THE GOLDEN TEMPLE : INDIA'S PILGRIMAGE FOR ALL
by Parimal Pratyush
Thursday, May 18, 2017
HARMANDIR SAHIB – AN INTRODUCTION
Perhaps the most important and the most glorious of Sikh pilgrimages all over the world is the Gurudwara Harmandir Sahib, better known as the Golden Temple. The temple is a subject of religious symbolism and folklore all over the world. There are around 23 million Sikhs all over the world, not one of whom you will ever find begging. The principles of humility and egalitarianism are of immense importance to them. It was built in due course after the construction of Amritsar(Amrit+Sarovar), the sacred pool of the nectar of immortality, which was completed in 1577. The Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs was first installed in the temple in 1604 A.D and Baba Budha Ji was appointed as its first reciter. If you happen to visit The Golden Temple, please make time and visit it during the daytime as well as night to soak all this pilgrimage has to offer.
ATTRACTIONS IN THE GOLDEN TEMPLE.
THE FOUR ENTRANCES
The immense symbolism of the place starts with its four entrances in each cardinal direction of the Harmandir Sahib. The four entrances symbolise religious tolerance and acceptance of people from all walks of life without any discrimination, one of the main teachings of Sikhism. In fact, the temple and the lake’s foundation were laid by a Muslim saint Hazrat Mia Mir Ji of Lahore to signify the Sikh belief of unity and tolerance.
Right in the centre of the complex is the Harmandir Sahib, coated in gold, and meets your eye with grandness that only this holy place can offer. Interestingly, the gold coating was started by Maharaja Ranjit Singh only in the mid 19th century. A total of 750 kilos of gold and varying quantities of precious stones were used. A sight you definitely want to see. You will go a couple of flight of stairs down to visit the temple meaning it is at a level lower than its immediate surroundings, which symbolises humility.
AMRITSAR, “THE POOL OF NECTAR OF IMMORTALITY”
The Harmandir Sahib stands in the middle of the pool which is the Amritsar. The pool also gives the name to the town that was built around it. Fresh water from the nearby river of Ravi helps in sustaining the marine life that has become a part of the pool. Volunteers help maintain the cleanliness of the pool.
THE THREE BER TREES
There are three Indian Jujube or Ber trees on the compound each with a folklore behind it. The oldest is the Ber Baba Budha Ji which is more than 500 years old. The lore is that the first ever reciter of the Guru Granth Sahib, Baba Budha Ji, used to recite under this tree. Then there is the Lachi Ber, the tree under which the fifth master, Guru Arjan Dev Ji used to supervise the temple. Also, a Mughal governor Massa Ranghar was beheaded by two Sikh warriors, Sukha and Mehtab Singh for desecrating the holy place. The warriors tied their horses to this tree before advancing to meet Massa Ranghar disguised as peasants who wanted to pay him taxes. And finally, there is the Dukh Bhanjani Ber, which is famous for the story of Princess Rajni who was married to a leper by her father for disrespecting his authority. The leper sat under this tree before deciding to bathe in the pool after watching crows turn white after taking a dip in it. After taking a dip in the holy pond he was cured of his disease and subsequently he and his wife worked as Sewaks(servants) in the temple. Recently, the scientists of the Punjab Agricultural University researched and expressed concerns about the conservation of the three trees.
WORLD’S LARGEST FREE KITCHEN (LANGAR)
The Golden Temple serves free hot meals to an average of 100000 people every day, without discrimination through the efforts of the members of the community, symbolising sharing, inclusiveness and unity. The food served here is vegetarian so that anyone visiting the temple can have a meal. The kitchen is managed by volunteers who render their services free of charge for the temple.
ARDAAS – The only constant sound in the complex is the tune of ARDAAS or prayer. In order to make the meaning clear to the visitors who don’t know Punjabi, screens have been installed that translate the prayer into several languages including Hindi, English and Urdu.
THINGS TO TAKE CARE OF WHILE VISITING THE GOLDEN TEMPLE
All visitors are required to wear a head cover to show respect to the place.
All visitors must wear clothes that fully cover the body.
All visitors must cleanse themselves by washing their hands and feet before entering the complex.
All visitors are required to be barefoot and therefore submit their footwear in the cloakroom prior to entering the temple. The service is free.
All visitors must care about the sanctity of the place and must not litter or carry any non-vegetarian food with themselves.
All visitors must submit their luggage in the cloakroom. The service is free. But if you have valuables with you, paid cloakroom services are also available.
HOW TO REACH THE GOLDEN TEMPLE
If you are visiting India, the nearest international airport is NEW DELHI. Amritsar is around 500 km from there. You can take a bus from the Kashmere Gate ISBT(Inter-State Bus Terminal) in New Delhi or book a private bus through ticketing apps and take your seat from their place of departure. The buses are frequent and the journey takes 6-7 hours.
You may also opt for a train journey. Trains are frequent too but seat availability varies. The journey takes 6-7 hours and trains depart from one of the various railway stations of New Delhi.
If you are in any other part of the country, Amritsar is well connected by the Indian Railways with many long distance trains passing through its railway station.
The place is so good you may wanna spend a day or two on the holy campus. As such, adequate accommodations are available for anyone wanting to do so. You can opt for the community hall to separate rooms.
NRI’s(Non-Resident Indians) can avail the NRI block to stay.
Of course, there are hotels outside the complex that will definitely have rooms keeping in mind your budget.