A Visit To The Golden Temple, Amritsar
The View Of The Golden Temple Complex In PicturesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Grabbing A Quick Bite At A Roadside Dhaba (Eatery)Click thumbnail to view full-size
Preface To Our Golden Temple Visit
The Golden Temple, India, is a major pilgrimage destination for Sikhs from all over the country and outside. It also attracts tourists from all over the world. People visit to ask for wishes to be fulfilled while those whose wishes have been fulfilled return to offer their thanks. Occasions like buying a vehicle, starting a business, purchasing a house, sickness, healing, problems in life, resolution of the problems and many other similar reasons are responsible for devotees coming back to either ask for blessings or offer thanks for the blessings. Visitors throng to have a glimpse of this historical temple.
Since sometime I and my family were contemplating visiting the Golden Temple to offer our thanks to the Lord for all that he has bestowed upon us. So, one fine morning, my son, my wife and I, set out for the Golden Temple. Golden Temple is also called Harmandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib which means The House Of The Lord. It is situated in the Amritsar city of North India, about 100 kilometers from where I live.
As there is always a rush of devotees we skipped going on Saturday or a Sunday as on these days, it is very crowded. It was on Monday at 7.15 AM on 9th July 2012 that we set out for the Golden Temple. It's about 2 hours drive from my home. We reached there at about 9 AM then decided to have a quick bite at a roadside dhaba (eatery), before we entered the temple complex. We had left home without having breakfast.
The pictures to the right show my wife and I having a quick light breakfast.
Some Information About Sikhism
Sikhism is the religion the Sikhs follow. The literal meaning of Sikh is a disciple or student. So in essence a Sikh is the disciple of his Guru.
The foundation of Sikhism was laid by Guru Nanak Dev who was the first Guru. He was followed by 9 successive Sikh Gurus who fortified this foundation. The 10th Guru - Guru Gobind Singh compiled the finalised version of Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs. He then ordained that henceforth Sikhs treat the Guru Granth Sahib as their living Guru in spirit. With this He did away with the practice of having a Guru with a physical body.
Guru Granth Sahib is the spoken word of the Lord through the utterances of the Sikh Gurus. It contains the hymns or religious verses of the Gurus. The compilation of the Guru Granth Sahib was started by the 5th Guru - Guru Arjan Dev. At that time this volume was known as the Adi Granth. Guru Arjun Dev collected the hymns of the earlier 4 Gurus and incorporated it along with his own in the Adi Granth and installed this in the Golden Temple in 1604.
The 6th, 7th and 8th Gurus did not write any religious verses. The hymns or religious verses of the 9th Guru - Guru Teg Bahadur were added to the Adi Granth by his son, Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru. With this the final version of the Adi Granth was compiled and when this was installed it was termed Guru Granth Sahib.
Though Guru Gobind Singh also wrote hymns they were not included in the final version of the Guru Granth Sahib. Instead, one of his faithful followers Bhai Mani Singh collected them and compiled it into a non religious book called the Dasam Granth (Book of the 10th Guru).
About The Golden Temple India
The construction of the sarowar (tank) and the city was begun simultaneously in 1570 AD. These projects were completed by 1577 AD. These were supervised under the care and direction of the 4th Guru - Guru Ramdas.
It was decided by the 5th Guru - Guru Arjan Dev to have a central place of worship for the Sikhs and also to develop the area around it for habitation and with this in mind the construction of the Golden Temple was begun in 1588 AD and completed in 1601 AD, under his supervision. The Adi Granth was installed in the temple in 1604 AD. The water that is filled in the tank is called Amrit (Nectar) and the tank is called sarowar (pond). The Golden Temple stands right in the centre of the tank.
The name of the city Amritsar is derived from Amrit (Nectar) and Sar (sarowar or pond) - the city of the pond of nectar.
The Golden Temple is a square structure built on a slightly bigger square platform. It has 4 doors, one on each side ie the East, West, North and South. The 4 doors are an indication that anyone can come to the house of God from any side. Anyone means, there is no restriction on the basis of caste, creed, color, sex or religion. Access to the main temple is through a pathway which is about 200 feet long.
At the other end of the pathway is the Parikrama (circumambulatory path) which runs all around the centrally located temple.
The gold plating and marble flooring of the temple and the temple complex was done by the ruler of Punjab - Maharaja Ranjit Singh, The interiors of the temple were decorated with frescoes and gemstones. All this was done between 1802-1830 AD.
Though no restrictions on the caste, creed ,sex, color or religion are applied on visitors, there are some restrictions on behaviour that are to be observed when entering and visiting the Golden Temple.. They are :
- For maintaining the sanctity of the place
Removing of shoes is a must and they are kept at the joda ghar (Shoe house). The feet are then dipped in a small pool of water specially provided for this purpose, at the entrance to the complex.
No consumption of alcohol, meat, drugs or smoking of cigarettes in the temple complex.
- Dress Code
Wearing of a head covering, as a form of respect, For those who do not have any, head scarves are provided at the entrance.
No wearing of shoes.
- Behaviour Code
In the Darbar sahib or temple one has to sit on the ground as a mark of respect to the Guru Granth Sahib and the Almighty.
The importance of the Golden Temple lies in the fact that the first Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book, was installed here and that the temple and the city were constructed under the direct guidance and supervision of the Gurus.
Monuments & Structures In The Golden Temple Complex
Some of the monuments and their related history are shown in the video and the picture slides above.
Right opposite and facing the Golden Temple is the Akal Takht - the highest seat of Sikh temporal authority. It is from here that edicts are announced for Sikhs to follow. It also acts as a place from where punishments in the form of penances to be performed, by way of service in the Gurudwara (temple), Joda Ghar(Shoe House) or the Langar (Community Kitchen), for a set period of time, are handed over to those religious leaders who are proved of any religious misconduct.
It must be mentioned here that free community kitchen is an integral part of any Sikh temple and free food is available to all visitors round the clock at the Golden Temple. We call the free community kitchen food as Langar.
After having our fill of the available food, we headed back home, much charged up physically, mentally and spiritually.
If you visit India, make it a point to visit the Golden temple. You will cherish your Golden temple visit
Some of my other hubs on Pilgrimage Destinations
- A Visit To Gurudwara Bangla Sahib - New Delhi, India
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is a Sikh temple of historical significance. Much revered for the healing powers of the sarovar in the gurudwara, this Sikh temple is visited by devotees and visitors from far and wide. To learn more about this much revered gur
© 2012 Rajan Singh Jolly