It is said that the springs that feed Oura Tirta Empul – The Holy Water Temple – in Bali were created by the god Indra. It is also believed that these waters have healing properties, and people from all over visit this beautiful temple and bathe in the holy water.
Tirta Emul is about 30 minutes from Ubud, in the village of Manukaya. Through the entrance, you will pass under a Balinese gate called a Candi Bentar to the outer courtyard – Jaba Pura. The Jaba Pura is paved with worn stone. Three walls protect the courtyard, and the 4th side has a large open-air pavilion.
The central courtyard – Jaba Tengah – is the main area of the temple. Water from a pool inside the temple sprays out through 30 waterspouts into two sacred pools.
Behind the pools is the Jeroan. It is an inner courtyard where visitors come to pray. The water springs that feed the pools are at the front of the courtyard with large, colourful Hindu shrines looking over them.
There is a large koi pond near the exit of the temple. This space is enclosed by four walls and has massive koi calmly swimming in the cool water. It is a beautiful place to conclude your visit to the temple.
Sarongs (or kamen wraps) should be worn around your lower body while in the temple complex – you can rent one at the entrance if you do not have your own. You should also wear a sash around your waist.
Women are not allowed to enter any temples while on their period. Bathing and purifying in the holy waters is a formal ritual that is observed by pilgrims and devotees. It is essential to be respectful and ask your guide or a temple authority whether you can participate and how it should be done. There is also a sign with the rules nearby that can help explain the rules and customs.
The ritual is aimed at cleansing your soul and warding off evil. It involves bathers entering the pool on the left side and standing in line in waist-deep water to purify themselves under the first water spout, saying a prayer or making an offer and splashing water over their heads three times. Once they have bathed under the first sprout, they join the line for the second sprout. They continue down the pool towards the right until they have moved through all the sprouts except two. These two sprouts are dedicated to cleansing the dead.
Visitors need to change into a special sarong and sash (different from those you received when entering the temple) before entering the water. There are changing rooms and lockers for your personal things near the pools.
Remember always to stay respectful of other worshippers.
Tirta Empul is open between 7 AM and 5 PM, seven days a week, and can get very crowded. There are usually fewer crowds early in the morning.
Many locals fill jugs with the holy water, and it is a site where festivals are held. It gets very crowded during these times, and you might want to schedule your visit at other times. On the other hand, you might want to (respectfully) observe these festivals.
You can have a truly authentic Balinese experience at the Tirta Empul temple. Besides getting an intimate glimpse into the religious practices, you could also participate and cleanse your soul and ward off evil. If you choose to do so, remember to do it respectfully.
A version of this article first appeared at www.zafigo.com