Tirta Empul Temple was built in 926 A.D. during the Warmadewa dynasty (from the 10th to 14th centuries), at a site where there was a large water spring.
On the left side of the temple is a modern villa on the hill built for President Sukarno’s visit in 1954, which is now used as a rest house for important guests.
More than a thousand years ago a powerful King named Mayadenawa ruled over a vast area which included Bali. Mayadenawa possessed the spiritual power to transform himself into anything he desired. Unfortunately he misused his powers and became a cruel, black magician.
A priest named Sang Kulputih appealed to Indra to come to earth to kill Mayadenawa.Because he had many spies, Mayadenawa learned about the upcoming attack in time and managed to organize his defenses. However Lord Indra’s forces were superior and therefore victorious. Most of King Mayadenawa troops fled, leaving him almost without defense.
Then the war was interrupted by nightfall. When Indra’s forces slept, Mayadenawa stole into Indra’s camp, walking on the sides of his feet as to leave no foot prints, and created a pool of poisoned water. This way of walking gave Tampaksiring its name, for tampak siring is Balinese for ‘without imprints’. He left as he came and when Indra’s forces woke up the next morning and discovered the water pool, they drank from it and became violently sick.
When Indra found out what happened, he created a large spring of fresh water by stabbing his flag pole to the ground.The clear water was able to cure the sickness of his army. The spring was called Tirtha Empul, which means bubbling spring.
Mayadenawa fled, chased by the forces of Indra. During his flight he transformed himself a number of times, but he couldn’t trick Indra with his disguises. When he had transformed himself into a stone, he was shot by Indra with an arrow. A stream of blood flowed from the stone, forming the river Petanu. And for a thousand years this river would be cursed. Rice fields irrigated with its water would make the rice grow fast, but once harvested, blood would come out of it and it would smell bad.
The death of King Mayadenawa is symbolic for the victory of good (dharma) over evil (adharma). The day of Mayadenawa’s death is still celebrated, every 210 days according to the Balinese Pawukon calendar, and this day is generally known as Galungan Day.