Pura Tirta Empul - The Holy Spring Water of Indra in Bali

Pura Tirta Empul
Pura Tirta Empul
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Bali is rich in Hindu ancient and archaeological history, you will find a temple within which holy waters are said to gurgle from deep beneath the ground. Pura Tirta Empul, a holy spring temple found in Tampak Siring, is where many Balinese Hindus will go to perform the melukat purification ceremony. However, it is the legend, the folklore behind its origins that gives this place of worship its island-wide veneration.

Pura-Tirta-Empul-Temple-Holy-Spring-Bali-1Photo by Edward Speirs
Photo by Edward Speirs

Temple Structure and the Melukat Ritual

Like all Balinese temples, Tirta Empul is separated into three sections: the jaba pisan, the outer compound; the jaba tengah, the central compound where the bathing pools are found; and the jeroan, or inner compound where worshippers will pray and set offerings. Between the central and inner compounds lays another pool, the water of which is crystal clear and the surface of this water is serenely still, reflecting the aqua blue of the sky.  At the north end of the pool, one can witness the natural spring burbling and feeding in waters, silt, and sand clouding around the source, rising from beneath the ground. This is the sacred spring that gives the temple its name: Tirta (or tirtha), meaning holy water, and empul meaning big spring. As a spring temple, it is dedicated to Wisnu, God as water.

Pura-Tirta-Empul-Temple-Holy-Spring-Bali-1Photo by Edward Speirs
Photo by Edward Speirs

The mainspring feeds the three pools in the jaba tengah where pilgrims will bathe, submerging themselves into the crisp, cool, and healing mountain waters. There are 30 fountains throughout the temple but the three functioning pools have 13, 2, and 6 fountains respectively (west to east) under which worshippers bathe to complete their melukat purification ritual. This is a personal ritual to cleanse the mind, body, and soul of impurities, both seen and unseen. Worshippers will pray and set their offerings, then enter the pool to shower themselves under certain fountains.

Not all the fountains are used for the melukat, however, as there are many types of tirtha (holy water) and priests or pilgrims will come to collect different tirtha for different uses. For example, the last fountain in the first pool emits Tirta Pengleburan Ipian Ala, holy water to clear bad dreams. The 10th fountain emits tirtha pengentas, used only by priests for Balinese cremations, not to be bathed under. Pilgrims will also collect regular holy water, tirta pembersihan, to use for their daily offerings at home.

Clearly, Tirta Empul is a significant temple in Bali, an important source of the constantly sought-after holy water. But what makes this temple so special? The answer lies in the spring’s origins.

Pura-Tirta-Empul-Temple-Holy-Spring-Bali-1Photo by Edward Speirs
Photo by Edward Speirs

The History and Legend of Tirta Empul

Untangling myth and history in Bali is like separating two mating snakes: they hold fast to one another, gripping and twisting from top to tail that you are unsure where one ends and the other begins. So it goes with the origin stories of many Balinese temples, figures, and beliefs.

The Tirta Empul complex itself was made in 962 AD by King Sri Candrabhayasingha Warmadewa of the ancient Warmadewa dynasty of Bali. He built the complex around this spring that sprouted from the ground — but why this spring exists is really the interesting story.

Pura-Tirta-Empul-Temple-Holy-Spring-Bali-1Photo by Edward Speirs
Photo by Edward Speirs
The legend of Tirta Empul starts with Mayadenawa, an infamous figure in Balinese lore, a malevolent king who ruled in Kintamani’s ‘Balingkang’ area and was said to be the son of King Jayapangus and Dewi Danu, goddess of the lake (there are alternative versions of his parentage). Mayadenawa was evil and powerful, said to harness magical abilities. As king he wreaked havoc amongst the Balinese Hindu, destroying temples, denying worship. His godlessness saw Bali fall to disease, famine and pestilence.

In response, a group of Balinese priests prayed for help at the top of Tohlangkir, the ancient name for Mt.Agung, abode of the gods. It was Lord Indra who answered, descending to Earth to defeat the godless King Mayadenawa.

