Water, the essence of life: water rituals from around the world

Water is one of the most vital elements of life. It evokes purity, clarity and calm and appeals to all of our senses. The sight and smell of the ocean, a cold glass of water on a hot day, the bliss of a hot bath, the energy of a cold shower, the feeling of warm rain on our face – it touches every part of our lives.

 

WATER IS LIFE

Water is everywhere. Around 70 percent of the Earth’s surface in covered in water, and around 96 percent of that is the salt water of our oceans. Meanwhile, our bodies contain around 60 percent water, depending on our age and gender. Water seems so simple (we think of it as ‘pure’), but it can take on different states more than any other matter: it can be liquid, ice, and vapor on Earth, that is. (In early 2018, scientists discovered a new kind of ‘superionic’ ice – one that seems to be simultaneously solid and liquid, which exists near Uranus and Neptune – planets known as ‘ice giants’.)

Water is the driving force of all nature.

Leonardo Da Vinci

WATER ACROSS CULTURE

In most cultures, water is a source of inspiration, as well as an essential and precious part of life an element that brings together the mind, body and soul.

  • In Taoism, water is used as a metaphor for our path in life. As it flows downhill, it adapts to twists and turns and obstacles, but it’s always moving forward.
  • To Hindus, all water is sacred. They believe that bathing in a river washes away sins, and that immersing the ashes of the dead in the Ganges sends the soul of the deceased to heaven.
  • For Buddhists, water is said to symbolize purity, clarity and calmness. Buddhists strive to live in harmony with the environment.
  • In animistic religions, indigenous people honor and respect water as sacred and wholly life-sustaining. Their traditional knowledge, laws and ways of life teach them to be responsible in caring for this sacred gift that connects all life.

 

REMARKABLE WATER RITUALS

All over the world, people are drawn to heavenly water rituals for purification, relaxation and well being.

  

BANYU PINARUH

Head to a beach, river or lake in Bali early in the morning during the yearly Saraswati celebrations and you’ll be sure to find large gatherings of locals joyfully dousing themselves with flowing water. Taking a ‘bath’ at these locations is believed to rejuvenate the mind, body and soul. This is the ritual of Banyu Pinaruh regarded as the celebration of the sacred waters of knowledge. The name Banyu Pinaruh stems from two words: Banyu, which means ‘water’ and Pinaruh, which translates as ‘knowledge’. Locals believe that Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, bestowed knowledge on humanity on this day.

 

JAPANESE ONSEN

For heavenly relaxation of mind, body and soul, there’s nothing better than an onsen experience, whatever the weather. All across Japan, every region of the country has some type of mineral rich hot spring, called onsen. These are perfect for a long, steamy soak indoors or outdoors, separated by gender or mixed, in mountains or valleys, developed or underdeveloped. A lot of the hot springs belong to ryokans traditional Japanese guesthouses so that you can enjoy a fully authentic local experience.

 

Want to learn more about Japanese onsen? Click here.

 

CHAUL CHNAM THMEY

Cambodia’s Chaul Chnam Thmey is a joyous three-day festival held in mid-April each year. It marks the beginning of the Khmer new year, and the end of the harvesting season, when farmers give thanks and celebrate the fruits of their labor. Featuring colourful processions, music and dancing, during the festival people wildly douse each other with water (and talcum powder bombs!) as a blessing. Traditionally, houses are cleaned and decorated with flowers, streamers and balloons, and an altar is set up to welcome the spirit of the new year.

Buddhists cleanse Buddha statues and their elders with perfumed water, which is seen as a kind deed that will bring longevity, luck, happiness and prosperity in life.

 

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