Tuesday, August 06, 2019

India: Part 6 - Amritsar Golden Temple

Another incredible Amritsar experience - The Golden Temple, a celebrated pilgrimage site for Sikhism. Admittedly I didn't know much about the Sikhs, but I was ready to learn.

Once again I trusted in City on Pedals for my tour, and Rabia delivered again. This time we met up closer to where my hotel, around 3:30am. Crazy talk!


A handful of us were on this tour, and yes, it is worth getting up extra early to be there around 4am. It's magical. This place started getting built in the 16th century, and some attacks, rebuilding and updates kept going on for a few centuries.


We took off our shoes and left them outside, then covered our heads before stepping through a shallow pool to wash our feet. Then we entered through the white walls into the main complex. Side note - your feet get cold at 4am on marble floors.


And there's the golden place, completely encircled.

It's all so breathtaking.



We walked around the complex a bit, and Rabia told us about the history and about Sikhism. Their scripture is the Guru Granth Sahib, written by ten gurus.  Every day at this temple (and other Sikh temples), the scripture it taken out and opened to a random page, when then becomes like the saying of the day. People who are appointed as designated readers take turns reading this out over speakers during the day. We'd later see a ceremony where the book is brought out.

Sikhism is also a monotheistic religion, much unlike Hinduism, and selfless service is a huge part of their practice. I was amazed at how they do this. It is likely that when you pick up your shoes after a temple visit, they will have been cleaned and shined by volunteers. Also if you need a place to stay, you are welcome to come sleep at this temple. And on high holidays, they can feed up to 100,000 people here, three meals a day, all done by volunteers. It is absolutely incredible and a wonderful example.

Practicing Sikhs also carry five items with them, a small wooden comb, uncut hair (under a turban), a metal bracelet, a sword, and a special undergarment. Lots of symbolism here, but don't be afraid of the sword, instead turn to a Sikh if you need help and they will protect you.


After a bit we queued up to go inside the actual temple in the center. No photographs allowed, but there were people all over, sitting inside and out, reading scripture and listening to recitations. I can't imagine being up at 4am reading scriptures for a few hours. But maybe I should take some inspiration from this.



As we came out of the temple we noticed the crowd gathering for the 'prakash', when the Guru Granth Sahib is taken from a bed (after a nightly ceremony where it is closed and carried there) and moved into the main temple, where it is opened for the day.


The book is carried on a pillow and people throw rose petals as it moves across into the temple.






This place is so incredible. This video gives you a short glimpse into the sounds and movement of this place.








Most of these guys have swords. One of them really wanted to talk to me for some reason.


After our temple tour we headed into the dining and kitchen areas. All of this is free for anyone, all provided by volunteers.




Who even makes pots this large?



Chapatis!





And this machine is magical. 


Some final shots from the Golden Temple. Truly, what a place.



Our group. The American teacher at the nunnery is next to me. And the couple on the far right are travel bloggers on a journey through the world.


Leaving the temple grounds.

Sun coming up.



Breakfast! Puri and chana masala. Really good. Hot fresh bread and dipped in a yummy sauce.

After our temple tour ended, we went on a heritage walking tour of old Amritsar. I don't remember too many details about it, but the old buildings are really amazing. You should also read up on the Amritsar Massacre of 1919.










This photo of kids on their way to school is one of my favorites.










We climbed up narrow stairs to a courtyard to find this magical building.









Hazy skies - lots of pollution this time of year.

After a rest at the hotel, Liz (the teacher) and I went out shopping. We didn't last long with the noises and crowds and people hounding us (politely) to come into their shops.

I really wish I'd purchased this, but I was waiting for Jaipur fabrics. I still think about this, even though I don't quite know what I would do with it. The colors and pattern are just so beautiful.




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