A war ensued. Battle after battle, Indra and his army fought the vicious ruler whose cunning and deception seemed limitless. One night as Indra’s army slept, Mayadenawa snuck into their barracks and poisoned their water source — he crept in using the sides of his feet, carving footprints into the mountainside. This is where the area gets its name, tampak means foot and siring means slanted. 

The next morning the army drank the poisoned water and became deathly ill. Indra, with his own godly power, pierced the land and stone beneath his feet to produce a healing spring from which his army drank and were saved. Today this spring is venerated as Tirta Empul. The poisoned water of Mayadenawa had its own spring in the temple, known as Pancuran Cetik, the poisoned fountain. Though now the source has dried out.

Pura-Tirta-Empul-Temple-Holy-Spring-Bali-1The source of Pancuran Cetik, now dried out Pura-Tirta-Empul-Temple-Holy-Spring-Bali-1The flowing spring of Tirta Empul, visible from the pool at the northern end
1. The source of Pancuran Cetik, now dried out - 2. The flowing spring of Tirta Empul, visible from the pool at the northern end.
Later, Indra defeated Mayadenawa on a Wednesday of the 11th week of the Balinese Pawukon calendar, and this is when Galungan Day is celebrated. It is said that after he was slain, Mayadenawa’s blood trickled down the valley creating the Petanu River. Indra cursed the river saying that its waters would fail crops for 1,000 years, and this is where the river gets its name as petanu means cursed. As for Tirta Empul, it is said to be one of the sources of the Pakerisan River.

One story is thus the origin of not only Tirta Empul but also of Tampak Siring, Galungan and even the Petanu River! Imbued with the magic and intrigue one can only expect here in Bali.

Visiting Tirta Empul Temple

Pura-Tirta-Empul-Temple-Holy-Spring-Bali-1Photo by Edward Speirs
Photo by Edward Speirs
The temple complex is found in the Tampak Siring area, a 30-minutes drive north of Ubud. The entrance fee into Tirta Empul is IDR 30.000 for domestic visitors and IDR 50.000 for international visitors. Guests are expected to dress respectfully, a sarong to cover one's legs is highly recommended, as well as tops that cover shoulders.

Everyone is welcome to bathe in the pools of Tirta Empul, not just Balinese Hindus. Although one must wear a sarong and a sash (available to rent for IDR 15.000), changing rooms are available on-site.

The Complete Guide to Tirta Empul

Where is Tirta Empul in Bali Address?

As mentioned above the Tirta Empul Temple is located in the village of Manukaya, Tampaksiring District, Gianyar Regency, Bali, Indonesia.

The temple is situated just below the Presidential Palace of Tampaksiring. Built-in 1957 by Indonesia's first president, Soekarno, the beautifully built palace itself is an important landmark of the island and the country.

Here are the directions to Tirta Empul Temple on Google Maps.

How do you get to Tirta Emplul Temple?

It’s pretty easy to get to the Tirta Empul Temple and can be reached from many sides besides the central town of Ubud, from the eastern corner of Ubud, and from the southern area of Ubud. As the distance from Denpasar airport is around 54 kms, from Kuta around 50 kms, from Seminyak around 50 km, and from the Ubud area around a 30-minute drive to the north.

tirta empul temple
tirta empul temple
The best transport mode here is motorbike rental, However the safest way is renting car with driver to discover some attractions near by like; Kintamani Volcano, Ubud Monkey Forest, Tegalalang Rice Terraces, Goa Gajah, Tegenungan Waterfall, and much more.

The route from Ubud is as follows: Ubud - Tampaksiring Street - continue to Ir. Soekarno Street -take the right turn to Tirta Street, where the temple is located.

Tirta Empul Temple Entrance Fee

Visit the Tirta Empul Temple are subject to an entrance fee of 50,000 IDR per person for adults, and 25,000 IDR per person for kids. The ticket can be bought at the ticket counter which is located just before the entrance gate and set away from the main road.

tirta empul temple ticket
tirta empul temple ticket
And the payment should be cash in Indonesian Rupiah (IDR), so please prepare small cash before you come here.

