The Golden Temple – The golden temple is an irresistible gurudwara, nestled at the centre of a captivating water pool. Crowned with a pure golden dome, it secretes tranquillity and modesty that can calm a restless soul.
It is the oldest and the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, then why do we call it a golden temple? Did you know that the temple has seen many significant destructions and did not have the golden dome initially? Did you know that the temple is also nominated as the World Heritage Site?
Shri Harmindar Sahib or as popularly called Golden Temple has no bar for religion and caste and solely believes in God. It is also fondly referred to as Harimandir Sahib which means, “the house (mandir) of God (Hari).” The gurudwara is mounted with a pure gold plate and thus it got the name of Golden temple.
The place is so serene and divine, that usually travellers do not wish to travel back to their mundane life. Not solely a place to worship, this place teaches us to be humble and shows us the real power of gratitude. With an incredibly peaceful Gurbani (The songs sung for the God) and innumerable souls around, the gurudwara outstands the list of the most peaceful places around the country.
Those who have already been to this heaven on earth would agree that it is one place you want to come again and again. So, let me take you to a tour of this divine beauty that has continually managed to leave a calming impact on its guests.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- About the Golden Temple
- The Makeover of the temple streets
- History and Significance
- Things to Know Before Visiting the Temple
- When to Visit
- How to Visit
- Other sightseeing Places – Jallianwala Bagh, Wagah Border
ABOUT SHRI HARIMINDAR SAHIB – THE GOLDEN TEMPLE
THE POOL WITH HEALING ABILITIES
As soon as your feet touch the sacred ground, you stumbled upon a gorgeous Sarovar or pool. This absolute delight is the place where we are required to wash our feet and hands first. As the devotees believe, the water has amazing healing properties that can cure the diseases. Several devotees opt to take a holy bath in the pool before visiting the temple. A separate bathing area is enclosed for the ladies; those wish to take a shower before their visit.
The man-made pool is also a home to many fishes that appears extremely fascinating. After the darshan, the guests prefer to take a parikrama (revolve around the pool) around the sacred pool, which is also known as the Amrit Sarovar.
Inside the courtyard, there are three main Ber trees. One of which is popularly believed as the suffering remover tree. As per an old belief, it is the same location where a Sikh devotee got cured of his long time leprosy, as soon as he took a holy dip in the pool.
ENTRY TO THE TEMPLE
With folded hands and covered head, the tourists begin their journey to induce blessings from God. There is usually an extended queue to enter the temple, but the volunteers and staff manage it very well. Located at Amritsar, it is one of the most significant shrines for Sikhs and additionally known as Darbar Sahib. Not only known as a pilgrimage site but the beauty of its building is a price to debate.
The masterpiece showcases an Indo-Islamic architecture styled with white marble flooring. The temple looks even more gorgeous from inside which has hanging chandeliers attempting to enlighten our lives to the best. The ceilings are gold plated, giving an illusion of illumination of lights all the time.
The beautiful floral motifs embossed on the walls and the doors enhance the beauty all the more. Unlike any other temple, The golden temple has four entrances that is used to enter the gurudwara. It signifies that the temple accepts every individual in any skin. The temple appears implausibly attractive throughout the night. The dazzling temple under the starry sky and its stunning shadow on the pool is a beauty to behold.
After a quick Darshan as you step out of the enchanting gurudwara, you see volunteers serving water and Kadha prasad, which is the yummiest food one could taste. Prepared with wheat floor, sugar and lots of ghee, the prasad turns out to be extremely tasty and divine.
Visiting Hours: The Harmindar Sahib remains open between 4 am to 11 pm everyday for its devotees.
Best Time to Visit: The gurudwara and its premises emit so much of serenity and positivity that every moment gives a blissful experience. However, the early morning time when the Palki procession takes place has its own charm. During this period, the Granth Sahib is carried in a Palki and the devotees follow the procession singing the Gurbani.
LANGAR AND LARGEST KITCHEN
The Langar area of the golden temple has one of the mega kitchens in the world and serves thousands of visitors daily. The vegetarian food that usually consists of Prasada (roti), langar dal and rice is absolutely free for all its guests and is open 24 hours of the day. On a special occasion, they serve sweet rice, rice pudding and sweets too.
Another unique point of the langar seva is the selfless services, rendered by the countless volunteers. One could notice people from different backgrounds, religion and class, yet serving the guests together. Some wish to help inside the Kitchen in making rotis and some wish to wash the utensils, but they all enjoy serving to mankind.
The Kitchen also serves tea the entire day separately to its guests and also serve sugarless tea for Diabetic patients. The best part of the langar is that each individual is served on the floor in a steel thali. There is no exception at all.
THE TEMPLE MUSEUM
The temple premise also possesses a Sikh museum that highlights the extraordinary events of the Sikh community. It has a mix of paintings, swords, etc and the details of the Sikh gurus and martyrs.
MAKEOVER OF OLD AMRITSAR
As soon as your vehicle takes a turn towards the iconic golden temple, your eyes are bound to pop out in disbelief. The first impression that one gets as if he is traveling to some foreign land. Only when the clean roads and the uniformly coloured buildings start to impress you, the Bosch speakers hanged on the streets of the gurudwara will blow your mind.
I was completely sold when I saw the volunteers/sevadaars cleaning the garbage (no matter how clean the area is, some people love to mess around) even at midnight. The place was such a visual treat that I was not believing that its a real picture of India. I have seen many foreign-inspired streets in India; However, Amritsar tops the list right now.
