When I entered the Amritsar city there is a golden gate which becomes visible over the skyline of the city shaped like the golden dome of the famous golden temple greeted me with its grandeur. Then I felt and understood that here is my destination. I don’t have pictures available with me of that gate because my gadgets were showing warning of no battery on screen. At that time I felt that they were too hungry like me. 🙂 I checked in my pre-booked hotel R. S. Residency Amritsar at 9 PM. It was already late and I have nothing to eat. Somehow I managed to have ram laddoo from a local shop. I was drop down on the bed and didn’t know what happened after that. Next morning my cell phone alarm rang sharply at 4.15 Am and it was not tired at all. It was not like any other day wherein I off the alarm and sleep for many more minutes. As soon as I wake up in the morning, the first thought that hit me is about the golden temple. It becomes visible in my half slept subconscious mind and I get up immediately. After having my shower I ordered all amazing food items of Amritsar and must say the food is really delicious. And I was ready to visit the world famous golden temple.
Golden Temple or Shri Harmandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib:
The Golden Temple in Amritsar is the holiest of all Gurudwaras, it is to Sikhs what Vaishno Devi to Hindus, Mecca is to Muslims, Jerusalem is to Christians and Lumbini is to Buddhists. Shri Harmandir Sahib ( abode of god) is also known as Darbar Sahib informally called Golden Temple or Swaran Mandir, is a Gurudwara located in the city of Amritsar. After Visiting Vaishno Devi my initial plan was to visit Jammu and Kashmir. But somehow my plan canceled due to change in weather condition.
History of Golden Temple:
Amritsar (tank of nectar of immortality) was formed in 1577 by the Fourth Sikh Guru Ramdas. Fifth Sikh Guru Guru Arjun designed the Harminder Sahib to be built in the center of this tank. Upon its construction, he installed Adi Granth (holy scripture of Sikhism) inside the Harminder Sahib. Harminder Sahib complex is home to Akal Takht (throne of the timeless one)constituted by Sixth Guru Hargobind. Akal Takht is the seat of God’s temporal authority. Initially, golden temple was built without golden coating. Maharaja Ranjit Singh leader of Punjab in the nineteenth century renovated the Gurudwara and covered the upper floors of Gurudwara with gold which gave it beautiful shining appearance and its English name. Temple is made of pure white marble and gold coating which gave its current appearance.
The long stretch from town hall to Jalianwala Bagh has nothing of old familiar bustle as I got to know from locals. I will talk about my heritage walk before reaching the golden temple in my other blog. Now I am going to tell you many important facts about golden temple which got to know during my visit from locals. In the pic below you can see the front courtyard of Ghanta Ghar entrance of Harmandar Sahib. Construction work is going on at that moment. There is fountain which greets the visitors before entering the Golden temple.
Important Facts about Amritsar:
1. The Golden temple is hidden in the middle of four long white marble walls and you can’t see the gem until you pass from one of four gates. the four doors of the Golden temple are symbolic. They manifest that Harmandar is open to all; the people can come here irrespective of religion, caste creed or sex. I entered through Ghanta Ghar gate which took me below beautiful ornate archway down a few steps and out onto a marble walk away. And what a timing. Sun started coming out from the east. With a cloudless blue sky above me, the marble white walkway almost blinding in the sunlight and the dazzling golden temple in front of my eyes and my eyes opened widely to saw this wonder. The kiss of rays from rising sun and it looks like golden temple bathed in golden rays and making it glitter like never before and its glimpse in the pool felt like that golden temple is leaving its golden color in the holy water.
I had to leave my shoes at the special place before entering and cover my head with scarf or dupatta. then I washed my hands and feet before entering the sacred temple. There is a different place for women to have a bath as all can see in the pic below.
2. Golden temple is made of the pure gold and covered with 750 kgs of gold.
3. Before the temple was built the first guru of Sikhs Guru Nanak lived and meditated here. Guru Nanak lived here for a time in 1532. He was charmed by the secluded spot too far from the maddening crowd.