There is no guides to assist you during your visit. So we recommed you to get guided tour which included the entrace fees, meal, and also can give you information about the temple. FIND OUT HERE...!

Tirta Empul Temple Opening Hours

Like many of the temples around Bali, Tirta Empul is open seven days a week. The opening hours for the temple are between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm. Except in Nyepi day (Silence in Bali), where everything needs to stop.

Tirta Empul Temple Dress Code

As with any temple visit in Bali, it's always important to dress respectfully. The simple Balinese temple visitor dress code is a traditional kamen wrap or sarong around the lower body plus a sash around the waist.
Tirta Empul Temple Dress Code
Tirta Empul Temple Dress Code
Planning to do the bathing ritual. Make sure to bring another sarong to change the wet one after the bath, and also you can rent a sarong for a small donation at the entrance to the temple. Women during their periods are prohibited entry to any temple or sacred site and may enjoy the sights and attractions in the outer perimeters only.

Tirta Empul Temple Facilities

As the busiest temple in the region, the Tirta Empul Temple has more than enough facilities. Bathroom and parking are available (one parking ticket Rp 5000). Lockers to put belonging while visitors bath available for rent. Each at Rp 10,000.

Pura Tirta Empul
Pura Tirta Empul
The front of the temple complex is a large parking area with art markets and rows of shops selling various curios and souvenirs lining its eastern side. You'll also find several warungs or food stalls selling local food, snacks, and refreshments.

What is the best time to visit Tirta Empul Temple?

Though it is advisable and seen that the evening visits especially on the full moon nights are truly mesmerizing and keep you spellbound, the best times for the Tirta Empul Temple visit are around 8 am to 2 pm. This is a good time all through the yearly calendar as during morning visitor’s rush is rare and is very less. The earlier you arrive, the less likely are you to experience large crowds.

How Long You Should Spend in Tirta Empul Temple?

Tirta Empul is a large temple complex and it takes at least 45 minutes to an hour to explore the entire site. There are three parts to the temple, such as outer courtyard is called Jaba Pura, the center courtyard is called Jaba Tengah, and the inner courtyard is called Jeroan

What You Can Expect in Tirta Empul Temple?

As soon as you enter the temple, you will walk through the large stone Balinese gate (locally known as Candi Bentar) and arrive in the outer courtyard of the temple. This area of the temple is called 'Jaba Pura. At the end of the courtyard is another Candi Bentar built into the wall that leads to the central courtyard. 

smoothly carved huge statues of two Dwarapala or guardians at Tirta Empul Temple
Smoothly carved huge statues of two Dwarapala or guardians at Tirta Empul Temple 

This gate is guarded by smoothly carved huge statues of two Dwarapala or guardians given a brush of golden colors. At the top of the gate is a carving of a Kala which is quite different than other Kala carvings elsewhere since it has fangs that stick upwards and a pair of hands with open arms. Entering the inner courtyard, you will arrive at the 'Jaba Tengah' area which is the main area of the temple.

The holy springs here bubble up into a large, crystal-clear pool within the temple and gush out through 30 waterspouts into the two sacred purification pools.

Local Balinese and Hindu worshippers stand in long lines in the pools waiting to dip their heads under the water spouts in a purification ritual known as 'melukat'.

Bathers start in the pool on the left side standing in the pool to the waist under the first water spout.

tirta empul temple
tirta empul temple bathing

Once they have cleansed themselves under the first spout they join the next queue. This process is continued until they have cleansed themselves under each waterspout.

However, there are two spouts that are meant only for cleansing the dead and are prohibited to be used by the living for the 'melukat' ritual. Behind the purification, pools are the final section of the Tirta Empul Holy Water Temple, called the Jeroan.

tirta empul temple bathing
tirta empul temple bathing

Mostly overlooked by tourists, the jeroan or inner courtyard is a pleasant place to visit and relax after the hustle and bustle of the purification pools.

tirta empul temple
tirta empul temple
This is where people come to pray. The front part of the courtyard is dominated by the large water spring that feeds the purification pools. The spring is filled with green algae and small fish swim among the reeds. Behind the springs are large Hindu shrines.