Several statues of Bhangra dancers and a masterpiece depicting a digital flame are some of the additions that give the makeover a wow look. Tourists can get some glances of kids practicing Gatka (a form of martial art in Punjab) and performance of Bhangra in these streets during the evening.
HISTORY AND SIGNIFICANCE
WHEN WAS THE GURUDWARA BUILT AND BY WHOM?
The most sacred site for Sikhs, the golden temple was founded by the fourth guru of Sikhs, Shri Guru Ram Das in 1577. The construction of the temple however, started in 1581 with the planning and designs made by the fifth guru, Shri Guru Arjan Singh Ji. It got completed in 1589.
It was him who planned to build this sacred building at a lower level than the city, along with four entrance gates to the temple. His idea was to spread a word of acceptance and humility to the world.
DESTRUCTION AND RECONSTRUCTION
The gurudwara till now have seen many major destructions. The first destruction took place in 1762, which was due to a Sikh Muslim dispute. The shrine got rebuilt again in 1784 and later was renovated by the then King, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He donated tonnes of gold which was plated at the top of the gurudwara. The original gurudwara didn’t have the golden dome.
WHY IT IS THE HOLIEST PLACE FOR SIKHS?
The place where the golden temple is situated today was once the meditation place of the Guru Nanak Sahib Ji. In addition to that, the gurudwara has the holy book of Sikhs, the “Adi Granth Sahib”, placed by Guru Arjan Ji.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING THE TEMPLE
- The temple is open for everyone and does not believe in any form of discrimination. So, whether you are an Indian, Italian, Muslim, Rich, or Poor, visit this enchanting place with utmost faith.
- The gurudwara can be visited by the girls during their menstruating periods too. They do not believe in barring anyone from worshiping inside the temple.
- The head of each visitor, including children is required to cover with dupatta or any piece of cloth. You can use your own cloth or can take the head cloths available outside the temple to cover your head. There is no additional cost for this.
- Inappropriate dresses like shorts or revealing clothes are strictly not allowed inside the temple.
- Every visitor is required to wash their hands and feet before entering the main gurudwara.
- Every respectable person ranging from the people you see in the shoe counter to people cleaning the courtyards are the volunteers who work selflessly without any pay. If you wish to provide your service then simply approach your nearest volunteer and rest he will take care.
- There are separate counters available outside the temple, to keep your belongings, including shoes and luggage. However, female visitors can carry their handbags.
- The langar (food available in the langar area), tea, prasad and water are absolutely free for every guest.
- One can buy separate Kadha prasad or Pinni from the prasad counter and can donate in cash and kind.
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WHEN TO VISIT
The gurudwara welcomes its guests throughout the year, however September to February are the most visited months. The winters in Amritsar can be extreme; hence, wearing sufficient woollen clothes are advisable. One may choose to wear light clothes during the rest of the time of the year.
HOW TO VISIT
Devotees can either choose to reach Amritsar through flight, train or personal vehicles. The airport is merely 13 km away from the gurudwara taking just 30- 40 minutes to reach. The Amritsar railway station is just 2 km away from the holy place. Tourists can book a cab or avail the auto services from the station.
The Jallianwala Bagh is located very close to the gurudwara. It is a remarkable place and has a strong connection to the pre-independence struggle days. The place has witnessed a massive killing by the British government in the past.
It is a public garden which now has a memorial that reminds us of 1919, that saw the dreadful act of General Dyer. The ancient well is still there where hundreds of people jumped in an attempt to save themselves from the unstoppable firing by the British army.
Close to 29 km from the golden temple is the famous international border that we share with Pakistan. The Attari Wagah border is one of the most energetic places one could experience, where the emotions of patriotism is seen insanely.
A beating retreat ceremony takes place everyday for 45 minutes. It starts at 4:15 pm during winters and 5:15 pm in the days of summers. In this ceremony, a super enthusiastic parade is conducted by the BSF soldiers of India and Pakistan, which is something you would never want to miss watching. The attitude and persona shown by the soldiers are so overwhelming that one would wish to applaud again and again.
It doesn’t require any ticket to watch the ceremony, however one must reach there before 30 – 40 minutes prior due to its limited seating.
A very well planned market is available right outside the gurudwara. Although these shops are quite old in their business, however they have recently been renovated. Many shops are selling beautiful Fulkari fabrics to Punjabi jutis which are a must to buy.
The shopping complex also has many eating joints including Mcdonalds, Tea shops, ATMs and street food shops for the customers.
LIP SMACKING FOOD
Punjab is known for its hospitality, music and most importantly for its delicious food which is generously soaked in butter/ghee. So, how can you even think of skipping this essential part from your Amritsar journey? Other than the guru ka prasad, there is plenty of other food delights those will win your heart in a jiffy.
Coming to Amritsar and not trying the stuffed kulchas, makki ki roti and sarso da saag is simply not acceptable. Places like Bharawan Da Dhaba, Brothers Dhaba and Kesar Dhaba (to name a few) are some excellent options to satiate your cravings. These are however, pure veg restaurants as are located close to the gurudwara.
Either you are searching for peace and enlightenment or simply wants to unwind; One visit to the iconic golden temple is all you need. I just do not know how to summarise its beauty but, definitely would recommend visiting.
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