The holy Amritsar is the largest city in Punjab and home to one of Sikhism’s most significant shrines – The Golden Temple. “Pool of the nectar of immortality”, Amritsar, was the name of the waters that surround the temple, and later became the name of the city that grew around it.
Even though modernized and polished to cater to the constant flow of tourists, Amritsar still holds onto its rustic roots to this day. From deep spiritual awakenings and life-lessons to light-hearted laughter and new friendships, the city has a lot to offer you. And the rising Golden Temple midst the still waters of a manmade lake is a great way to begin your journey here.
Sikhism was created by Guru Nanak in the 15th Century for he was utterly frustrated with the religious discrimination and caste system in the country and was looking for a way to be all-inclusive.
A thoughtful blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture, the holy site gilded in 750 kg of pure gold is built solely on that Sikh philosophy – One for all, and all for one. The positivity in the atmosphere is the first to acknowledge the visitors of the Golden Temple.
As you walk around the marble walkway, breathe in deeply the pleasant songs of the Sikh musicians, quiet chatter among families and the echoes of the priests singing from the holy book. A wandering traveller’s experience here is much more than just sight-seeing – It is quite exceptionally moving to say the least.
The Golden Temple’s heartwarming quality is what brings visitors from near and afar to bask in its warm glory. Every tradition and ritual here is made with good and giving intention. The temple is open every day at all hours throughout the year, which makes it, unlike any other temple experience.
The fact that the doors of the Golden Temple never closes for its visitors signifies a sense of home and acceptance. Amrit Sarovar, the pool that surrounds the temple is said to be sacred and a dip in the holy water is believed to offer physical and mental healing.
The fixed rituals at the temple are fascinating to watch and be a part of. One such ritual is the Palki Sahib ceremony, a grand procession in which the Sikh holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib is placed in a golden palki amidst chants and prayers and taken to the Akal Takhat for the night. A similar ceremony is held in the morning when it’s taken back to the temple for the day.
The temple most of all is known for its 450-year old tradition of feeding a free meal to anyone who is hungry and looking for comfort. The nonstop kitchen is the largest community kitchen in the world and has 300 permanent employees and 90% of volunteers who help prepare and serve vegetarian meals to the 60,000-80,000people that the temple feeds every day.
This is an experience that will tug at your heartstrings and change you for the better. Spend an afternoon serving food to the tired and hungry devotees at the temple, and feel your heart swell with gratitude with each smile that you get in return.
As you sit down on the ground to eat with everybody, from rich foreign travellers to local nomads, you will realize that in this humbling moment we are all the same. This philosophy of no judgment, expectation or egotism, is the true beauty of the Golden Temple.
While you’re in Amritsar take a short excursion to the Wagah Border for the Beating the Retreat Ceremony in the evening. India and Pakistan have always had a complex relationship, so it’s no surprise that the daily border-closing ceremony here is unlike any other.
Take a seat as the crowds on both sides of the border roar with enthusiasm, songs and chants of “Jai Hind” and “Pakistan Zindabad” By the end of this 22-minute ceremony of celebration and passionate patriotism, the soldiers put on a grand parade as the Indian and Pakistani flags are lowered on either side, and the gate between the countries closes for the night.
As you go about travelling in the city, make sure to try the hearty, ghee-laden delicacies that Amritsar is known and loved for. The city has some of the best age-old joints selling the softest Amritsari kulchas and succulent marinated tikkas!
The moving compassionate nature of the people in Amritsar and your experience of selflessness at the Golden Temple will bring a sense of joy that will last you a lifetime. Time at the Golden Temple is a blessing that is truly healing to the soul, mind and body.