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HolyWater (Tirtha) in Balinese Hindu Rituals

Tirtha Holy Water 1


The Balinese belief and worship of Hindu Dharma in Bali governs all the activities of the daily life of the Balinese. The three basic fundamentals of Hindu Dharma are Yadnya (rituals), Tattwa (philosophy) and Susila (moral behaviour), which are interacted to form Balinese culture. Hindu religion is originated from India. The practice of the Philosophy in the Balinese Hindu in Bali is almost similar to the practice of Hindu in India whereas in Balinese Hindu is moreattached to the local culture. Basic practice of rituals are based on the Vedas (Holy Manuscript) and the philosophy of Yadnya (rituals ) are also referring to it.

There are five types of Yadnya

( means holy sacrifice with a pure heart) in Balinese Hindu:

1)Dewa Yadnya: to the Gods and Goddesses as manifestations of the Supreme Being.

2)Pitra Yadnya: to the ancestors who give the people guidance in life and gave them the opportunity to be born.

3) Manusa Yadnya: to protect our lives and those of future generations

4)Rsi Yadnya: to the priests who guide us all on our spiritual journey.

5) Bhuta Yadnya: to any other beings (visible and invisible) to ensure that there will be harmony and unity in nature.

In Hindu believers there are important elements of nature to be considered as the guideline of rituals in retaining the harmonious living of the human being (Nair,2009). Those elements comprise of: earth, water, fire, air, and akasa/ether or sky ( which are called as panchamahabhuta). Among the five elements water is represented by a circle symbolises fullness based on the graphical depiction of panchamahabhuta. Primarily water is the building block of life and all the living beings are at the mercy of God, for the water.In India as well as in Bali water has been an object of worship from time immemorial, which signifies the non-manifeste d substratum from which all manifestation arise. This leads the

practice of utilizing water as the purification of all rituals. In conducting every religious rite, the presence of holy water is the most important part of all Balinese ceremonies (Agastia, 2007).

Holy water accompanies every act of Balinese-Hindu worship from individual devotion at household shrine to island-wide ceremonies.



In Bali, there is no single day without a ceremony. It is an obligation for the people to promote balance relations among human, Divine, and nature. As has it was mentioned previously among the five elements water is represented by a circle symbolises fullness based on the graphical depiction of panchamahabhuta. Primarily, water is the building block of life

and all the living beings which are at the mercy of God. Balinese Hindu appreciate water is not only needed in their daily life but also has a very important function in religious ceremonies. Water, in Balinese Hindu has various terms as follows:


1. Odaka (Odakem), water in common meaning which has the function for hands and mouth cleanliness, for drinking, etc.

2. Toya (Toyem), water which has the function in religious ceremonies. Toya means water and in common sense for washing hands or ceremonies completeness, and it can also means the water which has been purified. In Bali, the term toya is often used for mentioning the water in discussing about people who are appreciated more.

3. Tirtha, is the purified water or HolyWater. The purification is done through the specific mantram chanting by authorized person a priest Pedanda or pemangku or even obtain from a certain place with special ceremonies.

4. Wangsuh-pada, tirtha which is taken or beseeched at a shrine ‘pelinggih’ or aplace supposed to be sacred.


In Balinese rituals there are two types of water utilised as worship medium, i.e:

1. Water which as the function to clean hands and mouth, in practice this type of water is utilized to clean oneself before conducting prayer in the temple or attending ceremony.

2. Water as tirtha comprises of holy water (tirtha) obtained from certain sources from sacred place or beseech from the shrine or the temple in which certain manifestation of Goddess being adored/worship and tirtha performed by priest through certain mantras.


1. Tirtha Wangsuhpada

2. Tirtha Sulinggih

1. Tirtha Wangsupada

The tirtha obtained from certain sources is usually through beseech to the Devine or Goddess. These may be performed by placing water in the temple or shrine and in that manner the worshipper hope the blessing from the Devine. This type of tirtha is usually beseeched by the pemangku or dasaran of the temple or shrine in the companion of certain type of offering named canangsari.

Certain places can be regarded as the source of tirta such as Tirtha Empul. The worshipper can obtain tirtha with particular type of offering for certain purposes as in Tirtha Empul is regarded as the holy place to abtain tirta from the source.

