Water plays a vital role in the lives of the Balinese as it does in every facet of life. Not limited only to daily activities such as cooking, bathing, laundering, farming, gardening and building, water is also used in medicine and daily rituals in its form known as “tirta” or holy water. For this purpose, water is usually sourced directly from spring, and even nowadays a Balinese family mostly uses water provided by the government through the state owned company PDAM. Holy water is produced in several ways depending on its purpose, and one of them is from natural spring water used directly for daily and simple rituals without any further processes.
Yeh kumkuman or kumkuman water is basically the preliminary step of making holy water using spring water that is filled with various flowers and scents then smoked. Even at this stage kumkuman already has its few purposes for the Balinese, such as for washing their body and hair, and more importantly during or after making canang sari flower offerings by sprinkling yeh kumkuman over them before they are stacked. This keeps the canang sari fresh and fragrant. In case the absence of yeh mumkuman, fragrant sandalwood water can serve as replacement.
The Balinese differentiate holy water into several types depending on their purposes in the panca yadnya (five main rituals and ceremonies) and how they are made. Holy water for prayers will be different from the one used in temple ceremonies, for cremation, tooth filing, cleansing of the compound and such. A priest is responsible in transforming the plain water into holy water by means of certain mantras and accompanying hand gestures to imprint the water with a specific purpose. Tirta is basically used to purify our body and soul from negative energies around us. There are bigger rituals that need to be done for cleansing the body and soul following various reasons, such as if somebody falls sick, always suffering from bad luck or if somebody is taking bigger responsibility in the community such as becoming a priest or healer.
In some circumstances one will go to the sacred temples, mountains for scared springs or waterfalls, rivers or ocean with just simple offerings such as canang sari or pejati. This ritual is called melukat. In a simple way, the Balinese only use young coconut (normally the yellow one) and conduct this at home during a full moon. The next stage of purification rituals is mebayuh, where one will go to a priest’s house or invite the priest home at the time of a Balinese birthday with a more complex set of offerings. The next ritual is called mewinten which is not applicable for everybody in the community. It is only for a chosen one who will take responsibility as a priest, healer, puppet master and any type of significant profession that serves the entire village community. On this occasion the offering set prepared also differs according to the type of profession assigned.
Another type of holy water is used for medicinal purposes. In this case a healer is responsible to transform plain water into one with curative properties through a specific ritual. It is not a surprise if a healer goes into trance during the process. Or sometimes they point out certain places for the family to go look for the holy water.