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Ancient Water Rituals
Known for their capacity to cleanse and heal the body, water blessing rituals are used to treat a number of different ailments: physical, emotional and spiritual.
Over the years, they have become extremely popular with tourists who flock to one of countless ‘water temples’ throughout Bali, excited and eager to revel in a one-of-a-kind experience.
A water temple is built over a sacred spring. These are dotted across the island and widely revered by the Balinese for their extraordinary therapeutic qualities.
Melukat is conducted by a Balinese priest and involves chanting, offerings, meditation, prayer, and a ritualistic bath in the holy spring water, known as “Tirta”.
Holy water forms the basis for a large number of rites and rituals in Bali, including christenings, cremations and numerous Hindu occasions.
We were keen to experience an authentic and intimate ceremony in a rustic setting, unlike the generic, tourist attractions that you sometimes come across.
So, we opted to partake in a private water blessing with a small group of people arranged by Usada Bali Shala – a cultural center in Ubud, deeply committed to preserving Balinese spirituality, philosophy and traditions.
Usada offers bespoke experiences in conjunction with the indigenous spiritual and artistic community in Bali, including fire ceremonies, cremation ceremonies and temple visits.
The latest addition to their eclectic menu is a water purification ceremony conducted after dusk at Pura Menenging, an ancient Buddhist temple nestled in the forest in Tampaksiring.
Greeted by a cool breeze upon arrival, it suddenly dawned on me that we’d be bathing in brisk water while enveloped in darkness.
A quick exchange of glances and raised eyebrows within the group suggested I wasn’t the only one thinking: “What on earth have we gotten ourselves into?”
But entering the beautiful temple garden, my anxiety dissipated and I felt instant gratitude to be experiencing this sacred ritual under a blanket of stars in one of the most magical places in the world.
We gathered before the Balinese priest, Jero Mangku Eka Adi Buddha of Tegallalang, a white-frocked man with a gentle and serene demeanor.
He provided a brief overview of what to expect, outlining the purpose of the ritual to cleanse our bodies on a physical, emotional and spiritual level, washing away the karmic impurities of our past and present.
We sat in meditation, surrounded by opulent natural scenery, as the priest prepared holy water with flowers and rice and chanted mantras in ancient Sanskrit.
Blessed water was sprinkled over our heads and dropped into our cupped hands for us to wash our faces and mouths.
The scent of incense billowed around us. Towering trees and cascading water engendered an eerie yet soothing ambiance.
Next, we were invited to receive a holy shower in sacred pools, with separate areas for men and women.
I was instructed to rinse my mouth and splash water on my head, before bowing under the gushing fountains to let the water wash over me. I took a deep breath and released the tension in my body.
The water was cold and exhilarating, awakening my senses. I felt instant connection with my body.
Had our minds, bodies and souls been purified? Were we cured of our sickness and pain? Only time could tell.
What was immediately perceptible, however, was the energetic shift in the group as we closed the ceremony with a final meditation and prayer.
Others spoke of feeling grounded and present, filled with contentment and appreciation.
If you are looking for an authentic spiritual experience in Bali or a unique opportunity to participate in the island’s exotic cultural rituals, I highly recommend a water blessing ceremony conducted by Usada.
Their Balinese healers and priests are available for private and group bookings, and can offer cleansings, mediation, chanting and various traditional ceremonies.
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