4. When I entered the Golden temple it gave me the illusion of floating on water as it is set inside the large pool of holy water called Amrit Sarovar. The temple is surrounded by a man-made lake called Amrit Sarovar that is having lots of exotic fishes in it. To reach temple I had to literally walk on water.
5. The man-made lake around the temple is called the pool of holy nectar and believed to have medicinal powers.
The architecture of Shri Harmandar Sahib represents a happy blending of the Hindu and Muslim artistic traditions. It is, however, more than a mere combination of the two. It marks the beginning of a new school of temple architecture in India. Shri Harmandar Sahib, a two-storied marble structure, is built on a 67 ft. square platform in the center of the sacred tank, Amritsar, the central dome of the Harmandar Sahib and the upper half of the walls were covered with fresh gold plates have been installed through the offerings of the Sangats from the around the world. Harmandar itself is 40.5 ft. square. It has door each on the east west north and south. 20.9″ X9.6″ marble causeway on the western shore of the tank leads to western portal of the Harmandar. a fine Arch called “Darshni Darwaza” stands at the shore-end of the causeway. The door frame of the arch is about 10 ft. in height and 8 ft. 6 inches in the breadth. The door panels are decorated with artistic ivory work. a 38 feet promenade called the “Parikrama” (path of circumambulation) runs around the tank.
On a platform under a gorgeous canopy studded with jewels on the ground floor of Shri Harmandar Sahib lies the Adi Grantha Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. It is carried in a golden palanquin from the Akal Takht ( the divine throne) in the Harmandar precincts to the Shri Harmandar Sahib at 5 s.m. in winter and at 4 a.m. in summer. Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is carried back to the Akal Takhat in the same palanquin at 9 .m. in winter and 10 p.m. in summer. A 13 ft. 6 inches wide ‘ Pradakhima ‘ ( procession path) encircles the holy of holies. Steps on the East of the ‘Pradakshina ‘ lead to the waters of the sacred tank
The walls of the ground floor of Shri Harmandar Sahib are laid with marble slabs with arabesques of conventional flower sprays, in semi-precious stones of various colors. The walls of the upper story, the cornices, the roof columns, Cupalos, in a word almost every space with the exception of the floor, are a glittering mass of gilded copper. The floor of the upper story of the Shri Harmandar Sahib is 40 feet each way. It is paved with marble and the interior of the wall is ornamented with flower designs. There is a small ” Shish Mahal” ( Hall of Mirrors) on the upper story. It was now used for Akhand Path ( non-stop recitation of the Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji from cover to cover). Hymes are inscribed on its walls in letters of the gold. On the third story stands the gorgeous gold dome. Smaller domes decorate the parapet.
Hymes from the holy scripture of the Sikhism is sung without a break throughout the day in the Harmandar. The Ragis ( the musicians) are paid employees of the Harmandar management committee.
I saw hundreds of pilgrims walking around the pond sitting in the shadow of a colonnade, mediating and praying to the almighty God. Some of the men were taking a holy dip in the pool of NectarThe golden temple stands in its full glory in the middle of the holy tank called Amrit Sarovar. Pilgrims who visit the shrine take a dip in the Amrit Sarovar because they believe that Amrit Sarovar is having healing powers.
Whether you are religious or not atmosphere inside the temple is unquestionable. There were constant rhythm and chant of musicians and religious leaders reciting the holy book from inside the Temple over the speaker.
I felt much peace in such a wonderful atmosphere and sit along the edge of the tank and just watch the world go by. Many people were resting under the shady arches that surround the golden temple and watching the other people. I can say that nature and ideology of the temple, as well as obvious physical beauty, had a completely calming effect on each and every person.
The long wait in the queue to enter the temple is really worth it. Have patience because the queue moves steadily and slowly forward. I recommend arriving in the queue early to avoid standing too long in the hot heat of the day. The inside of the golden temple is beautifully embellished and decorated from floor to ceiling and I was left amazed.
A specific thing about Sikh Gurudwara is langar means a common kitchen where food is served to all people without distinction of religion, caste, gender, race, social status, and nationality. The langar found in the golden temple is the largest kitchen in the world. The kitchen serves more than 100000 visitors on a normal day and enlargement up to 250000 visitors during weekends. The kitchen runs 24/7 on a normal day and food never runs out. Noone has ever been turned away. No visit to the temple is complete without dining in the Guru ka Langar or Community Kitchen. For Sikhs preparing langar and sharing it with community upholds their belief in the equality of all human beings.
