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The Way Hindu Community in Bali Preserves Water

The Way Hindu Community in Bali Preserves WaterWater is the most important element of universe, either for supporting life in microcosm or macrocosm. In the concept of Hindu community in Bali, water is highly purified because it belongs to the part in what the so-called apah in the Panca Mahabhuta or five great elements of nature. Water lies in the control of Lord Vishnu, serving as the operator. Balinese people believe the presence of water is not just for cooking, bathing and washing clothes. Water is also a part of spiritual ceremonies to make tirtha (holy water). As mentioned in Old Javanese that tirtha or spiritually purified water is good for people who are still alive, the dead and the universe.

A lecturer at the State Institute of Hindu Dharma (IHDN) Denpasar, Dr. I Gusti Ngurah Sudiana, said that water in this life did not only exist in the universe, but also within the human body called toya or yeh. Function of water within the body had a close connection to the water in universe. Water in human body supported the entire body with a different name. Water as the source of life existing in human body was called amniotic fluid, tear, sweat, blood, mucus and other fluids. All the liquids were called apah where each had its own strength and god. “The entire water substance in the universe and within human body can give life,” he said.

Universe without water would dry and die. Similarly, without water, the human body would heat up, tension rose and the body seemed aflame. In essence, if there was no water in the life, the universe would not exist.In the universe, there were five kinds of water substance always used by the Hindu community in any ceremony called Panca Tirtha. They consisted of honey, clear water, rice wine, palm wine and arrack, while the one within the body was called Pancha Toya.

Hindu community in Bali recognized 33 kinds of holy water. Therefore, people were required to maintain the presence of water by spiritual path. For example, sea water was maintained in a spiritual way through ceremony called segara kertih, lake (danu kertih) and forest (wana kertih). Water sources were purified because they were taken advantage to carry out the Melasti ceremony. The ceremony to usher in the divine effigies into the water sources was believed to become Tirtha Amrita (water of life) from the ocean. “On that account, the water sources are maintained and made ceremonies and shrines (abode) of Lord Vishnu called bedugul,” he explained.

Well, to maintain the existing water in human body was also through spiritual path. For example, melukat or purificatory rite was carried out by holy water or bathing in the springs having been equipped with the offerings. Sudiana admitted that Hindu society had various types of ceremonies associated with the maintenance of water. It was clearly discernible in various ceremonial activities undertaken by farmers through social organization known as subak. This irrigation system in Bali had the rules and respected the water.

One of the activities was welcoming water for irrigating their fields. Such sacred ritual made the paddy field sacred. Anyone should not be doing obscene things, disposing feces and doing other activities. “The philosophy of water in the field is closely related to Goddess Sri denoting the shakti (consort) of Lord Vishnu,” he explained. Farmers also maintained the sanctity of water resources by holding ceremonies such as pakelem, melasti and nangluk merana. These ceremonies would not only purify the water, but also the place and surrounding areas. On that account, the Hindus dared not disturb the water source.“People that do not love water, they will lack of water and even it can cause death and disease. Therefore, water should be rigorously maintained. Where there is a water source or water flow, it is strictly prohibited to discard carcasses, urine, feces, toxins and waste,” he said.

Farmers in Bali believed that Lord Vishnu as the symbol of purusha (male) was associated with water and Goddess Sri as a symbol of pradhana (female) associated with seeds/seedlings. “It is the element of water with the seeds creating the life,” he explained. Balinese people had the ways to maintain the sanctity and beauty of water resources. One of them was by providing mythology so that no one bothered the water. For example, people were not allowed to use water carelessly and rudely, but there were steps for people to take water and should not take it directly to the source. “When violated, they believe that they will get reprimand from God,” he said.

Hindu society did not dare to blaspheme and uttered impolite words to water that had been sanctified. Otherwise, the efficacy of water would turn bad. Especially, in Bali the clean and pure water were different. Clean water that had not got spells (mantra) was called toya ning, while holy water that had got spells or had been purified with mantra had different sacredness from the water that had not. “So, the water is really extraordinary and humans can survive for months only with water, but humans will overheat without drinking water during the day,” he said.

Another mythology was mentioning that large trees located near water sources could not be cut down because it was very sacred. It was one of the reasons why many large trees could be found at water sources. Even, some were given the identity of sanctity as bound with checkered clothes, completed with shrines and consecrated. “Philosophically, a tree symbolizes prosperity that holds the groundwater. Tree serves to supply water, so that it should be preserved physically and spiritually. By spiritual manner, the tree is given ritual on Tumpek (Saturday Kliwon) Wariga,” added Sudiana. (BTN/ocha/015)

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