Holy Water – an essential element of Balinese life

Holy Water or Tirtha has been a part of Balinese daily life since forever; even Bali Hinduism is also known as “Agama Tirtha” or the religion of holy water. It believes to have high power such as: healing the sick, cleanse impurities, warding off evil or demonic forces and many more. Holy water also needed in religious events performed in personal houses to public temples. Holy water is water sourced from sacred places and has been blessed by a holy man.

The power and sanctity level of tirtha is based on the source of the water taken, the mantra used in blessing and who blessed it. Sacred places like holy springs, mountain spring (water from the spring on top of Mount Agung are Balinese favourite), and even Gangga River in India (for a big event in the island) is used to make holy water. Those who are in charge of making holy water are called “Pedanda” a Hindu priest, “Pemangku” a lay Hindu Priest and sometimes “Dalang” a puppet master. The mantras used and the procession in the making holy water might be different, depending on who is performing the blessing.

Just like any other things considered sacred in Bali, holy water also must be treated in particular ways. Right from the start people get the water, the worshipers must form a squat position almost like in a “begging” gesture which implies they are asking to be favoured with something precious from nature and the holy man. The water must be stored in a clean, new and considered never been used before (except for keeping the same substance/ holy water). Back in the days, Balinese used to use a section of bamboo culm closed in the bottom side and opened at the top side called “Bungbung” and clay pots, but nowadays a plastic container are preferred for the simplicity and hygiene reason. The container must be handled with respect, held and passed down using only the right hand or both hands with the left hand as the support. It must be carried in the highest place/ arrangement possible, most of the Balinese will bring the container on their heads on the way back home from the springs or temples. At home or family temple it must be stored in a high place (higher place than people’s head). Never handle it excessively, putting it down on the floor, or stepping over it, it will cause the water to lose its mystical power and those who defiled it will be considered “Pramada” a condition where a human is insubordinate, and vulnerable to negative forces.

The process of making holy water is called “Maweda”, and usually, it’s done in every morning. Pedanda will prepare himself for the ritual by cleansing his own body and mind, then set his body into a state where he can communicate with the Gods. After a few moments of solitude, he will take some flowers with his right hand, recites mantras and at the end, he will throw some petals of flowers on to the water. Now, this Pedanda holy water is ready to be used for purification ceremonials called “Panglukatan Pabersihan”“Prayascita” ceremony which believed will be able to make someone’s thoughts steady, holy and pure. Also for many rites like “Otonan” Balinese birthday, “Metatah” tooth filing, and even the wedding. Holy water made by “Pemangku” will be made in the temple where he/ she give services at, and it will be used for purification purposes only. The mantra used is different from the one that Pedanda chants since pemangku is considered has a lower spiritual power, and they only connected to specific Gods/ Goddess worshipped in their temple. The last type of holy water made by the puppet master or “Dalang” is usually made during special occasions related to the performance of puppet show in a temple, this ritual is called “Wayang Lemah”. The process will be started by chanting mantras known by the Dalang only; then he will dip one or more of the tip of his puppet sticks into the water. This holy water can be used for the same purposes as the Pedanda’s holy water.

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