Amritsar – the sacred city of the Sikhs - always reminds us of the Golden Temple. This serene city lies in the North Western India in the state of Punjab. The Golden Temple – originally named as Sri Harmandir Sahib - is main attraction of this city. Whether you belong to any race, religion or caste, you can visit it and pay your homage. You will be touched by its grandeur.
My visit to the Golden Temple: I visited Amritsar in the first week of the month of May. I travelled in a bus of Punjab Roadways Transport Corporation. I reached the bus station at 10 in the morning. I took a rickshaw to reach my destination. I was curious to learn more about this temple, so I resolved to hire a guide. I walked towards the Information Office near Clock Tower and hired myself a guide. This Clock Tower is the main entrance of the Golden Temple complex.
1. Clock Tower: It is the main entrance of the Golden Temple complex. Sikh Museum is upstairs in this building.
I left my shoes in the shelves of the shoe store and covered my head with my handkerchief. Then I with my guide proceeded towards the Golden Temple. He cautioned me that photography and smoking is prohibited inside the Golden Temple, however you could take photographs from prakarma. We passed a strip of water where we both washed our feet. Now we entered the inner complex. Lo and behold – it was in front of us. My heart missed a beat. I saw the Golden Temple in the middle of the pool. The guide told me that this pool is named as Amrit Sarovar and the city of Amritsar is named after it. I saw some people bathing in the pool. At this he said that by doing so they were washing off their sins.
2. Amrit Sarovar: The Golden Temple is encompassed by this sarovar. The city of Amritsar is named after it. People bath in this sarovar to wash off their sins.
The Golden Temple is surrounded by Amrit Sarovar on all sides and connected by a causeway (named as Guru’s Bridge) with the main complex. There was a long queue on the causeway. We also joined it and waited for the darshana of the holy scripture – the Guru Granth Sahib.
3. Guru's Bridge: The Golden Temple can be reached by this causeway. Long queue of people waiting for darshana of Guru Granth Sahib.
4. Amrit Sarovar: It seems that there are two temples; the one is upright and the other upside down.
I gazed at the reflection of the Golden Temple in the pool. It was superb. It seemed there are two temples – one upright and the other upside down. After few minutes we reached The Golden Temple – double storey marble structure. We heard continuous recitation of the gurbani broadcasted by loudspeakers. Now guide informed me that the architecture of the building is blend of Hindu and Islamic style and decorations on the lower marble walls is in pietra dura style of Taj Mahal. He further stated that dome of the temple is gilded with pure gold and represented an inverted flower of lotus which symbolize Sikh’s concern with worldly predicament.
5. Shri Harmandir Sahib: The Golden Temple in its pristine glory.
At last we entered the Golden Temple. I saw group of Sikh priests singing and chanting gurbani. Devotees were sitting around them, listening intently with joined hands and praying at the same time. We advanced towards the priests and paid homage and offered our prayers. I donated a hundred rupee note. They offered me prasada. Then we went upstairs to the second floor. Here we saw a priest sitting with a book before him – he was reading from it. We again went downstairs.
Now my guide informed me about the Guru Granth Sahib. He said that I just saw its original copy kept under pink shroud and if translated into English, it means “Master Book by Teacher”. It was ceremoniously returned to Akal Takht at 10 in the evening and again brought to the Golden Temple in the morning. He further said that morning procession ceremony took place at 4 am in the summer season and 5 am in the winter season.
6. The Guru Granth Sahib: It is holy book of Sikhs and kept under pink shroud.
We came out of the Golden Temple and retraced our steps towards the Clock Tower. The guide took me next to the Sikh Museum which is upstairs in the Clock Tower. There I saw gallery of paintings of Sikhs and their martyrs. The guide told me their glorious stories.
We walked on the parkarma and I took some photographs. Next, the grand building of Akal Takht is in front of us. The guide told me that Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee meets in this building and it was destroyed by Indian Army in 1984. It was rebuilt afterwards by Indian Government.
7. Akal Takht: Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee's meeting place. It was destroyed in Operation Bluestar.
Guru Ka Langar: I and my guide were feeling hungry. So we walked towards Guru Ka Langar. In its courtyard there was great bustle. I saw volunteers washing plates and other utensils. The guide told me that about sixty thousand to eighty thousand pilgrims dine here everyday. We took steel plates and entered the hall building. I discern that hall was full of people sitting on carpet and eating meals. We also sat on the carpet. A Sevadar with a bucket full of dal in his hand came to us and spooned some dal onto our plate, then another came with chapattis in a basket, and then another came with sweet dessert in a paraat (big disc) alternatively and put chapattis and sweet dessert on our plate. The food was delectable. I ate until my stomach was full. We came out of the hall and washed our plates and handed it to a volunteer.
8. Guru Ka Langar: Devotees feeding themselves in the Langar hall.
Now, I was pressed for time as it is late in the evening, so I paid my guide and bid him adieu. I gave him many thanks for such a cordial time and such precious information he shared with me.
I took a rickshaw to the bus station. I marveled at the volunteers providing their service without monetary benefit. They were not serving us, rather they were serving God. On the way to the bus station I experienced bliss – spiritual bliss.