A memorable visit to Amritsar

Swarna Mandir or the Golden Temple in Amritsar is a place that I used to see only in Television and Movies but never felt that it is something that I can see in real too. Many a times we forget that this world is open for our exploration and we are happy to stick to a place. Certainly, except for the highly spiritual souls, it is necessary for all others to go out and have a look at this world and what people are doing everywhere. This is particularly true of geographies and travel is necessary in young age. Swami Vivekananda used to say, “There is nothing like nomadic life. I’m afraid I shall die if I have to stay at only one place for a very long time”

We included the Golden Temple in our itinerary and planned to visit there during the return journey from Amarnath.  Before going to Amritsar, we decided to stay in Anandpur Sahib. Anandpur Sahib is a place associated with the life of Guru Govind Singh, of whom Swami Vivekananda would proudly speak to everyone. He held hm in a very high esteem.  Anandpur Sahib gave us a brief idea of what to expect in Amritsar – devotees, faith, cleanliness, bhakti, reverence and beautiful music.  After staying in Anandpur Sahib for 2 nights, we started for Amritsar by train on the morning of the third day and reached reached there by late afternoon and got accommodation in Baba Deep Singh ji Niwas, a lodge associated with the Swarna Mandir.  We all went to see the Swarna Mandir at around 4:00PM. Swarna Mandir presents a remarkable view at the very first sight. A large pathway leading to the temple which is surrounded by a beautiful lake with 4 mammoth structures at the 4 directions makes it a grand sight. Suddenly this beautiful construction appears a holy place when you see the people around you. The Sikhs respectfully salute the temple by touching their forehead to the ground just on seeing the temple itself. When you see such reverence, you will also get much absorbed in their feelings and as you slowly walk towards the temple you will feel the touch of holiness, silence takes the place of sound and doubts make  way to faith. It’s just impossible to put in words what you experience when you enter the premises of the Golden temple. Unlike the Hindus, the Sikhs are quite silent and disciplined while entering their temple, something that the Hindus definitely need to learn.  As long as the temple is open, there will be continuous singing going on inside the Temple. That adds to the beauty and holiness of this place. As you stride slowly into the temple, you will notice the Sikh people displaying a great degree of respect and reverence to their holiest place of worship.

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The Golden Temple is surrounded by 4 such structures on 4 sides
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Golden Temple at Night
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Front view during the day time

The shrine is actually quite small and as you enter inside you will find the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs placed inside the shrine. Two singers complement each other exceptionally well and are accompanied by a Tabla player.  There is a provision for visitors to sit inside the worship place for sometime but that is usually full and therefore many people sit outside too.  The Swarna Mandir has two additional floors which serve as a complement to the shrine at the ground floor.  There is a provision for you to sit and meditate in any of these two floors.  On the way out of the temple, people take the Holy water from the lake surrounding the temple.  Swarna Mandir is exceptionally clean and is maintained well by a great number of volunteers. On one evening I saw more than hundred volunteers cleaning the temple premises. They had such devotion that some of them partook the water that flew during cleaning. Later I also saw one child, probably 3 years old assisting his grandfather in serving water to the visitors. The Sikh volunteer group consists of toddlers, children, young men and women and also the old people. It’s as if the best of Sikh culture and consequently that of Humanity is concentrated at the Golden Temple.  After having Darshan of the Swarna Mandir we went to the Langar maintained by the temple. This langar provides free food for 24 hours for the visitors. After having our food here, we went round the temple and saw the memorials built for various Sikh Heroes. They all tell a story – a story like no other,  a story of immense faith in one’s religion, of bravery, heroism and sacrifice.

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Food preparation at the Langar
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The food langar at the Golden Temple
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Volunteers washing the plates, glasses etc
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The plates are always ready

Guru Nanak ji is the spiritual centre of the Sikh community.  It was later when the Moghals invaded India and resorted to forcible conversion that Sikh Gurus found the necessity of taking up Arms along with spiritual books. Hinduism spiritual has almost nothing to do with Arms and one would be drawn to believe that Arms shouldn’t be a part of religion which is actually a wrong notion. Spirituality of course has nothing to do with Arms but when someone forces you to change your religion and comes with a sword in front of you, you need to defend yourself and your faith. That needed a sword.  Sikhs were bold enough to understand it.  A visit to the Sikh Museum almost made me faint and exhaust with emotions. What a sacrifice! Human beings cut like Animals just for the sake of religion, tortured no end. children happily embracing death over conversion, the brave Sikh warriors doing everything in their mite to protect their faith, to protect their people and also to protect even the Hindus!  As you see through these pictures, you would start thinking of the damage the Moghal rulers have done to the mankind.  If you really feel deep, the Swarna Mandir appears like one of holiest places on earth and every bit of dust and air at the place appears holy. The Sikh people appear as one of the most Heroic races that ever graced this beautiful earth.

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Baba Deep Singhji Memorial

 

 

During these 4 days, I could also visit the Jalian Wala Bagh where a mass murdering was carried out by the British.  About 2000 people who had assembled and were protesting peacefully at the Jalian Wala Bagh park during the Indian Freedom Movement were shot at and were killed in a most inhumane way.  This is always going to be a dark memory for our Nation. We, the children of India, are so oblivious of the sacrifice and suffering our freedom fighters and common men endured during the freedom movement. If you are a patriot, then you need to see all these. We also visited the Wagah Border and saw the evening parade. It was a great sight but too crowded. On the way back we met one Army Personnel by name Kashinath who was from Karnataka. It is always good to meet people who speak your language at a far off place.

Overall, it was a wonderful feeling to be at Amritsar. This is a place to which every human should visit and try to understand a very unique race in the history of mankind.  My respect for the Sikhs has gone up by one thousand times after visiting Amritsar. The Sikh youth in particular have the huge responsibility of carrying forward this wonderful legacy. All the Sikh Gurus are entitled for our respectful pranaams.   

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