Here are the types of tirtha obtained from Tirtha Empul (Tampak Siring Gianyar):

· Tirtha Pemarisuda

· Tegteg

· Suddhamala

· Bayun Cokor

· Pemelaspas

· Empul

· Pengentas

2. Tirtha Performed by Pemangku and Priest

Priest in performing types of tirtha according to the purpose and function of the rituals. The tirtha performed by priest through Ngarga Tirtha in Panca Yadnya (five types of rituals):

tirtha pengelukatan, pebersihan, ,prayascita and byokaon,pemelaspas, penembak, pengentas and pecaruan.

Tirtha performed by pemangku and preist is depending on the purpose of the rituals or ceremony that are several tirtha performed by them such:

1. Tirtha pengelukan and pembersihan, this is type of tirtha is used in every ritual, it is sprinkled three times over the offering before it is offered to the God. In every house

the Balinese Hindu always store tirtha in jar or container for the daily offering either mesaiban or ngaturang canang (small ornament of offering)

2. Tirta prayascita and byokaoan, this type of tirta performed by the priest in which it is used as puroifiaction of a place, or to sprinkles toward the warshippers before prayer when there a large ceremony happened in the temple or after attending a funeral/cremation those who were just arrived from such visit thay had to be given prayascita and byokaon to clean them themselves from the dirt or the uneasy of mourning feeling and back to normal activities.

3. Tirtha Pemelaspas, this type of tirtha is performed by priest whenever the worshipper has a new premises, or new business this is aims at beseeching for the blessing from the God that in the hope everything related to the new premises and business will run smoothly.

4. Tirta pengentas this type of tirta is performed by the priest to accompany a cremation in the hope that the death will be lead to the right track in his/her appearance before the divine.

5. Tirta pemanah this type of tirta is performed by priest which also to accompany in the cremation in order that the death will find smooth path in journey to Heaven

6. Tirta pecaruan comprises from small to higher purification ceremony according to the type will be performed this type of tirtha only performed by preist ( mecaru siap besik,mecaru ayam lima, mecaru panca kelud, up to melabuh gentuh).

.Apart from the water mentioned above the Balinese Hindu also use the coconut water,whether the one which is already mature or even still young without any flash in it, named ‘kelungah’. There are three kinds of water utilized in religious ceremonies, namely: water incommon sense, the purified water (Tirtha), and coconut water. Among those three waters Tirtha has the most important role. It is the reason that the upakara and the offering being utilized in the ceremony have not yet been considered clean so the Tirtha is supposed to be able to purify those all then it is ready to be adored or worshipped to the Almighty God. On the contrary, although the upakara completeness and offering have been cleaned since those have not yet been purified with Tirtha, it is not proper to be adored to the Almighty God.

Tirtha Holy Water 2


1. Tirtha which has the function to purify places, buildings, upakara completeness or even an individual. This kind of tirtha can be requested through mantram chanting by authorized person, in this case a priest or a pemangku. The ones which belong to this kind of Tirtha are tirtha penglukatan, tirtha pebersihan, and the kinds. There are also

tirtha which can be beseeched from certain places which have religious history or mythology like Tirtha Empul, Tirtha Tunggang, and the kinds. The young coconut water or air kelungah belongs to this kind of tirtha.

2. Tirtha which is utilized at the end or the last step of praying ceremony whether it is held at a certain place or temple. This kind of tirtha is commonly beseeched at a shrine ‘pelinggih’ which is supposed to be the main ‘pelinggih’ in a temple or sacred place and has close relationship with that temple. The term for this kind of tirtha is wangsuhpada.

3. Tirtha which is utilized in the rituals of the death as in cremation ceremony (ngaben) such as Tirtha Penembak, Tirtha Pemanah, and Tirtha Pengentas. The tirtha has to be sprinkled three times over the corpse before the corpse is going to be burnt.

