Text and pix by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai
Amritsar, which literally means “pool of ambrosial nectar”, is popularly known for Harmandir Sahib (Temple of God or Abode of God) as it’s formally called or the Golden Temple. It is the most sacred temple, and a place of pilgrimage for Sikhs.
Sikhism emerged in the north western state of Punjab region of India in the 15th century. The temple construction work was started in December 1585 AD, and was completed in August 1604.
There are four entrances to the temple, symbolic of the openness of Sikhs towards people from all religions. Pilgrims have to walk on the white marble barefoot, after dipping, and wetting their feet in a pool of water at the entrances. Despite the heavy winter weather, pilgrims from all parts of India, and elsewhere throng the Golden temple to invoke blessings.
Pilgrims walk slowly along the sacred pool, while chanting. Religious chanting by the Sikh clerics adds fervor to the freezing cold. The picturesque Golden temple stands shining in the busy city of Amritsar, which borders Pakistan.
The temple has unique Sikh architectural features, and gold coating.
Men in Amritsar wear turbans in vivid colours such as red, orange (mostly) and yellow, and long beards. The temple stands tall with the Nishan Sahib (holy triangular Sikh flag), and visible from a distance. A wholesome vegetarian meal is served daily for lunch at world’s largest free eatery, Langar hall or community kitchen at the Golden temple. According to the temple trustee, “80,000 pilgrims eat on a weekday, while 160,000 people eat on a weekend”.
Volunteers help in community cooking and serving. It’s a Sikh tradition to serve free meal to all the pilgrims, no matter what faith they belong to. Sikhs strongly reject the caste system.
Tension grew between the Government led by late Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi and Sikhs in 1984. She ordered to storm the Golden Temple, where many Sikh separatists were hiding. Hundreds (possibly thousands including civilians caught up in cross fire) of people have been killed during the “Operation Blue Star”, at the Golden Temple, which took place during the first week of June in1984, and the temple was damaged, and repaired later.
A memorial shrine is currently being built around the corner to honour those who were killed (martyrs), except the Indian security forces.
A devotee prays at the Golden Temple in Amritsar
Harmandir Sahib is the Gurdwara worship of the Sikhs
Notice to the pilgrims
Golden Temple is a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life, and all religions
A view from afar
Religious items are sold in the vicinity
Pigeon drinks water from the sacred pool
Pilgrims at Golden Temple
Most Sikhs visit Amritsar and Harmandir Sahib at least once in their lifetime
“Kirpan” ~ ceremonial Sikh short sword, one of the articles of faith for sale at a shop in Amritsar
Occupy dome ~ pigeons sit on the temple dome during winter
A vendor is seen busy reading the newspaper near the Golden Temple
Golden Temple is the supreme centre of Sikhism
Harmandir Shaib watch tower
Singh selling orange triangular Sikh scarves to be worn to the temple
A distinctive appearance of the Golden Temple
Man driven Rickshaw taking pilgrims to the temple
Pilgrims throng the temple during heavy winter