Peaceful water temple
Published/Last edited or updated: 17th February, 2017
In an island with thousands of temples swarming with tour buses, for the casual visitor it’s easy to overdo it and feel “templed out”. Gunung Kawi Sebatu, a small-scale but splendid holy-spring temple, 14 kilometres north of Ubud, is not only delightfully peaceful, you’re likely to be uninterrupted by the multitudes.
Set in a narrow valley on the western edge of Sebatu village, Gunung Kawi Sebatu features attractive gardens and crystal-clear spring-fed pools with a dense jungle-covered mountain backdrop. The temple is dedicated to Vishnu and used locally for purification rituals (malukat).
The name Sebatu is said to originate from “sauh batu” literally, to slip on rocks, and the accompanying legend tells that when the evil King Mayadenawa was fleeing one of the many battles with Indra (which led to the creation of several landmarks around Bali), innocent pursuers lost their footing. Realising they were in danger, Vishnu created the holy springs to give life and protect the righteous.
As you descend the steps into the temple grounds, to your right a large carp-filled pond with a floating pavilion is centred with a statue of the Goddess Saraswati, ducks paddle by, and the well-fed fish rise to the surface in the hope of another feed. Meanwhile several caged birds including a fat rooster and cockatoo peer from behind bars. Continuing through the courtyard, two candi bentar, split gates, lead into the inner courts. Enter through the central gate, and from there proceed into the adjoining courtyard to the left.
Here an enchanting large shallow pool will have you believing that it could only be the work of Vishnu. Dripping with ferns and mosses, reflected in the cool pure water, a single elaborately carved small shrine, with a base of intertwined nagas protects the source of the holy water. Back into the inner courtyard an elevated moss-concealed padmasana shrine towers in the background and a collection of smaller classical Balinese shrines pepper the enclosure.
Take your time wandering, and note the intricate, vividly-painted carved trims under the mossy thatch of the shrines. Return to the exterior courtyard and on the far left, as you face inward, are several small pools. One spring is signposted for the collection of holy water only, and the others for ritual bathing. A sign suggests (in English) if you wish to partake, you may request the assistance of a priest.
Beyond the temple walls, more pools and water spouts smack of more secular use, and seem to be village bathing areas. We think Gunung Kawi Sebatu deserves at least half-an-hour, it’s small and you could be in and out in ten minutes, but take a little longer and the calming ambience is certain to sooth any jaded souls.
A sarong and sash are required, and hire is included with your entry fee. A handful of stalls across the road sell snacks and souvenirs. From Ubud head north along Jalan Raya Andong (from the Ajuna statue), stop by at the rice terraces at Tegallalang along the way, and continue to the signposted turnoff to the right. Afterwards continue southeast and visit the temple’s monumental namesake in Tampaksiring, Gunung Kawi.
Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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