As we entered the Langar I was provided with a plate, bowl, and cup before making my way with the crowd upstairs to the main langar hall. Everyone sits on the floor in rows and wait for the food to be served. It was an incredible experience to see so many people serving and what made it even more amazing was that food was absolutely delicious. It was a wonder to see that they make huge quantities and that too delicious. It is free to enter and dine in langar.
Accommodation in the Temple complex:
In keeping with the welcoming nature of Sikhism, they also offer accommodation free of cost. Pilgrims from all over India and world come to just lay eyes on the golden temple and stay within the temple complex itself. There are many accommodation facilities available like1. Shri Guru Ramdas Niwas 2.Guru Nanak Niwas 3. Guru Hargobind Niwas 4. Guru Arjan Dev Niwas 5. Mata Ganga Ji Niwas 6.Guru Gobind Singh Ji NRI Yatri Niwas 7. Baba Deep Singh Ji Niwas
Meeting local people:
Punjabi people are known for their welcoming nature. I met this lovely middle-aged woman at Golden temple. She was wearing a yellow suit with red and green floral print on it, She had a yellow transparent veil( Dupatta in Indian language Hindi) on her head. I fell into conversation with this nice Aunty. She is one of sewadar or volunteer at the Golden temple. We have a common topic that is of the golden temple. She told me each and every detail about the golden temple, Sikh religion, Baba Deep Singh Ji story. She gave me even a gift from her side. Her humble, down to earth and nice nature attracted me towards her. Then someone from my family called me and in hurry, I forget to take her number and gave mine. At that moment I felt that we can never find a person in an ocean of people. Have you heard this quote by Paulo Coelho ” when you want something from bottom of your heart, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” The same thing happened with me after half an hour.
I met her again at shoe counter when I was going out after getting the blessing from golden temple. Someone came from my back and touched my shoulder with love and I turned my head back to see that person. I was surprised and extremely happy to see her again. I asked for her mobile number first. then she dug her mobile out of her purse, adjusted the setting and handed the phone to me. I added my number to the phone directory and handed the mobile back to aunty. she said call me when you can. And I nodded my head. She asked me about my visit and other things. After She is now My aunty from Amritsar. Her name is Gyan Kaur. Before writing about her I called her and took her permission to write about her. I made a promise to aunty that I will meet her on my next visit.
Sunrise and Sunset at the Golden Temple:
Visiting the golden temple at any time of a day is a memorable affair but you can make it extra special when you visit at sunrise and sunset. Golden Temple looks different at each time of day and each season due to its sparkling walls changing colors whether its early misty morning light, late afternoon glow or darkness of light. When the sun sets and whole temple is lit up amongst the darkness at that time its something spectacular.
To take Time to reflect :
Whether you think or not each and every trip changes you. The spirituality, the peacefulness atmosphere and overwhelming nature of people are all things which left in my mind for my lifetime. There is something about this place which can’t be described or put into words but must be felt. I brought feeling and memories of my lifetime.
Things to remember while visiting Golden temple:
1. Dress conservatively as this an extremely sacred place so it should be respected.
2. Tobacco, Narcotics, and intoxicants in any shape or form are not to be carried into the precincts of Shri Harmandar Sahib.3. Shoes, socks, sticks, and Umbrellas of devotees are to be left outside the Holy Premises. They are taken care of by employees free of charge.
3. Visitors will please wash their feet at the taps at the entrance outside the holy premises.
4. Visitors will please keep their heads covered all the time they are inside the Golden temple.
5. Photography is permitted only around the Parkarma.
6. Do not carry large bags. they should be left at luggage storage outside.
How to reach Amritsar:
Amritsar is well connected by trains and air from different parts of India. The road distance from Delhi to Amritsar is 453 km.
There are many options to stay in Amritsar. I stayed at Rs residency just 5 minute distance from Golden temple.