Today, after breakfast, I will become Hindu again and visit the renowned Tirta Empul Holy Water Spring Temple with Ketut and Kadek. It’s sort of a Hindu baptism. They visit the temple a couple of times a year to pray and make offerings, but also to bathe in, drink, collect, and bless the holy water that comes from this sacred spring. They then take the blessed water home with them and share it with their family members so they may also be purified.
The temple was built around a clear spring in 962 AD during the time when the Balinese king reigned. People came from the entire island to worship here. Some call this the Balinese Ganges, and I get that, seeing the line of people patiently waiting to get to the sacred fountains. Nowadays, people come from all over the world. It’s especially nice to go with Ketut and Kadek, because they are not just taking me there, they are allowing me to participate in this ceremony with them. Actually, it turned out that Ketut was the one who led me through the process.
First, you pay your approx $1 to get in. Balinese get in for free. I noticed a group of Asians wearing Harley Davidson t-shirts pass by us. Then K&K took me to the side of the temple, where Kadek produced a not-so-fancy sarong and sash for me to wear. T-shirt was ok. That gets us into the temple area. We went up to see the place where the underground spring gushes out, took some pics, then off to the lockers. I take my shirt off and tie the sarong around my neck, making sort of a dress. Bra stays on. We’re ready to take the waters.
Kadek stays out to take pictures, so I hop in the water, following Ketut. The line is long, mostly Balinese with the assorted western or Japanese person thrown in. The temperature of the water is cool, but after the first moment, it feels nice. It’s a little cloudy today, though, not as warm as usual, and soon Ketut is freezing. There are 13 fountains altogether, and there is a certain order of visitation. Ketut has brought a huge jug, and I am persuaded to buy a small jug of my own to take home. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the first fountain. There are large fish, koi, I hope, swimming around my legs. I think I felt him take a nibble of my leg. Eeek.
When you finally get to the first fountain, here’s the drill: face the fountain and say a prayer. Each of these fountains is good for something different – there is a Sanskrit word written on each of the fountains and the water passes over it as it gushes out. I’m sure the Balinese say a different prayer at each one, but me, I’m just thankful, and happy, and want to continue to be so. After prayer, cup your hands, right over left, and drink 3 times. Then dunk your head underneath. Then, take your jug and put it under the fountain, getting a little water inside, but not filling it all in one spot. You want water from each of the 13 fountains, so be sure and leave room. Repeat this process, skipping the two fountains that are only for funerary purposes only. Ketut follows me. Out we go to another pool where there are 2 fountains. At this one, we do the same process, but Ketut tells me the last one is for Om Shanti. I sing/say out loud, Om, Shanti, Om, and receive smiles from the Balinese around me.
But we’re not done. We get out of our wet clothes, change into some dry ones, and go to the inner temple where Ketut prepares the offerings. We bring our jugs to the altar, stuffing the offerings through the jug handles. Then we find the right place to sit, make prayers (the bowing, drinking, sprinkling, and rice on the forehead), then grab our jugs and go. Kadek says I should share this water with everyone in my family; it’s extremely special and healing.
I’m pretty hungry now, and ask K&K if they want to stop for some grub, my treat. Their favorite restaurant serves Babi Guling, suckling pig, and rice. They order and for less than $6 we all get a plate of rice with different parts of pig: meat, skin, sausage, and a couple of chewy things that uh, I really don’t want to know what part of the pig it came from. Spicy soup sauce is on the side. And there’s orange soda. It’s really good.
They drop me off at the Nest and head home to their kids. I like to think that my spirit is a little more cleansed after this experience. What I know for sure is that I am extremely thankful and happy. Thankful for K&K and all the people I’ve met here so far, thankful for my friends and family back in the US, and grateful for the opportunity to be here, alive, and happy.