Balinese rituals honour water and animals through traditional Tumpek Uye & Segara Kerthi ceremonies

By Catur, 2024.05.28

For the Balinese, water is more than just a source of life, it is also the centre of spirituality and culture. The water sources in Bali, whether the ocean, rivers, lakes, or springs, are seen as the root of spirituality, so it is no wonder that many Balinese ceremonies include water in their rituals.

In Balinese culture, animals are also seen as important beings, and their existence is celebrated through various ceremonies. They are seen as part of nature’s vital cycle, which has enabled human beings to live.

So, what exactly are Tumpek Uye and Segara Kerthi rituals? We dive into these traditional practices of honouring nature in the Balinese community.

Segara Kerthi Ceremony

Woman and man during Tumpek Uye & Segara Kerthi ceremonies

Water is the essence of the Balinese culture, referred to as tirta amerta, or the source of life. All the ceremonies in Bali use water to bless means of offerings and the people. Before Silent Day, Balinese people go to the ocean for the Melasti ceremony to purify themselves. Melukat, the ritual to purify the human soul, also uses water as the main component. Segara Kerthi has a similar function, although it is different in purpose as Segara Kerthi functions as a water purification ritual.

Segara Kerthi is one part of Sad Kerthi, or the six philosophies of Balinese Hinduism, which aim to preserve and care for nature. Segara means ocean, so the cultural significance of the ceremony is to purify the water. Segara Kerthi is the local wisdom of taking care of nature both physically and spiritually, particularly the ocean.

Segara Kerthi is a Balinese ritual dedicated to Baruna, the God of water and the ruler of the sea and ocean. The ritual seeks and pleads with God to keep the ocean and the sea clean so human beings can live in peace and prosperity.

Tumpek Uye Ceremony

The group of woman during the Tumpek Uye CeremonyIn contrast to Segara Kerthi, which focuses on the ocean, the Tumpek Uye/Tumpek Kandang ceremony is a Balinese ritual that celebrates animals. It is celebrated every 210 days in the Balinese calendar. The ceremony is a way to show gratitude to animals that have assisted human life by worshipping Sang Hyang Rare-Angon, the God of animals.

The ritual of Tumpek Uye is usually reserved for livestock like cows or pigs but, according to ancient Balinese scripture, the ceremony is intended for all animals, including those both in the wild and in the sanctuary. The most incredible aspect of Tumpek Uye is that the treatment is the same in the form of offerings when having a ceremony for humans, which signifies that animals are as important as humans in the Balinese philosophy.

The ritual shows that the Balinese community believes in the harmony of nature. Animals are seen as part of the life cycle and, without them, the cycle will be disrupted. Tumpek Uye can be correlated to Tumpek Pengatag; a ceremony for worshipping trees and plants to preserve balance in the environment.

Ceremonies at The 10th World Water Forum

Indonesian woman is performing a ritual during the Tumpek Uye Ceremony

Several ceremonies formed part of the 10th World Water Forum in Bali, which lasted from May 18–25, 2024. International WWF delegates, guests, and forum participants were given the chance to attend and witness the Segara Kerthi ceremony, followed by Tumpek Uye at Kura-Kura Bali Special Economic Zone in Denpasar, which started at 3 PM local time. Among the attendees were the Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono, and Tontowi Yahya acting as President Commissioner of the Kura-Kura Special Economic Zones (SEZ).

Three Balinese Hindu priests led the mantra recitation, which was attended by surrounding local communities. After the Segara Kerthi ritual, the Tumpek Uye released birds and turtles to preserve nature and maintain balance.

This ritual is a means to ask for blessings so that the sea, as a water resource, can be clean both physically and non-physically,

– I Nyoman Kenak, Chairman of Parisadha Hindu Dharma Indonesia (PHDI) of Bali, remarked.

The event was held on May 18 as the opening day of the World Water Forum and coincided with the day of Tumpek Uye. The global participants and delegates of the 10th World Water Forum were shown the spiritual aspects of Bali via the ritual of veneration for water and animals and traditional dance performances. Around 350 Balinese dancers and performers were included in the cultural show, performing different traditional Balinese dances and sacred Gamelan Gong Gede, the largest gamelan ensemble in Bali, played by 80 people.

Tontowi Yahya told Antara News about the ceremonies:

This [ritual] is the Balinese people’s way to ask God for blessings.

The Segara Kerthi and Tumpek Uye rituals are just two among several approaches the Balinese take to honour nature and the environment. The rituals aim to protect the balance in nature by respecting water sources and animals. The Indonesian government, coordinating with the Balinese government, showcased these two ways of life to the world, demonstrating how traditional philosophy can fight climate change issues.


The author of the project On Bali

Hi everyone! My name is Catur, and I was born and raised in Central Java. I moved to Bali in 2011 but left the island in 2016 before returning in 2018. Bali feels more than a home to me, and maybe that’s why my name feels like a premonition. Catur means four, both in the Balinese and Javanese languages. It is spoken like ‘c’ in chess, which is also the meaning of my name in Indonesian.

Date of Last Update: May 31, 2024