Even with the milling crowds, the Golden Temple, with its ornate towers and gold-tipped cupolas, seems like a wild visual marvel of a Bollywood designer set. The sprawling creation, which is hailed as Sri Harmander Sahib (abode of God) is the holiest Gurudwara of Sikhism located in Amritsar, Punjab.
Amritsar, which means the pool of ambrosial nectar, was found by the fourth Sikh Guru, Guru Ramdas. Guru Arjan, the fifth Sikh guru was the one to design the Golden Temple in the center of Amritsar. He also placed the Adi Granth, the holy book of the Sikhs, inside it. It is also home to Akal Takht, the seat of God's temporal authority which was constituted by the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind.
Floating at the end of a long causeway, the marvelous temple in gold is a sight to behold. The lower floor is finished in white marble and adorned with animal and plant motifs in a work known as the pietra dura. These works can also be spotted at the Taj Mahal in Agra. The upper tomb is made with a whopping 750 kg of gold. The inner sanctum of the temple beholds the purity of never-ending recital of the holy Guru Granth Sahib.
Photography inside the shrine is prohibited. The temple's architecture is widely inspired from both Hindu and Islamic styles. The water that surrounds the tank is known as Amrit Sarovar (pool of nectar). The marble causeway is known as the Guru's Bridge and it symbolizes the journey of the soul after death. Unlike normal temples, this gurudwara is not built on a raised platform. It demands the visitors to descend a flight of stairs to enter it and it’s symbolic of the Sikh world view.
The Guru Granth Sahib is installed in the temple every morning and at night, it is returned to the Akal Takht. This ceremony takes place between 5 am and 9.30 pm in winter and 4 am and 10.30 pm in summer. It is believed that Gautama Buddha meditated in this place before the Sikhs discovered it.
During the military operation, Blue Star, headed by Indira Gandhi in 1984, large portions of the temple complex were destroyed with wide damages to the Akal Takht. It was later renovated by the Kar Sevaks.
The biggest attraction of the Golden Temple is its kitchen (langar). Touted as world’s largest kitchen, it serves food to 100,000 – 300,000 people daily. The meal comprises flat bread and lentil soup. Devotees across the globe, irrespective of caste, creed or religion can have meals from this kitchen.
A few steps have to be ensured before you visit the temple complex. It is mandatory to remove footwear and wash your feet in the small pond provided before entering the Gurudwara. Alcohol consumption, smoking and non-vegetarian food are strictly prohibited on the temple premises. It is customary to cover your head while entering the Gurudwara as it signifies respect. One must sit on the ground while listening to the Gurbani.
Not just places of religious significance, Punjab has quite a lot to offer for travel junkies. From a mix of lip smacking dishes to the best of colorful clothes, dance and music, the land of five rivers is truly an amalgamation of exquisite places.
Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport in Amritsar, located about 11 kilometeres away from the city-centre, is well connected to other cities in India and also to a number of international cities. Amritsar is well connected by bus and train.
Also read: Punjab, the land of museums and monuments