Holy Water in East-Java and Bali

During the Singosari and Majapahit period a ritual was developed for the making of holy water. The ritual formed an important practice in the cult of worshipping sacred mountains. In Java and Bali there are a lot of mountains; these mountains are an essential source of water for the people living in Java and Bali (Kinney 2003:26). It is not surprising, then, that the Indian myth about the sacred Mount Meru and the holy amṛta had become a populair theme in ancient East-Javanese literature and sculptural art. Various objects and ritual paraphernalia have been found in East-Java, such as bronze water vessels, which were used for the making of holy water (Kinney 2003:26).

Pattidāna – Transference of Merit

Due to the general concept of ‘impurity’ among the Balinese population, the ritual of making holy water still remains important in contemporary Bali. The sense of impurity is associated with suffering, thereby intensifying their desire for purity (Hooykaas 1973:6). Through performance of certain rituals, the impurity, then, will be washed away with holy water. There are various types of holy water, each prepared in a different way. For instance, toya pabersihan is holy water that can be used for cleansing; toya panglukatan is holy water with exorcising features; toya pangentas is holy water that can help the soul move on to the Other Side; and tīrtha kamaṇḍalu and tīrtha mahāmṛta is holy water that is being used in the ritual for the dead (Hooykaas 1973:10 – 11). Tīrtha, here, means the same as amta, the elixir of immortality (Bernet Kempers 1991:56). This particular type of holy water is poured over the body of the dead so as to grant the deceased immortality in the Hereafter.

Balinese Priest

Balinese priests – padandas and pamangkus – possess the knowledge and skills to produce holy water. Since it requires a lot of time and ritual effort to produce holy water, the padanda and pamangku are often working together on the production and distribution of holy water (Hooykaas 1973:12).

Balinese priest



[1] Hooykaas, C., 1973: ‘Religion in Bali‘. Leiden: E.J.Brill.

[2] Kinney, Ann & Klieven, Lydia, 2003: ‘Worshiping Siva and Buddha – The Temple Art of East-Java‘. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

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