Three times sprinkles commonly as the symbol of purification which include: initial, middle, and end. But if it is given to somebody, besides it is sprinkled three times on their head it also has to be consumed three times as the symbol of spiritual purification, and wash the face three times with the tirtha as the symbol of physic purification, and the sprinkle three times over the fontanel as the respectful of the power and purification of the tirtha. In the Weda Parikrama and Surya-Sevana, it is described that the purpose of utilizing the tirtha which is limited on an individual. It can be concluded that the function of tirtha in the ceremonies is to purify spiritually and physically (physic is cleaned with water, mental is cleaned with tirtha).


Based on the meaning and function tirtha can be formulated as the following:

1) as purification

2) as purgatorial medium

3) as source of life

1) Tirtha as purification

In conducting rituals all the medium of offerings such as rituals ornaments and offerings should be purified before they were offered as rituals to the Devine or Goddess. This means to purify and clean in spiritual world/niskala and further purified. As it was stated in the manuscript Lontar Kusuma Dewa and Gong Wesi: Salwiring bebanten yadnya matirta karya Pandita Putus tan ketampi aturannya (Swastika, 2008:85). This statement means that all mediums (bebantenan or offerings) if it is not purified previously with the tirtha performed by the Exalted Priest otherwise it will not be accepted. Based on this statement all mediums of offerings and forms of offerings previously should be purified before it is used as offerings.

2. Tirtha as Purgatorial Medium

The function of tirtha, besides as penglukatan, pebersihan, and penyucian all types of mediums and forms of offerings also has the function of purgatorial from all of the offerings in every rituals (yadnya). It is emphasized that banten not only comprises of various arrangements of leaves, fruits, seeds, cakes (jajan), and others but also as a unity of a ritual (upakara

persembahan) in the form of banten officially which become a religious medium with sacred value and spiritually enliven. All those ingredients of offerings are picked from the trees and it

will become mortal being. Furthermore they were arranged in such a way to become valuable and has spiritual meaning in the form of banten. A banten is considered proper according to religious conduct whenever it has been given the sprinkle of tirtha (penglukatan and pebersihan) on it. This is to purify all the dirt, physically and spiritually and the last to enliven it as banten or upakara as an offering or expression of bhakti of the Hindu worshippers before the Almighty God (Ida Sang Hyang Widhi as the Creator). The splash of tirtha as a means of pengurip or to enliven gives the spiritual strength of the banten. This can be further used as a medium to unite the worshippers and the Creator.

3. Tirtha as Source of Life

Tirtha functions as the source of life. Whenever there is no existence of water the possibility of the nature with its content will be extinct. This also happens in the process of ritual tirtha which has the function as a blessing from God to the worshippers who worship Him. In daily practise, every time after the prayer the worshippers will be purified with tirtha (delivery of holy water). Tirtha as a symbol of life and by delivering to the worshippers who pray before Him will receive Amerta (Immortality).


Tirtha is holy water which is sprinkled before and after ceremony. The name and function of this holy water is depending on the ceremony itself, so that is why there are many names and functions of Tirtha. There are two types of Tirtha which is always found in a ceremony. The first one is Tirtha Pelukatan. This holy water is applied as soul cleanser before one enter a temple or start ceremony. Tirtha Pelukatan is sprinkled by the temple priest to all people before starting a ceremony. In some places in Bali when the temple ceremony was held Tirtha Pelukatan is put inside a big earthenware in front of entrance door and stained by the people themselves. The second Tirtha is called Tirtha Wangsuh Pada. This holy water is sprinkled after a ceremony is over as a symbol of God blessing to human.



In Balinese Hindu, Tirtha is the prominent medium in conducting all types of rituals from a small daily offering to the entire large and extraordinary types of ceremonies. Tirtha, the

existence as the basic purification in every ritual either the one obtain from a certain sources (Tirtha Wangsupada ) or the one performed by the Holy Priest (Pedanda) is very important. The Balinese Hindu always store tirta panglukan and pabersihan ( from the priest ) in container either made of earthen ware or jar (glass) in their home, which is utilized in conducting everyday rituals meassaiban or conducting every five days (kliwon) sacrifice as mesegeh.The origin of holy water reflects spiritual. Although the types and origin of holy water is varied, their functions both spiritually and philosophically remain the same which are remove impurity to performed purification and to receive God`s Blessing.

Tirtha Holy Water 3


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