ASIATODAY.ID, BALI – Water is an important component for every living thing in the world, especially human life. The history of human civilization and culture has used water as a resource for various purposes, ranging from profane to non-profane activities. As a resource, water also plays an important role in the world economy because it is a solvent for various chemicals in industry, refrigeration, and transport. Water is seen as a source of life because it is a necessity for every living thing. Conservation of water resources is important to fulfill current and future water needs.
Increasing human activities and industrialization have caused various physical, chemical, and biological pollutants to enter water bodies and affect human life. Water availability and water quality are expected to deteriorate in the future due to resource depletion, poor management and governance. Groundwater is depleting globally due to increasing population demand and the development of megacities while increasing pollution threatens groundwater quality.
Bali as a world tourist destination has a strategy to conserve water resources in the form of local wisdom in the concept of tirta or holy water. This local wisdom can be found in the form of rituals and oral messages. Balinese people, especially Hindus in Bali, have long practiced water conservation and water quality management through various forms of local wisdom. Local wisdom is passed down from generation to generation through daily life activities. The challenge then is to make revitalization efforts, so that local wisdom that is packaged in the form of ceremonial activities can be understood by the younger generation. The existing local wisdom is also not limited to being understood as a mere ritual and is instead developed in the form of an action plan involving the younger generation.
Balinese people, especially Hindus, place water as the first and most important gift, so it has a special place and is respected in daily life. Water symbolizes fertility, purity, immortality, circulation, prosperity, and preservation. The existence of water has always been an important component in every religious ceremony. Water is believed to be the manifestation of Lord Vishnu, the embodiment of God Almighty as the ruler of water. His wife is Dewi Sri who is analogous to rice in everyday life, so rice plants cannot be separated from water.
The use of water in Bali is also a means of treatment known as usada yeh (healing with water). The water used is taken from a sacred place through a ceremonial procession to have a positive effect and have the power to cure various diseases. Asthadi Mahendra Bhandesa and friends in an article entitled “The Concept of Traditional Medicine in Lontar Usada Yeh” published in the Journal of Hindu Religious Research in 2022 said Usada yeh is essentially an usada lontar that contains types of diseases, how to treat using water and mantrams. In theory, the existence of usada yeh in Balinese society is still believed to provide benefits and cure sick people. People believe that one way to cure illness caused by imbalances in the body is to use usada treatment through its practitioners, namely usada (treatment) figures.
Since the time of the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms, there have been many efforts to build shrines that are functionally related to the preservation of springs and water use. These buildings are generally called petirtaan equipped with ponds, showers, and temples. For example, Tirta Empul Temple is a place for ceremonial and self-cleansing activities or what is called melukat in Balinese terms. The tradition of self-cleansing carried out by Balinese Hindus at Tirta Empul Temple is followed by tourists visiting the temple.
The existence of sacred buildings and ceremonies in the spring area is closely related to the concept of Tri Hita Karana or three basic things that cause happiness or balance of life which is always used as a guide for life by the Balinese people. In terms of man’s relationship with God, the sacred buildings and ceremonies at the springs are a form of gratitude for the gift of spring water. Sacred buildings and ceremonies at springs in terms of human relations with humans have the meaning of a form of mutual reminder and commitment to maintain the springs so that they remain sustainable. Sacred buildings and ceremonies in terms of the relationship between humans and the environment mean that protecting springs also means protecting the life and sustainability of nature in the spring area because water is not only needed by humans but also by plants and animals in the area.
Water is seen by the Balinese as something holy, sacred, and special, so there are procedures in the use of water that must be obeyed so that the quality and quantity of water is maintained. The use of water for religious ceremonies only, when taking it must go through a ceremonial procession called mendak tirta. Mendak in Balinese means to pick up or welcome, while tirta means holy water. Mendak tirta has a simple meaning of picking up or welcoming sanctified water. Water is not only seen as a physical object but also has spiritual value because it has the power to provide purity, intelligence, health, and happiness.
The term holy water is not only taken from a sanctified spring but also the water has been given a mantra or prayer by religious leaders. Water that is given a prayer is believed to have healing powers. This healing power has led the Balinese to refer to water as “to- ya” which means “dia”. The use of the word dia means the one who gives life, in this case, the ruler of the universe or God. Generally, water that has been purified will be used during the ceremony process from start to finish. The ceremony is also not declared complete before getting a splash of holy water and this is why Hinduism in Bali is also often called Tirta Religion.
The use of water as a form of respect for water is also carried out by farmers in Bali who are members of the Subak group. Before using water to irrigate rice fields, farmers in Bali perform a ceremony called mendak toya. Mendak in Balinese means to pick up, while toya means water. When connected back to the concept of Tri Hita Karana, the mental toya ceremony is a form of request to God to give blessings to the water that farmers will use to irrigate rice fields. In terms of human relations, this ceremony means that farmers are committed to protecting water, both in quality and quantity. In terms of the relationship between humans and nature, efforts to protect water also contribute to the preservation of nature because water is a source of life and is needed by animals and plants.
In addition to the mendak toya ceremony, farmers also carry out waterway maintenance and cleaning activities. Cleaning the channels is done to ensure that there is no rubbish blocking the flow of water or harmful discharges that can cause pollution. There is also a prohibition on littering, urinating, and defecating in river bodies. This prohibition from the study of environmental science is related to the awareness to maintain water quality and avoid water pollution. Balinese people believe that waterways, from rivers to household gutters, should be kept smooth.
The Balinese conserve water resources not only upstream, but also downstream, namely the sea. Sea water is seen as melting water or holy water that cleanses all impurities so that it returns to being holy. The water that flows from upstream to the sea is identified as a unity known as the concept of nyegara-gunung. Nyegara-gunung, if scientised, can be interpreted as the water cycle, namely hydrology. This means that conceptually, Balinese people have recognized and implemented efforts to conserve water sources and water use. These water resource conservation efforts have been practiced for centuries. The challenge ahead is to revitalize the concept of water resources conservation that is packaged in local wisdom in a scientific form and a form of real action so that it is easily understood and implemented by the younger generation.
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