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Amritsar Trips

  • Golden Temple, Amritsar
  • Golden Temple, Amritsar
  • The communal kitchen area of the Golden temple in Amritsar / Catherine Rawson

Amritsar (‘Pool of the Nectar of Immortality’) is named after the sacred pool in the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh sites. The temple is a haven amidst an essentially congested city. The atmosphere is particularly powerful at first light when the gold begins to shimmer on the water. You cannot help but be touched by the sanctity and radiance of the place, the friendly welcome of the people and the community spirit.

The temple has been sacred to the Sikhs since the time of the fourth guru, Guru Ram Das (1574-1581), who heard that a cripple had been miraculously cured while bathing in the pool here. Guru Arjan Dev (1581-1601) enlarged the pool, built the temple at its centre and installed the Adi Granth, Sikhism‘s holy text, here as the focus of devotion and teaching. Following the death of the 10th and last Guru Gobind Singh (1675-1708), the book took on the elevated status of Guru Granth Sahib (The Holy Book as Guru). In the 19th century, under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the roof and exterior of the temple were covered with gold, giving rise to the popular name, the ‘Golden Temple’.

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Every Sikh tries to visit the Golden Temple and bathe in the holy water. All pilgrims walk clockwise round the tank along the wide marble pavement, stopping at shrines and bathing at auspicious points on the way to the Harmandir or Golden Temple itself. This stands at the centre, beautifully reflected in the water that surrounds it, and is reached via a 60 metre long causeway built out of white marble like the lower floor of the temple.

The rest of the temple is covered in copper gilt. The golden roof has the modified onion-shaped dome, characteristic of Sikh temples. On the ground floor, the Holy Book rests under a jewel-encrusted canopy, while musicians sing verses from it continuously from dawn till late evening. Visitors are welcome to watch the vivid procession by which the holy book is taken each evening from the Harmandir to the Akal Takht, the building at the western end of the complex which represents Sikh temporal authority; it is returned to the Harmandir the following morning.

Other buildings house visitor hostels and a community dining hall where all temple visitors, regardless of their religious belief, can eat together. The vegetarian food is free and is served to as many as 10,000 people a day.

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