Tirta Empul is often called the holy water temple after the sacred spring that feeds two pools where the temple-goers pray. The water heals and purifies, especially on auspicious days like Purnama (full moon). We quite often take visitors there as it’s close to us and particularly interesting and beautiful due to the holy spring.
Contrary to popular belief, anyone (not just Balinese) can enter the water, as in any temple. People of any nationality and religion are welcome as long as they are dressed properly, show respect and join in with the prayers. Each water spout is visited in turn from the left to the right, a prayer is given at each while the water cleanses and purifies. During ceremonies and auspicious days, each water spout is piled high with offerings.
This is a spiritual experience and swimming is definitely not allowed, but it is not a solemn one. On busy days, the Balinese laugh and joke while they wait for their turn at each water spout; kids splash each other and laugh and teens pose for photos on their mobile phones; people fill large plastic containers with water from the spouts to bring back home to their family temples.
Most times I’ve visited Tirta Empul, there have been many Balinese in the pools with maybe one or two western faces. When I came with Lucy a few weeks ago I was quite amused by the fact there were only tourists in the pools (some of these photos are from earlier visits). I suspect this is probably quite a popular stop off on one of the ‘spiritual’ day tours that are so popular since Eat Pray Love (if you want to do an Eat Pray Love tour, please let me know :p).
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