The Golden Temple is one of the most famous gurudwaras in the world, known world over for its magnificence and religious importance. A world renowned tourist attraction for being the holy place for Sikhs the world over, and a religious service called ‘langar’ wherein free community meals are served to thousands as a part of ‘seva’ by volunteers, the the Golden Temple which attracts people from different castes, economic strata, religions and countries…
WORDS BY: SANGEETA S
The Golden Temple located in Amritsar, Punjab, also called ‘Harmandar Sahib’ or ‘Darbar Sahib’ is holy gurudwara, a place of worship of Sikhs, visited not only by Sikhs but by people of all religions. The temple offers a feeling of peace and calm. Whosoever visits this temple comes back with an experience of inner peace and that is the reason people keep revisiting this temple. People who have visited are mostly of the opinion that the experience can’t be explained in words; it has to be experienced. One needs to visit the place to feel the calm and peace there.
Sukhasana is the daily closing ritual done at night when the Guru Granth Sahib is taken to another room called Akal Takht which is on the first floor. It is carried on head and then placed in a flower decorated palki. Once it reaches the bedroom, the holy book is finally tucked into a bed.
Prakash is the daily opening ritual when the holy book is carried back to the sanctum in the morning following the same ceremony with which it was taken to Akal Takht.
Gurbani kirtan is sung throughout the day.
Mukhwak of the day is read out aloud and even written so that devotees can read it throughout the day.
Gurudwara means a place where guru stays or a path that leads to guru or a door to the guru; it is a place of worship for Sikhs. For Sikhs, guru is the book of scriptures – Guru Granth Sahib. The scripture is treated as a living person, a guru. There are no idols and God is not associated with any physical form. The respect is for the spiritual content in the book.
The Golden Temple can be visited anytime as the temple is open 24 hours and there is no entry fee. If you wish to avoid queue then early morning say around 4 or late night could be a good option. If you are a beauty lover and wish to enjoy the beauty of the Golden Temple then night time is the best time when light glitters all over the place. The gurudwara looks amazingly beautiful. Moreover if you visit the gurudwara early morning or late night you can also witness the ceremony of taking the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (sukhasan) and returning it back (parkash). If you wish to avoid the rush, it is better to avoid weekends or any special occasion.
• Every visitor to this holy shrine gets a free meal
• The gurudwara provides between 50,000 and 75,000 meals everyday; on special occasions the number can touch more than 1 lakh
• The dining halls have a capacity of around 5000 people
• The practice was started by the first Sikh guru – Guru Nanakjee to bring about the concept of equality
• Vegetarian meals are served with the help of thousands of workers and volunteers
Surrounded by man-made lake the beautiful gold plated building is a treat to the eyes especially during sunrise and sunset when the structure glows. The temple looks beautiful right in the middle of the square lake. Surrounded by water you will have to take a round of the sarovar to reach the main shrine. Walking down the path to reach the shrine is also a beautiful experience. The lake has colourful exotic fishes which make the lake vivid and lively and add to the beauty of the place. It is believed that a dip in the sarovar can help cure physical and mental ailments. The water in the lake is considered therapeutic and it is believed that a dip cleanses the soul; many take a dip here.
The gurudwara is built at a lower level than the surrounding land so when you visit the shrine you have to take the steps to go down. Covering your head is mandatory if you are in the premises of this holy place. This place is open to one and all; people from all religions, caste or creed are openly accepted here. The four entrances of the temple in a way signify the openness, indicating that all are welcome from all sides. Nobody is barred from entering this holy and sacred place.
There is no discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, religion, age, gender or social status. Inside the gurudwara all are considered one and are treated equally; this is the beauty of this place. The concept of treating all human beings as equal becomes more evident in their Langar. Golden Temple has the world’s largest free kitchen called Langar where people from all class/religion sit together and eat. It is believed that Guru Nanak Devjee did not believe in discrimination based on caste and therefore he brought in this concept of Langar where everyone is treated equal; all share the task of cooking, serving and cleaning. Sharing all tasks also signifies the concept of giving selfless service to others. It is not about any ritual or practice; everyone just eats together. This beautiful concept of Langar is found across all gurudwaras.
The gurudwara has the holy book of Sikhism Guru Granth Sahib. The holy book is placed on a throne in a central position and the raagis recite the verses from the Guru Granth Sahib. Devotees pay respect to Guru Granth Sahib which is kept in the main hall for almost 20 hours. During night it is carried in procession in a palki to another room called Akal Takht for sukhasana for few hours.