Golden Temple, India

Rupert Harmon

Amritsar’s Golden Temple viewed in the setting sun, with a gentle breeze blowing over the Dukhbhanjani sarovar; the tank of holy waters, as the strains of kirtan simmer unto the clouds is an experience of trance-like peace.

The marble is shiny and white, cool in the blazing sun: the mark of high quality marble is that it retains its coolness even if everything around is frying in temporal heat.

The Akal Takht as the Golden temple is called is the Timeless/Eternal Throne of the Higher Power. The construction of the temple was done such that instead of ‘climbing up’ to the sanctorum one has to ‘go down’ the steps into the sanctorum to signify the quality of HUMILITY which is the password of the Guru Granth Sahib to it’s followers. The gilding of the ceiling with ornamentations like those in the interior of the Har Mandir is perhaps to be found in palaces and forts across India. The wall paintings apparently belong to a later period, as there are panels showing Europeans.

The sanctum sanctorum shot from the seat of the 5th Guru Arjan dev who sat here to supervise the construction of the sarovar and Gurudwara

A Muslim mystic, Hazrat Mian Mir, was invited by the 5th Guru, Guru Arjan Dev to lay the foundation stone of this Golden Temple, further signifying that this Temple of God belonged to all although it is the holiest of holy shrines of the Sikhs. An amazing number of pilgrims flock here all year round, who may have come from Russia, the US, UK, Japan, Afghanistan and Africa. A point in case is that, many of them are non- Sikhs and yet undergo the stipulatory procedures to witness the grandeur of this shrine.

The structure of the shrine is a mixed heritage — the rectangular form of the Hindu temple combined with the dome and minarets of the Muslims.

The interiors are embellished with Rajasthani, Islamic and Hindu art. Lovely ceilings, adorned with Horal relief’s and little mirrors, were all renovated, finished and perfected under the patronage of the great Maharaja Ranjit Singh, so that men and women may brood upon the inner splendor, after gazing at the beauty and wonder of the outer house and body of God.

Embellishments in the ceiling on the 2nd floor

There is a 24 hours Langarsahib, free kitchen with mahe ki daal, ghee de rotis, onion and lemon salads and Gobi di sabzi. Also numerous free sarais cohabit within the enormous fort-like structure. So one can live within the Golden Temple, eat there and visit the numerous shrines across the city. After Operation Bluestar the gurudwara complex resembles a strong fort like structure with numerous entries and exits, all manned and kept clean. There are trout and guppies in the sarovar and it is said the jal from the sarovar stays uncontaminated in a jar for eons pretty much like the Ganga.

Out of the many shrines, in Amritsar, it is suggested to visit Baba Atal ka Chaubara. He was the nine-year son of 6th guru Hargobind Sahib, and he gave up his life at will, because unknowing he had performed a miracle by rejuvenating his 8 year-old dead friend. The nine-storey octagonal tower building represents the nine years of Baba Atal’s life. Gurudwara Baba Atal Sahib is situated to the south of the Golden Temple, standing 40 meters high, is the tallest building in Amritsar.

Numerous Hindu temples such as Ram Talai and Durgiana, palatial havelis and burjs (residences of the rich), akharas of the Mahants (priests), dharamshalas for the convenience of pious pilgrims, besides many Gurudwaras such as RamSar, SantokhSar, Bibi Kaula each with their own sarais (Guesthouses) and kitchens cater to the burgeoning visitors from across the world.

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