front of the fountains. After that, they start from the first water fountain on the left and then making their way to the right, in the second pool. The last two fountains of the second pool are used as holy water for cremation or dead ceremony, so it is not recommended to use them for a normal cleansing.
Dressed in a traditional sarong, I entered the holy water, starting my purification journey.
At first, I wasn’t really sure what to do, looking at the other worshippers for some direction. But then I started to focus on my prayers, dedicating a specific one to each fountain, and by doing so, making this experience all mine.
There was something about the ritual, the progression from a fountain to another being the metaphor for a journey of healing. Where earlier I had felt a little bit lost and in doubt, I was now growing more content and at ease, feeling grateful again for the life I had, recognising its ups more than its downs.
At the end of the whole experience, I really felt happy within, not cold but refreshed and I could tell that people around seemed equally amazed to have gone through this journey. Worshipers in Bali are said to perform it at least once a year and I too plan on coming and visit again.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my journey to the sacred temple of Tirta Empul. If you are in Bali, I definitely recommend you to experience this extraordinary purification ritual.
– The Tropical Nomad –
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Pura Tirta Empul,
Jl. Tirta, Manukaya, Tampaksiring, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80552, Indonesia
GPS: Latitude: 8.4157° S | Longitude: 115.3154° E
Tirta Empul is located 18km northeast of Ubud, easily accessible by motorbike or with a driver. If you have time, a good idea could be to combine this visit with the temple of Gunung Kawi, situated in the same area.
When to visit:
You can visit Pura Tirta Empul on any day between 9am and 5pm. The site is quite touristic so you probably won’t have the fountains for yourself but the journey and the possible wait to enter the sacred water are all worth it.
Bring along with you a sarong and a change of clothes as you will be entering the waters fully dressed and you will want to have some dry clothing to wear after the purification ritual. Traditional sarongs are provided for free at the entrance but you are not allowed to go in the water with them. However, for a small fee, inside the temple, you can rent a green sarong which you can get wet.