This temple cannot be separated from the spiritual journey of the wise man, Rsi Markandeya (around the 9th century BC) who had a journey from Taro village to Mount Agung accompanied by 400 followers. Rsi Markadeya went through a very long journey with hot weather, it made his followers feel tired. Then, he and his followers decided to rest in the Pangkung Dawa valley. Here he found a peaceful place and had made some carvings on the temple to glorify the manifestations of Sang Hyang Giri Pati (Lord Shiva) and Sang Hyang Ari Murti (Manifestation of Lord Vishnu) to invoke Tirta Amerta (believed to be the efficacious holy water for salvation) as well as for relieve the thirst of his followers and also to restore the freshness of his body and his followers.

During worship, a holy spring appears in the middle of Pangkung Dawa, which is named Tirta Dawa Gunung Kawi, while the name Gunung Kawi comes from the word “carving” (carving) made in a place of worship symbolized by the Mountains.

When Rsi Markandeya diligently carried out his worship, there were also other springs emerging from the land which was named Tirta Empul. Tirta Empul is well-known as a water that comes from several springs and in accordance with Hindu and Balinese beliefs this spring can be used for self-purification and healing of various types of diseases. Self-purification here means to purify ourselves of negative deeds found both in our souls and bodies.

This temple also cannot be separated from Tirta Empul Temple and Mengening Temple which is located in Tampaksiring, and also has a very large spring. Water for Hindu religious beliefs has an important meaning, water as a source of spiritual strength, source of life, source of prosperity. This spring waters irrigates around 100 hectares of rice paddies consisting of 3 subaks (traditional Balinese system). Among those subaks are the Subbang Delod Belumbang, Subak Cebok and Subak Tengah Padang which are located in Tegallalang District.

Sebatu Village and subak members (around 200 families) are responsible for conducting ceremonies and taking care rights of the Gunung Kawi Sebatu Temple. The temple ceremony is performed at Purnamaning Sasih Kasa (once a year or every July). This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu as a manifestation of Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa who has a cosmic maintenance function in Hinduism, besides this temple is also dedicated to the Goddess Ganga.