The house we stayed at in Ubud was home to an older Balinese man. We were lucky enough to get a few tips from him on sights to see, as well as their history. One place he sent us was Pura Tirtha Empul, a water temple just a short drive outside of Ubud.
Tirtha Empul comes from a Hindu legend of a battle between the king Mayadenawa and the god Indra. After Indra’s army’s water was poisoned by Mayadenawa, Indra created the fresh water spring to cure his soldiers.
Aside from religious holidays, the temple is visited frequently, and the water is used to bathe away ailments of the body and mind. I saw only a few people performing the rituals under the fountains, but it was a beautiful and moving experience.
Much of Balinese culture and beauty is derived from the religious history. One such beauty is the overwhelming presence of the daily offerings, given in honor of departed ancestors and the gods. Tiny canang are set out each day – small palm leaf trays that are filled with flowers and incense. These are meant to be disposable, despite the labor that goes into each one, as a family will set out multiple offerings throughout each day.
Although the weather is hot and humid, you are still required to cover your legs and shoulders while in the temple. I found that keeping a sarong or two handy made for an easy transition into temple-appropriate wear.
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