Mention the elixir of immortality, the purifier with magical curative powers, and it sounds like the hunt for the Pool of Bethesda is happening.

Outside of Ubud, Bali there is a Hindu temple complex enclosing an ancient spring named Tirta Empul which is located near the Tampak Siring Village that the Balinese believe is capable of just this. It is considered to be one of the six most important temples in Bali. A crystal clear stream runs through the complex into bathing pools where at most times of the day you will find local village people bathing in an age-old ritual of purification and prayer.

This is the place where the holy water for religious ceremonies comes from because of its supposedly magical powers. To me it looked like an ancient health spa with its vast pools of crystal clear icy water, and the wafting aroma of slowly smoking incense that had been lit as offerings. There were many garlands of beautiful colored flowers sitting in their bamboo nests on the top of the sprouts. Whilst I was there, I saw several people actually drinking the water straight from the sprouts after dousing their heads.

The spring legend tells, was created by a God, named Bhatara Indra. Apparently in the long lost past, there was an evil and nasty king named Maya Danawa, who poisoned all of Bhatara Indra’s warriors. As legends go, typically there is a struggle between good and evil because this makes for interesting storytelling. So the good god “pierced” the earth and created this spring that brought his men back to life. Maybe this is the Hindu version of the Fountain of Youth. If the myth were to be believed, then they would have been the original army of zombies, I am sure.

The bathing pools were constructed in the 10th Century during the time of the ruler named, Sri Candrabhaya Singha Warmadewa. Balinese Hindus from all over the island come to bathe in the clear cool water in the belief that it will purify them, make them prosper and restore their health. The Balinese even take containers of the holy water back to their own family temples. Offerings of lit incense and flowers are made, before they walk down the ancient timeworn stone steps.

The belief in its mystical powers of health and prosperity could be translated into the fact that this water is also used for the irrigation system that feeds the hundreds of hectares of rice fields in the Pejeng and Tampak Siring village areas. There are several areas of archaeological significance in close proximity to this temple, where ancient ruins rest amidst lush tropical backgrounds along the Petanu River, such as the Gunung Kawi Temple.

So when in Ubud, give the beautifying spas a miss and head for Tirta Empul. Just remember bikinis are not an accepted form of dress when bathing in the pools, so tie a sarong around you tightly. For the guys, board shorts are fine, but please, no dick togs.