The temple is located at the area of Banjar Tampak Siring, the administrative area of Kecamatan Tampak Siring, Kabupaten Gianyar. The place is a beginning of a river with big spring water and has plain area quiet wide more then 300 meters wide at low position with north west and east sides are high land. At the west highland is standing the presidential palace built during first president of Indonesia. The river that starts from this place forms the historic river of Pekerisan, along which left and right sides are found ancient rock carvings and 2 of them are well known in tourism such as Gunung Kawi and Goa Gajah. The activities of ancient people is disclosed to have been started since around 960 AD. King Çri Chandra Bhaya Singha Varmadeva constructed a temple with the name "Tirtha di air Mpul" from which is believed it got the current name. It is also refer to the spring water in Balinese Tirtha, "di air Mpul" means water spring. This inscription is carved on a stone found at nearby village called Manukaya. Every full moon of 4th month of Çaka year this stone is brought to Tirta Empul to be bathed. Only after Dr. Stutterheim succeeded to decipher the inscription that the people were persuaded not to bathe the stone which has caused the erosion, and erased the alphabets. The reading of the inscription then confirmed by other researches such as Dr. Goris and Professor Charles Damais.
Dr. Stutterheim after editing the inscription counted exactly the foundation of the temple as on a day of Purnama Kapat Çaka Year or 4th month on full moon. In Manukaya itself there is found an old foundation of temple characterized by Buddhist at the village called Basangambu. This temple foundation has been successfully reconstructed and giving the impression of ancient Chams temple of 9th century. Not far from Tirta Empul to the south also has been found a very old construction at the temple of Mengening which has also been successfully reconstructed and is considered the prototype of meru shrine in Bali look like the base of Pagoda temple in Thailand.
If we see on wider area of Tirta Empul surrounding from the area of Tampak Siring to the south to the area of Pejeng it is amazing rich heritages of ancients works from rock cut carving, stone carvings and base of constructions, even a bronze drum identified as the work of Dongson bronze age. It was clear that the area is very fertile, plain and plenty of water for farming included that originated from Tirta Empul water spring. So it is easy to understand why people since a thousand years ago were already attracted to come and stay in this area. Even historians thought that once the center of ancient Bali was around Pejeng or Bedulu area, although no prove so far been found to support the assumption.
In the temple itself which now has around 15 shrines, which are all new except stone sculptures of buffalo and a lingga. Buffalo is considered the mount of God Brahma in the ancient myth of Indian Purana, the buffalo is called Nandi. While lingga is a symbol created probably by Shiva sect that got strong influence from Tantrayana school that put sex as one of important element in their feast. The influence of Tantrayana is supposed to have reached Bali either during the year of 1000 or much later during 1228 in the form of true practices.
Myth of The Spring
In Bali there is a myth written probably very late, called Usana Bali says that a Balinese arrogant king named Maya Denawa did not believe in god, and objected the people to make rituals. This situation was heard by the God and decided to punish and kick away the king from his palace. The punishment for the king came under warrior of Bhatara Indra arrived to attack Maya Denawa and put him away from the throne. The fierce war at last defeated the soldiers of Maya Denawa but Maya Denawa was so difficult to hunt, as every time he hided at certain object he was able to changed himself to look like the object, so Indra ordered his warriors to attack every object, and Maya Denawa run to current place of Tampak Siring and poisoned the spring water. When the soldiers of Indra getting tired and thirsty they drank the water causing all of them died. Realizing this situation Indra planted his cane and springing the water. This spring water was used to spray the dead soldier and they alive again. It is said by the myth that this spring water created by the cane of Indra is now Tirta Empul. Many perstitious also come regularly to this bathing place believing that by bathing here their problem of life will be solved.
Since immemorial time every village or artist group who have the entertainment of Barong Dance will come to Tirta Empul during full moon of 4th month, especiall to the area surrounding the village of Tampak Siring and later included also in the wide area of Kapupaten Gianyar. When tourism started to develop in Bali around 1965 one tour package called " Barong dance and Kintamani tour " was the most popular day sightseeing. The highlight of the tour which is until now still exist are Bali artist's colonies, Tirta Empul Temple, and Batur Caldera. According to some senior tour guides who have been working in the industry for more than 2 decades some tourists from Europe and U.S.A regularly come to Bali, for more than 5 times since 1960s and every times they come they always repeat to see this tour package. It might be the real spirit of Balinese nature and culture are mixed here which can give various inspirations, probably from business of small handicrafts until 5 stars hotels or restaurants for those who saw this as an opportunity. This has been proved by the tremendous development of tourism facilities in Bali from 1980s to 1995. The writer believe very much that what is the value of this trip has been triggering other area of Bali to be known in tourism industry. Below is described shortly how these 3 areas had been attracting people from immemorial times.
This water source until now is believed to be the source of life and prosperity. It is especially correct if we associate this water spring with the irrigation system around the area, as it gives hundreds of hectares of rice field from Tampak Siring until Pejeng area.
Historically Tampak Siring with Tirta Empul temple is a continuation of Pejeng area of archaeological sites, where along Pekerisan river that splits the area of Gianyar and Bangli preserved a great number of ancient remains although it is a small stroke of chisel on the steep drop of the river up to the intricate rock carving such as Gunung Kawi temple, and Mangening stone shrine which is only less than 2 kms each others.
The present temple of Tirta Empul is the same as a common temple of Bali, the layout is divided into 3 courtyards. At the first courtyards were constructed swimming pool with 13 fountains, used as holy water for cremation or dead ceremony. Other has pool with 8 fountains, used as water for symbolic cleaning ( spiritual purification ), when a person is sick it is believed he is infected by immaterial dirt.
Pool with 5 fountains for holy water used by people from outside Tampak Siring who come to pray.
At the first courtyard is also a pool for public bathing place.
Total number of shrines are 30 units currently, after later addition by local people who have the responsibility for the temple. The ceremony is performed every 210 days, and fixed date can be read in Balinese calendar.
There is an old stone sculpture being preserved at the last courtyard of the temple in the form of buffalo. The condition of the carving is badly damage, so it can not be observed in detail to fix the type. Buffalo in the pantheon of Hindu is considered as the mount of god Shiwa and this animal is called " Nandi "
Buddhist Vihara Banjar
Gua Lawah Temple
Ponjok Batu Julah
Taman Ayun Temple
Tanah Lot Temple
Tirta Empul Temple
Ulun Danu Temple
Among various tour packages and tour options in Bali there are some tours which can be said always on the publications and interest a large part of travellers to Bali. Kintamani mountain tour sits at the first number as the most popular sightseeing tour, second is Taman Ayun and Tanah Lot tour, third is Uluwatu temple tour.