Pura Tirta Empul near Ubud is one of the must visit temples in Bali. It might not be anywhere near the ocean or on a lake like other water temples, but water is certainly central. Pilgrims and those seeking spirituality come here for water purification ceremonies. So before you visit and feel clueless, here are ten things to know about Temple Tirta Empul.
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Pura Tirta Empul was founded in 962 AD around the spring of the same name, which feeds the river Pakerisan. The name roughly translates to “sparkling water”.
It’s water is considered holy (amritha). There are 15 water fountains in the purification pools that are supposed to have healing qualities – both physically as well as symbolically.
If you want to partake in a purification ceremony at Pura Tirta Empul, it’s best to come with a local guide to help you get guidance through the process. Here is what happens.
You will have to wear a traditional sarong but a different on than the one you came with. It will get wet. So get one of the green ones with a red sash and leave your other stuff in the changing rooms.
Bring an offering before you enter the bath to show respect to the deity. Then make your way from the first fountain on the left and work your way through all of the individual streams from the fountains – excepting the final two which are only used in funerary rites.
You will cup the water and dip your face in three times. Then pass the water over your head three more times and step into the stream with your entire body. In the second pool you repeat the process at two more fountains and in the final pool just once. Don’t dry yourself with a towel.
Fun fact: Initially, each of the first 12 fountains had its very own steps in the purification process. But that changed over time and the knowledge of that is now mostly lost.
The temple is dedicated to the Hindu good Vishnu, the Supreme Being, as well as to Shiva, Brahma and Indra.
According to old tales, there once lived a powerful and demonic king on the site and he seemed impossible to defeat. The god Indra sent a spy but he was not fooled and a war broke out. During the night, Mayadenawa poisoned the water (tirtha cetik) and consequently Indra’s soldiers.
So Indra created the Tirta Empul spring to cure her soldiers. Mayadenawa was able to escaoe because he could change his shape but when he turned into a rock, Indra finally shot him. His blood became the Petanu River (Tukad Petanu).
The Temple Tirta Empul is made up of three parts. In the front yard (Jaba Pura) you can see a sacred tree, a statue and you can rent a sarong. Then there is a secondary and central courtyard (Jaba Tengah).
It contains the two pools (Pengelukatan and Pebersihan) with 30 fountains in total. Last but not least, there is the inner courtyard (Jeroan). During my visit, I was lucky enough to see a traditional Balinese dance play out here.
Although holy, the once considered clean water has at times not been considered safe. In August 2017, incidents of pollution due to nearby dumping of garbage became known. E.coli was the result. Better double check before your visit.
It is important to wear appropriate temple attire. If you have a Balinese temple outfit, great! At the very least cover your shoulders and wear a sarong that goes to your ankles.
In case really only have shorts or skirts, you can borrow both sarong and belt right after the entrance. Women have to tie their hair. Rubber bands are provided as well. If you are menstruating, you are not allowed to enter. (It’s a general temple thing.)
How to Get There
Pura Tirta Empul can best be reached from Ubud. It’s only a 30 minute scooter ride from there and you drive up Jl. Raya Pejeng Kawan and Jl. Raya Tampaksiring pretty much straight. You can easily combine your visit of Tirta Empul temple with a stop at the Tegallalang Rice Fields and Gunung Kawi Sebatu.
Since this is a major religious site, you can buy religious items as well as the bottle up water in case you want to take its healing qualities home. Of course, tourists are also catered for. There are plenty of shops selling all kinds of Balinese souvenirs and trinkets, from sarongs, kites, carved items to jewellery and more.
Temple Tirta Empul near Ubud isn’t the only amazing attraction in the area. You really got to include the stunning Gunung Kawi Sebatu Temple, which is only a four minute drive away. Close b you can also find the Kings Tombs also called Gunung Kawi.
The famous Tellelang rice terraces are a 20 minute drive away. In Ubud itself, don’t miss out on doing the scenic Campuhan Ridge Walk at either sunrise or sunset. The lighting is absolutely brilliant and it’s a really easy walk.
Are There Tours?
Since there are so many cool attractions in Ubud, it’s a good idea to include a few of them in a day trip. You can easily scoot around. However, if you are not a confident driver, have no bike or only a short time in Bali, then opt for a preplanned tour. This will take out the planning hassle as well.
Your local guide will know the best routes, times, photo spots and certainly a lot about local history. To help you out, I have discovered a few tours that include the main attractions.
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