In the Punjab state of Amritsar, lies the holiest Gurdwara (place of worship for Sikhs) and the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism – the Sri Harmandir Sahib, also known as the Golden Temple. Encompassing the Golden Temple complex is the manmade lake Amrit Sarovar, which translates to “Pool of Holy Nectar”. Many believe the lake to have healing powers, and devotees from all over the world come to bathe in its holy waters.
The temple was not golden at first. It had sustained several damages after constant persecution from different Muslim armies. In 1809, Maharaja Ranjit Singh rebuilt it in copper and marble. Later in 1830, the temple was overlaid with gold, with the top half made of about 750kg worth of gold. This then led to its popular name.
The Golden Temple has a unique architecture symbolising Sikh beliefs. Firstly, the temple was built lower than land level, representing humility and egalitarianism. It also has four entrances – north, south, east, west – denoting that everyone from all walks of life is welcome. Additionally, the temple also exhibits architecture influenced by Mughal and Indian styles.
“Fun Fact: The temple is considered holy to the extent that 35% of the devotees that visit are from religions other than Sikhism”
Traditional Sikh rituals are performed daily in the Golden Temple. These rituals treat the scripture as a living person — a Guru — out of respect.
This ritual is called the prakash, meaning “light”, and it occurs at around dawn every day. The Guru Granth Sahib, the religious scripture of Sikhism, is taken out of its bedroom and carried on the head, placed and carried in a palki with chanting and bugle playing across the causeway. It is then brought into the sanctum. After a ritual singing of Var Asa kirtans and ardas, a random page is opened and read out loud. This is the mukhwak of the day and written out for devotees to read over that day.
At the end of the day, the sukhasan occurs and takes part in a series of kirtans and three-part ardas. The Guru Granth Sahib is then closed, carried on the head, placed into and then carried in a pillow-bed palki, with chanting. Its bedroom is on the first floor, in the Akal Takht. Once it is there, the scripture is tucked into a bed.
In the Golden Temple Complex, you can also visit other historical establishments. These include the Central Sikh Museum, the Ramgarhia Bunga Towers, and many more. So what are you waiting for?