Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pura Tirtha Empul: In Bali, but follows a tradition that is the norm in South Indian Temples

As a person who belongs to the Brahmin caste of Hinduism in South India, I have seen my fair share of orthodox Hindu rituals, traditions and culture that have been followed through generations. One such tradition involves bathing at all temple ponds, holy waterfalls, holy rivers and more. This culture is prevalent in other parts of India too, though is restricted to only some days. But, in South India, it is quite like the daily norm and people believe that if they have a bath in a holy river, they are cleansed off all their sins and also believe in the water giving them positive vibes.

Holy spring at Pura Tirtha Empul, Bali
And since it was the South Indian kings who brought Hinduism and Brahminism to Indonesia’s Bali, these traditions can be seen in Bali’s temples too. For a non-Hindu, such bathing scenes might amaze them. But, for me, who has seen this and participated in such rituals from childhood, this doesn’t seem odd. However, it is interesting to see such events take place in a country that is far away from India.

Rainy afternoon at Pura Tirtha Empul, Bali, Indonesia
Here at the Tirtha Empul temple, water from a holy spring is channeled through intricately carved aqueducts that are placed in the temple compound. People bring in their offerings, keep it next to the temple pond and enter the pond without any footwear. Then both men and women together have a dip in the pond and a shower at one of the many aqueducts. The belief in Bali is the same as in India where the holy water is supposed to cleanse them of their sins.

Taking a holy bath at the Pura Tirtha Empul, Bali, Indonesia
Once they have had their holy bath, they then go to inside the temple in wet clothes and offer their offerings and prayers to god. Generally this holy bath and temple visit is taken together with the entire family. In Bali, such activities happen more so during festivals and weekends.

Lord Indra at Tirtha Empul Temple, BaliThe Pura Tirtha Empul temple was built in the 10th century and is located at about 20 kms north of Ubud in central Bali. It has stunning location as it is surrounded by dense green mountains. The place is so nice that just opposite the temple, there is a resting house for the ex president of Indonesia and which is today used to host VIPs. If you want to some good architecture and a different culture, this is one temple you need to see. Entrance fees are 15,000 rupiah per person and if you are wearing short clothes, they will make you wear a sarong.

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