This part of the temple is nice to quickly explore. The shrines are brightly decorated, which contrasts with the starched white clothing of the Balinese who come here to pray.

tirta empul temple koi fish
tirta empul temple koi fish
As you exit Tirta Empul Temple you pass through a large pool filled with koi fish. This section of the temple is walled off on all four sides from the rest of the complex, which gives it a calm and relaxing atmosphere. Fat koi swim lazily in the pond waiting for their next meal.

Tirta Empul Temple History & Legend of Creation

Tirta Empul Temple is one of Indonesia's largest and busiest water temples. The temple was founded in 926 A.D. is a silent witness to the old Balinese kingdom, particularly at the time of the Warmadewa Dynasty.

tirta empul temple
tirta empul temple stone
Besides the beautiful and the eye craving sights of this place, there are many myths and some true facts associated with this place.

The Balinese believe that the creation of Tirta Empul Temple involves the legend of an epic battle between a powerful and magical king named Mayadenawa and the God Indra. Mayadenawa possessed the spiritual power to transform himself into any form he desired. But he became careless with his powers and used them for black magic.

A priest named Sang Kulputih prayed to the God Indra to put an end to the evil king. Indra and his soldiers managed to defeat Mayadenawa's forces and left the wicked king and what's left of his troops running for their life. Later, Mayadenawa snuck into Indra's camp when the army slept. He created a beautiful but poisonous pond that the army would drink from upon waking up. When Mayadenawa crept into the camp, he walked on the sides of his feet so as not to leave footprints- thus this is believed to be the origin of the name 'Tampak Siring' which translates as 'tilted footprint'.

In the morning Indra awoke to find many of his men dead and scores more sick and dying. It was then, through his mighty power that the God Indra pierced the ground with his staff, creating the sacred healing springs of holy water which came to be known as Tirta Empul.

Knowing that his plan had failed, Mayadenawa franticly tried to transform himself into all sorts of different beings but to no avail, since Indra continued to chase him. When at last he transformed himself into a boulder, Indra shot an arrow through it, pierced and eventually killed the evil king.

The blood of Mayadenawa that gushed from the boulder is believed to have formed the Petanu River, and for over a thousand years, the river was cursed making rice to grow rapidly, but having an awful reek and tainted with blood.

The Hindu Balinese commemorate the death of Mayadenawa every 210 days in the Balinese traditional calendar as the day when Virtue triumphs over Evil in the ritual and ceremony called Galungan.

What is there to do in Tirta Empul Temple?

1. Relax: Take a spiritual refreshment

Get soaked in the spiritual atmosphere of the temple. The people have known that the temple of this place is good for the spiritual awakening and relaxing of ones mind, body and soul.

This is a good option for you if you dont want to make each day of your trip very hectic then come early morning and sit and relax in this quiet place, this will surely get your inner being rejuvenated.

2. Click: Capture the captivating traces of past

Get the picturesque view of the temple in your captured memories for always. Each time you would have a very unique tale to tell when you go back to your pictures of the amazing and picturesque monuments of standing right in the middle of the water spring!

3. Connect: Interact with other visitors

Get to the point of meeting and relating with the people believing various facts and cultures. Being a tourist attraction, this place will help you get in touch with many of the people coming across from all over the world! This gives you an immensely exciting opportunity to know more about what other land and cultures have to offer! This not only increases your knowledge and inner peace but also makes your awareness of how to distinguish between myths and facts!

4. Melukat: Purification Ritual

A bathing ritual to clean one's body and soul. For non-Hindu visitors, depending on each person's spirituality. Participating in a bath ritual here means either a spiritually rewarding experience. Or a simply refreshing bath on cold mountain water. Either way, it's just interesting to be part of this religious ritual. So, queue to get in the water and follow the examples of Balinese in front of you. To perform the Melukat ritual, one needs to dress in a traditional sarong wrapped around the body.

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