Monday, November 7, 2016

Not So Sacred Springs

Exploring Bali

It's the stories that lure me to a site and Tirta Empul in Central Bali has many legends surrounding it.  This sacred spring was created by the god Indra who is the god of lightening, thunder, storms and rain.  His army had been poisoned by the evil King Mayadanawa, so Indra created this spring to revive his men.   Today, people come from all over Bali to bathe in its warm water.  Good health and spiritual kudos are supposedly the results.
However, Hindu devotees weren't the only ones jumping into the pools.  Tourists of every nationality were partaking of these holy waters.  At times, it seemed like an unruly free-for-all and I found myself  a little outraged,  I'm not a religious person, but I felt like an intruder here.  I felt unclean. I put my camera away and left.
On the way out, a guard pointed me to an Exit sign.  He wouldn't allow me to walk back the way I came.  So off I went and found myself in a maze of shops.  Miles and miles of shops.  All selling the same things--cheap souvenirs. And the vendors were loud and aggressive. I kept walking and walking and growing angrier and angrier.  Where was the exit?  I have a recurring nightmare from my retail days where the distance between the dressing rooms and the cash register is an eternity.  I was in that nightmare.

Suddenly the whole experience seemed impure and false.  This was a tourist trap.  Plain and simple.  Even though I saw locals praying at the springs, there seemed nothing sacred about it.  It was a circus.

In the days ahead, I witnessed many beautiful and genuine scenes of Hindu worship in local temples.  I started to calm down and even think about the day's experience in a completely different light.   Indonesia is a poor country and the money generated by tourists is vital to the economy.  Maybe the Balinese had it figured out, after all.  Let the tourists have their temple.  Let them have Tirta Empul.

 But ours is off limits.


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