Going to the Temple at Tirta Empul? – don’t forget a change of clothes…

Picture this… it’s 9pm on Saturday night and a friendly holy man (Mangku), with a great laugh and no shoes, calls to say he is outside your house.  You go out, wearing traditional dress, and get on the back of his motorbike – side-saddle.

You hold a small, yet full, basket on your knee, an empty plastic container in your hand and a change of clothes and towel in a bag slung over your shoulder.

Driving through empty villages, under the jungle clad skies of a dark moon and past fields of sleeping rice, you chat and laugh through the sound of the warm breeze and the melody of nocturnal animals.

Arriving at Tirta Empul Temple you buy three cups of coffee from one of the sellers who will be there all through the night.  One for Mangku, one for you.  The holy man then takes the 3rd cup of coffee, as an offering, to the shrine in front of the huge tree which is just outside of the Temple gates.

He starts the first of many rituals that result in you having multi-coloured flowers behind your ears – regardless of whether you are male or female.

Once you get inside the temple itself you are unsurprised to see many people already up to their waist in water – even though it’s gone 10pm at night.  You realise that time is unimportant when you are ‘taking the waters’ at a holy spring temple.

You join them, fully clothed, and submerge yourself under the spouts of constantly pouring, holy, and cold, water – and it feels fantastic in a way that is beyond words.  Saturated, you go through the three pools along with the fish that live there and the eggs that lay scattered at the bottom of the pool.

Fancy carrying these offerings on your head

Fancy carrying these offerings on your head

In the first pool you consciously try to rid your mind and heart of any negativity, in the next pools you actively put positivity back in its place.

After drying off and putting on fresh traditional clothing you are ready for more rituals/blessings/prayers, or whatever you want to call them, complete with more flowers in your hair.

You move into the main courtyard of the Temple which is festooned with yellow and white silk umbrellas and flags as well as tall offerings to the gods of meticulously arranged multi-coloured rice and fruit.

You don’t even realise it but Saturday night has already turned into Sunday morning and there you are, kneeling amid a carpet of flowers and small trays made of coconut leaf, being sprinkled with holy water and putting a few grains of rice on your forehead and neck, not forgetting to eat a couple of grains too.

Talking of eating… once the rituals are finished you can now eat the contents of the basket you had carried all the way on the motorbike,

Coloured rice offerings for the god

Coloured rice offerings for the god

as it has already been offered to the gods.  A mix of fruit, cakes, nuts and rice cakes goes down well at 2 o’clock in the morning.

Mangku tops up his plastic container with holy water to take home and you watch, fascinated, as someone cracks open one of the eggs from the pool and lets the raw contents float down to the bottom in the hope that the lucky eel will appear, hungry for its next meal.  After a while someone spots the eel – lucky for them.

You then realise that you are already lucky just to be there, especially in the company of a smiling holy man who gives you the most rewarding experience imaginable of ‘taking the waters’ (called ‘Melukat’ in Bali).

The words above cannot do justice to this experience of Melukat.  If you like the sound of it and you ever pass by this way and you are not in a hurry, let me know and I can arrange it for you….  However, don’t worry, I could always book you a car so you don’t have to ride side-saddle!

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  1. Heart of Bali « Julie in Bali

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