But about halfway to the peak, just at the source of the Pakrisan River, are two of Bali’s holiest spots. The first, Gunung Kawi, is a spectacular and ancient royal tomb reached by descending a long, steep stairway through a stone arch into a watery canyon. On the far wall, ghoslty shrines are hewn out of solid rock, probably memorials to the deified 1 1th century Balinese ruler, Anak Wungsu. A complex of monk’s cells also line the canyon walls.
The Balinese refer to their religion as Agama Tirta – the religion of the waters. It is not surprising then that a pilgrimage to the Pura Tirta Empul spring at Tampaksiring, 2 km upstream from Gunung Kawi, is an essensial part of every major Balinese ceremony.
For according to Balinese folklore, this spring was created when the god Indra pierced a stone (really Indra’s enemy, the proud King Mayadanawa is disguise) to produce a source of amrta with which to revive his poisoned army. To this day, the waters of Tampaksiring are believed to have magic curative powers. Ivory, bone and coconut shell carvings can be easily purchased and is another reason why the village is well known.
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