Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Golden Temple at Amritsar

Today I want to share my experience of visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Actually I visit holy places of all the religions like church, mosque or a gurudwaaraa. And I don't intend to advocate any specific religion. But certain good things, some good rituals etc. I liked very much which I observed during my two visits to the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Hence this blog.

Amritsar is a very nice city. I visited it twice so as to see the temple made up of Gold as many of us might guess it to be from its name.
I wanted to start my honeymoon journey visiting the holy golden temple first (also had read that Abhishek Bachchan & Aishwarya had also started their honeymoon after visiting Golden Temple first. That inspired me to do the same!) Second time I took my mom and sisters also along with my wife for darshan of this beautiful place of worship. Both these times my liking for this temple and the city Amritsar has grown more.

The golden temple is actually Harmandir Sahib Gurudwara visited by thousands of people daily. Some visit it with pilgrimage intentions while others as a tourist spot. Some others like me visit it out to feel mixed feelings of holiness & wonder.

It has a very unique and beautiful architecture. The main central gurudwara is sitting in the middle of a holy & serene lake housing lot of big size gold fishes. The lake is surrounded by a marble-floored walkway on all four sides and by four different buildings on all four sides.

I loved walking through the entire square-shaped promenade with marble flooring very much. On a hot sunny day also your legs won't burn walking bare feet here. A most unusual sight even before we entered the temple was outside at the shoe-house where you have to keep your shoes before entering temple.

The old man offering service there literally took everybody's shoes in his hands and touched them on his head as if the shoes were some sacred holy objects! I felt strange. Later I realized that his intention in doing so might be to respect even the foot wares which brought people to this holy place for darshan. I could only think of this logic.

And I observed that all the men and women offering the service at shoe-house did the same thing. After keeping your shoes you have to dip your bare feet in the water in the small tank like structure at the entrance of the temple. The touch of holy cold water on bare feet felt very nice.

After this ritual you enter the temple premises. But one mandate for everybody is to cover their heads before entering the premises. Anywhere inside the temple surroundings, if you are found without a cloth above your head, you will receive firing from the volunteers or temple-keepers!

At the entrance and inside the temple premises you will find some Sikh temple-keepers with yellow long kurta-like robe and the symbolic Sikh kirpan and typical turban and beard. They would scare a timid normal man but yet they have a warm welcoming smile on their faces!

You would find them at the gate screening people entering the temple or roaming freely inside temple premises keeping a watch on people's movement and scolding those whose heads have not remained covered! I got a scolding even for feeding the fishes in the lake!

While walking on the promenade you would hear the musical kirtans offered to the God inside the gurudwaaraa. It’s a serene and holy experience doing parikrama around the temple. you would observe many Sikhs taking a holy dip and having holy bath in the lake water or praying near a very old holy tree inside the premises.

There is a long queue of devotees gathered near the gurudwaaraa entrance but it moves fast and you feel great as you reach near the golden temple shrine. Many people get the sheera-prasad to offer and drop some of it in the water for feeding fishes when uniformed temple-keepers are not watching!

At the gate of main gurudwaaraa two guards control the flow of people entering by a stick clad with yellow coloured cloth. You feel nice as you enter the two storied main gurudwaaraa shining with bright golden tinge. Sound of melodious kirtans soothes you and you feel divinity all around. There is no idol or picture of any god but a thick and big religious book is being read by some saints sitting inside the gurudwaaraa. The walls are decorated with beautiful carvings and colourful floral patterns. There is a thick floor-mat on the ground. Photography is prohibited inside the main gurudwaaraa but even if you get caught doing it, you will get a mild and brotherly scolding!

Another memorable experience I had at the golden temple was that of having a lunch-prasad at the 'Langaar'. Every devotee, poor or rich, elder or younger, man or woman everybody queued up in a disciplined manner. Everybody first collects the steel plate, a spoon and the water bowls. There are long ten to twelve rows inside a huge lunch-hall in which people sit together for having lunch. Apart from the temple-staff young people also serve roti, the moongdal subzi and daal which taste heavenly. There is a typical way in which rotis will be offered. You have to hold both your hands and the person will throw the roti in your hands with gods name and you don't feel bad to accept roti in this manner at all! There are lot many devotees offering their service in preparing the food, cleaning the utensils, giving the water etc. with great enthusiasm and devotion. This community lunch and the overall experience at the Langaar were really unforgettable.

What set Golden Temple apart from other places of worships is the overall ambience, the feeling of grandeur, not getting bothered, disturbed and irritated by any beggar, Sikh turbaned temple-keepers in their yellow robes, a beautiful lake with lots of big fishes, warm people serving selflessly at the Langar,nobody asking for any donation or monetary favour, people having prasad-lunch at Langar together.
All these and much more have etched the golden temple with golden memories in my mind and heart forever...

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