The 4 elements of Nature, or panchamahabhuta (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether) are used as the guideline in all religious rituals. Out of those, Water is the building block of life and all living beings that are at the mercy of God. Therefore, in all traditions of South and Southeast Asia, water has always been used for purification in all rituals.

In Indonesian Hindu Dharma, Tirtha (Holy Water) is the prominent medium in conducting all types of rituals from a small daily offering to the entire large and extraordinary types of ceremonies, to such an extent that it has often been called Agama Tirtha (‘Religion of the Holy Waters’). Water is seen as the building block of life and all the living beings which are at the mercy of God.

Water is known in various terms:

1. Odaka (Odakem) – Water in common meaning which has the function for hands and mouth cleanliness, for drinking, etc.
2. Toya (Toyem) – Water in common sense for washing hands in ceremonies. It can also means the water which has been purified.
3. Tirtha – The purified water. The purification is done through the specific mantram chanting by a priest (Pedanda or Pemangku) or obtained from a certain place with special ceremonies.
4. Wangsuh-pada – Tirtha which is taken or beseeched at a shrine (pelinggih) or a sacred place.

Types of Tirtha (according to how it is obtained)

1. Tirtha Wangsupada – The tirtha obtained from holy places, by placing water in the temple or shrine and in that manner the worshipper hope the blessing from the Divine. Certain special places are the source of Tirtha Wangsupada, such as Tirtha Empul.

2. Tirtha Sulinggih – Tirtha obtained through the rituals performed by Pemangku (priests). The tirtha differs according to the purpose and function of the rituals. The types of tirtha obtained Ngarga Tirtha in Panca Yadnya (five types of rituals) are tirtha pengelukatan, pebersihan, prayascita and byokaon, pemelaspas, penembak, pengentas and pecaruan.

1. Tirtha pengelukan and pembersihan – This type of tirtha is used in every ritual, it is sprinkled three times over the offering before it is offered to the God. In every house, the Balinese Hindu always store tirtha in jar or container for the daily offering either mesaiban or ngaturang canang (small ornament of offering)

2. Tirta prayascita and byokaoan – This type of tirta is performed by the priest in which it is used as purifiaction of a place, or to sprinkles toward the worshippers before prayer when there a large ceremony happened in the temple or after attending a funeral/cremation those who were just arrived from such visit thay had to be given prayascita and byokaon to clean them themselves from the dirt or the uneasy of mourning feeling and back to normal activities.

3. Tirtha Pemelaspas – This type of tirtha is performed by priest whenever the worshipper has a new premises, or new business this is aims at beseeching for the blessing from the God that in the hope everything related to the new premises and business will run smoothly.

4. Tirta pengentas – This type of tirtha is performed by the priest to accompany a cremation in the hope that the death will be lead to the right track in his/her appearance before the divine.

5. Tirta pemanah – This type of tirtha is performed by priest which also to accompany in the cremation in order that the death will find smooth path in journey to Heaven

6. Tirta pecaruan – Comprises from small to higher purification ceremony according to the type will be performed this type of tirtha only performed by preist ( mecaru siap besik,mecaru ayam lima, mecaru panca kelud, up to melabuh gentuh).

3. Coconut Water. Apart from the water mentioned above the Balinese Hindu also use the coconut water, whether the one which is already mature or even still young without any flash in it, named ‘kelungah’. There are therefore three kinds of water utilized in religious ceremonies, namely: water in common sense, the purified water (Tirtha), and coconut water.

FUNCTIONS OF TIRTHA

1. Tirtha which has the function to purify places, buildings, upakara completeness or even an individual. This kind of tirtha can be requested through mantram chanting by authorized person, in this case a priest or a pemangku. The ones which belong to this kind of Tirtha are tirtha penglukatan, tirtha pebersihan, and the kinds. There are also tirtha which can be beseeched from certain places which have religious history or mythology like Tirtha Empul, Tirtha Tunggang, and the kinds. The young coconut water or air kelungah belongs to this kind of tirtha.

2. Tirtha which is utilized at the end or the last step of praying ceremony whether it is held at a certain place or temple. This kind of tirtha is commonly beseeched at a shrine ‘pelinggih’ which is supposed to be the main ‘pelinggih’ in a temple or sacred place and has close relationship with that temple. The term for this kind of tirtha is wangsuhpada.

3. Tirtha which is utilized in the rituals of the death as in cremation ceremony (ngaben) such as Tirtha Penembak, Tirtha Pemanah, and Tirtha Pengentas. The tirtha has to be sprinkled three times over the corpse before the corpse is going to be burnt.

There are two types of Tirtha which is always found in a ceremony:

The first one is Tirtha Pelukatan. This holy water is applied as soul cleanser before one enter a temple or start ceremony. Tirtha Pelukatan is sprinkled by the temple priest to all people before starting a ceremony. In some places in Bali when the temple ceremony was held Tirtha Pelukatan is put inside a big earthenware in front of entrance door and stained by the people themselves.

The second Tirtha is called Tirtha Wangsuh Pada. This holy water is sprinkled after a ceremony is over as a symbol of God blessing to human.

Via: Ida Ayu Made Puspani and Ni Wayan Sukarini