Water Temple Bali
Tirta Empul Water Temple in Bali is one of Indonesia’s most important and largest water temple complexes and holy mountain springs. The water temple Bali, dedicated to the Hindu water God Vishnu, is located in Manukaya village, Gianyar Regency in central Bali. The cultural heritage site was built around 962 AD, and has served the old Balinese Kings, especially those belonging to the Warmadewa Dynasty.
The meaning of Tirta Empul in Balinese is ‘holy water spring’. It is, in fact, the name of the water source within the complex. The water from the spring passes through several purification baths, fish ponds, and pools ponds built around the outer perimeter of the complex and overflow into the Tukad Pakerisan River. A palace, built for the first Indonesian President, President Soekarno in 1954, overlooks the temple complex. Important guests and dignitaries who come on a visit to the country regularly stay at the palace.
Take your time to explore Tirta Empul completely. As in the case with other Balinese temples, this water temple complex also has many sections. As you walk across a large stone doorway after paying the entrance fee, you reach the temple’s central courtyard referred to as the Jaba Pura. Large stone walls enclose the worn-stone paved and open space central courtyard. A huge open-air pavilion can be seen on the right side of the courtyard.
The open courtyard has lush gardens and statues that adorn the pathways. You can also see a number of tropical plants in the garden. Two large built-in doorways – candi bentar or temple gate – on the fourth side of the courtyard lead visitors into the inner courtyard.
The Jaba Tengah is the most well-known part of the water temple. There are two purification pools within this section and the local Balinese believe that the water in these pools has magical powers to cure their illnesses. Thirteen elaborately sculpted spouts line the edge of the pools from the west to the east. Local people come here and purify themselves with the water coming out of the spouts. The water coming out of the last two spouts is generally used for purification purposes when Balinese people perform funerary rites. These sprouts feed the pools.
The section behind the purification pools is the Jeroan or the inner courtyard. Many visitors to Tirta Empul overlook this section, but it’s a great place to relax after the struggle at the purification pools. People come to the inner courtyard to pray. The huge water spring that supplies water to the purification pools is located in the front portion of the inner courtyard. Small fish can be seen swimming in between the reeds of the green algae filled spring. The serene Hindu shrines are located behind the spring. The brightly decorated shrines contrast with the white starched clothed that the Balinese wear when they come to the temple to pray.
As you come out of Tirta Empul, you pass by a large koi pool. This is the last section of the water temple. There are walls on all the four sides of this section and they segregate this section from the other parts of the complex. This section has a calm and comforting atmosphere. You can see fat koi swimming lazily around the pool, waiting for food from the tourists. A row of small shops on the pond’s right hand side sells trinkets visitors.
It is believed that the purifying spring provides curative effects. According to the myth, a Balinese ruler called Mayadenawa not only resisted the influence of the Hindu religion but also did not allow his subjects to chant prayers nor follow religious practices. This angered the gods and the king of gods Indra wanted Mayadenawa to be clamped down upon.
Mayadenewa fled from Indra’s troops and hid at several places all over the area around the temple from Petanu River to Pakerisan River and even up to the northern side of Tampaksiring. The names of his hiding sites and the natural features reflect one episode each from the tale. For example, Tampaksiring – tampak means feet and siring means sideways. This depicts an episode in the tale related to leaving footprints on the hill.
The myth has it that Mayadenawa created a poisoned spring with the help of his magical powers. The exhausted troops of Indra drank water form this spring and yielded. Indra noticed that his men were dying and quickly thrust his troops into the ground where a holy spring was spurting out. Indra’s men drank the water coming out of this spring. The holy water did not only cure the illnesses of the troops but also brought some of the dead men back to life. The escapade of the king is the legendary myth behind Tirta Empul’s holy spring and the holy days of Kuningan and Galungan that are celebrated by the local Balinese Hindus.
The Manukaya village is very close to Tampaksiring town. It’s just a 30-minute drive from Ubud. You need to wear a sarong before entering the temple. Sarongs are available for a small rent/donation at the temple entrance. In keeping with local customs, shoulders should also be covered. Like many other temples in and around Ubud, this water temple also remains open on all seven days of the week. The temple remains open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Explore an active temple, and even take part in a purification ritual yourself.