One of the most beautiful, tranquil, and spiritual places in India, the Golden Temple, also known as Shri Harmandir Sahib, is the holiest shrine in all of Sikhism. Nestled at the heart of the beautiful city of Amritsar in Punjab, the Golden Temple is one of the most visited religious places in India, and not just by the locals, but by tourists from across the globe. The stunning golden façade of the temple, its intricate architecture, surrounding serene pond, and the daily Langar (community kitchen) is what keeps the visitors and devotees visit the place again and again. The Golden Temple welcome devotees and visitors from all religions and faiths and serves over 1 lakh people everyday in langar from all walks of life.
The part where the shrine is located is the main temple which is the part of the expansive complex known Harmandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib to the Sikhs.All the edges of the compound are surrounded by some more shrines and small monuments and the spiritual focus is the Amrit Sarovar, the water tank that encloses the shimmering central shrine. The Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs, is placed inside the shrine every morning and is kept back in the Akal Takht (timeless throne), which is the temporal seat of the Khalsa brotherhood, every night. the ceremony is called Palki Sahib and is done only by men. There is a Sikh Museum inside the main entrance clock tower which depicts the oppression faced by the Sikhs during the Mughal empire, the British Raj, and the Central Government of 1984. The Golden Temple is a significant part of the Sikh community and I visited by every Sikh once in the lifetime no matter where they live. The peace and solace it offerwhile you sit beside the Amrit Sarovar is something worth experiencing once in the lifetime,and to collect that memory to rejoice forever.
Guru Ram Das the disciple of the third Guru of the Sikh tradition (Guru Amar Das) acquired the land for the site where the Golden temple was built, around the year 1574, but its construction was initiated in 1581 by Guru Arjan who was the Fifth Guru of Sikh tradition. The temple took 8 years to be built and completed.
But this drew the attention of Mughals who were ruling India at the time, and the temple was seized by them. In 1762, the Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Durrani had the Golden Temple blown up with gunpowder.
Two year after this, in 1764, Baba Jassa Singh Ahluwalia – a prominent Sikh leader, collected donations to rebuild the sacred Golden Temple, and eventually a new main gateway called Darshan Deorhi, and sanctum were built by 1776 and the floor around the pool which was made for the temple earlier was completed in 1784, after which a canal was done to bring in fresh water for the pool from the nearby Ravi River, finally completing the construction. In the 19th century, the inverted lotus-shaped dome was inlaid with 100kgs of gold and decorative marble, which was overseen by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a legendary warrior king fondly remembered by the Sikh community. In 1984, the then Prime Minister of India ordered an attack on the armed Sikh militants hiding inside the Golden Temple. In that attack, over 500 people died, and the temple premises faced sever damage which was repaired by the Sikh community who denied the help of Central Government and brought back the beauty of the Golden Temple.
Though a Sikh temple, the Golden temple’s architecture is a mixture of Indo-Islamic Mughal and the Hindu Rajput architecture. It appears to be floating at the end of a causeway and has an elegant marble at the lower level that is adorned with animal and flower motifs in pietra dura work, which can also be seen on the Taj Mahal. The second level is a stunning floor delineated in detailed carved gold panels and topped by a 750kg gold gilded dome. Just outside the inner sanctum sits the musicians and the priests who are incessantly chanting the Guru Granth Sahib making the atmosphere even more religiously intense.
The Harmandir Sahib (central temple) is joined to the pathway by a marble causeway known as the Guru’s Bridge. This path depicts the journey of the soul after death. The tank at the center of the compound is supported by marble stairways and is considered to have healing powers that can cure many skins related and other diseases.
While visiting the stunning Golden Temple, make sure you taste the scrumptious and pure prasad served here in the temple premises and offer your service as well. The temple has the largest kitchen in the world where meal is cooked for over 1 lakh devotees and visitors every day from every walk of life and every faith.
Guru Ka Langar is a gigantic dining room situated at the southeast end of the temple complex. Although the food is served is served free of charge, the pilgrims often make donations or offer to help in the kitchen with either making the rotis, washing the dishes, or serving food. This humbling projection of the Sikh hospitality is seen all around the world but here in Golden Temple it is on another level, catering to everyone from poor people to millionaires. The food served is pure vegetarian to maintain equality and the kitchen is often touted as the World’s Largest Free Kitchen.
Amritsar city is very famous for this temple and once people are in the city, it is not at all difficult to get to the temple. Auto rickshaws, cabs or buses can be hired within the city to reach the temple.
People can reach Amritsar by:
The golden temple has no entry fee for visitors and devotees, but it does have some rules that if visitors do not follow are considered disrespectful and will be denied entry.
Displaying a stunning golden façade that is enhanced by the pristine blue lake, the Golden Temple is a delight to the eyes and the soul, with its staggering beauty that rejoices its intensely religious aura, that engulfs you into a different domain away from the chaos of the street outside.