Amritsar, in the Punjabi language, means ‘the pool of nectar of immortality’. The 4th Sikh Guru, Guru Ram Das, founded it in 1574. The Golden Temple’s reflection glitters on the water, which surrounds it. This amazing site is the supreme spiritual center of the Sikh religion. The Taj Mahal deserves its ranking as the top site to visit in India, but the golden temple, located in the Punjab of Northern India, rivals the Taj for its beauty and impact.
Devote Sikhs make regular pilgrimages to this holy shrine to worship. It has four doors, one facing each direction. These doors represent the openness to all people, regardless of religion, colour, caste or sex, who wish to enter and worship the one God. Thousands of people flock to the temple daily to worship and take part in the communal meal.
Both pilgrims and tourists are required to follow the rules of this holy site. So, shoes come off, feet are washed and then your head must be covered before entering the complex. Once inside, you simply meander around the marble walkway that encircles this glittering pool of bliss.
To enter the temple you must first cross the Guru’s Bridge causeway. People are not in a hurry so it takes awhile to cross. It’s best if you just embrace to the slow pace and relax into the peace. Mantras being performed within the inner sanctum are broadcast on speakers, so we just joined in and felt the uplifting energy of the crowd carry us along. Once inside, we visited the main temple and then explored the other buildings and temples within the complex. True peace abounds within this holy of holies. Flower mandalas and stone inlaid marble walls add to the magnificence of the golden wonder. A simple meal of chapattis and dhal is provided in the great dining hall for all who visit.
Each morning we would arrive early to the Golden temple to attend morning prayers; this would energize us for the afternoon walks and evening prayers. When you are within the complex you can literally feel the spiritual energy all around you. At then end of the day there is a special ceremony to put the holy book to bed. This book contains the sacred writings and teachings of Guru Nanak and other holy writings. Late one night, after the holy book was put to bed, I explored the outer galleries where two entire floors are lined with small alcoves in which devotees can sit and contemplate the holy scriptures twenty four hours a day. I was truly touched by the devotion of these people; I felt a deep kinship with these pilgrims knowing that they have devoted their lives to these holy teachings. The beauty of this golden refuge with its flower gardens, lofty domes and eastern architecture combined with the uplifting energy of the worshipers left me without words to describe it’s beauty.
Meditating at this shrine where all the Gurus prayers are focused set off fireworks within me and a burst of energy rose up through my body and poured out my eyes as if the holy nectar from within was running down my cheeks. I found it hard to leave this place that I felt so connected to; the Guru’s home now felt like my home and my family. For so many years I had longed to be right here in this holy place. And now I was here, my dreams came true! I can only explain the feeling by saying that what I felt was ‘love of love’! I knew then that I would have to return again.
Although we were the only visible westerners, we felt inconspicuous amongst the brightly coloured Saris, colour-coordinated veils, and turbaned men. We were included as equals, just as the Sikh religion teaches— that all people are created equal in the eyes of the universal god. We rejoiced in our common humanity and devotion to the sublime beauty of the god within.
As we departed the temple, my sister Shabad Dev and I sat by the holy pool to reflect on our experience and to absorb the energy of Amritsar. Our solitude didn’t last for long, for all of a sudden a crowd gathered around us and began asking if they could have their pictures taken with us. We felt like celebrities, I guess we drew attention because we were obviously foreigners. They explained to us that that prosperity would come to them if they have a picture taken with us so I guess we are now celebrities amongst Sikh families! Although we looked different and came from a far away country we had a common bond through our spiritual beliefs. We were connected through the gift of the teachings of Gurus.
We are all one— Wahe Guru!