Tirta Empul

Balinese-Hindu Prayers at The Holy Springs of Trita Empul 35mm ISO 3200 1/30s f/2.8

Last night a friend said they liked the banner image for this blog.  As I’ve been pondering which image to post next, it seemed like a hint to tell you about this one.  The photo was taken last December in Bali.  I was on a week-long yoga course, and as part of the retreat, we were taken to one of the holiest springs in Bali.  Balinese come from all over the island on pilgrimages to bathe in the holy waters, and thus spiritually cleanse themselves in the ornate temple pools. The history of the temple is as as follows:

Legend tells how the springs were first tapped by the god Indra during his battle with the evil Mayadanawa who was an early ruler of Pejeng.  Mayadanawa had poisoned the nearby river and made hundreds of Indra’s retainers ill, so Indra pierced the earth to release a spring of pure and sacred water, the elixir or mortality, thus reviving his ailing troops.  This new spring was named the Tirta Empul and ever since has been considered the holiest place in Bali since the 10th century.

It was an  auspicious night, the evening we went to the temple, as there was a full moon, considered to be of particular significance for the cleansing ritual.  More particularly for this photo, it cast an ethereal light across everything, which even the temple complex’s spotlights could not dull.  The thick, heady cloy of incense and the flowers used to make the offerings was heavy about the complex and, despite the relative warmth of the night, I remember shivering between pools as we dunked ourselves three times under each of the sacred water fountains.

Afterwards, as we waited to to finish our cleansing with the prayer ritual, we were able to observe the people before us offering up their own prayers.  As people often notice when a big camera is pointing at them, I flipped down the rotating screen on my Nikon and made as though I was do anything but focusing on the subjects in this picture.  I love the yellow of the woman’s clothes (which, if I remember correctly, is the colour worn by women praying for fecundity) and that this yellow is echoed around the rest of the picture in scattered flower petals, the clothes of other women, and even in the gold of the priest’s shrine in the back of the image.


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