The Golden Temple is a site nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the city of Amritsar of Punjab Providence. The site is one of India’s most popular attractions. On any given day, 50,000 worshipers and visitors come to this most significant shrine in Sikhism.
The name Golden Temple comes from the ornate gold foil covered sanctum (shrine). The temple is referred to as “Harmandir Sahib” which means “abode of God” or “Darbar Sahib” the “Biggest/Powerful Court”. Originally completed in 1577, the temple was destroyed several times by various Muslim and Mogul armies and rebuilt. As a result of the various rebuilding efforts, the temple, actually a collection of buildings around the sanctum and central manmade pool (sarovar), is now a mixture of several different architectural styles. The sanctum sits in the middle of the man-made pool and is attached to the shore by a pedestrian bridge. The story behind the construction of the temple is the Muslim Saint Mian Mir laid the first stones of the foundation at the request of Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Alternatively, others say that it was Guru Arjan Dev Ji himself who laid the first foundation stones. Either way, the story of the temple’s origins is interesting. While at the temple, be sure to visit the museum to learn more.
· Experience the calm and bliss. Listen to rhythmic chanting of Sikh hymns, prayers, and scripture readings. It is said that one can experience positive feelings even on the busiest and most crowded days at the temple.
· Expand your understanding. Hire a local guide outside the gates who will teach you about the temple, the Sikh religious order, the daily ceremonies, and more.
· Take in the sights. Explore this unique blend of Sikh, Islamic, and Rajputana architectural styles. And don’t forget to people watch. You will see people from all over the world.
· Snap some pictures. The Golden Temple looks amazing in the daylight looks even more amazing in the evening when the buildings are lit up.
· Experience the ceremonies. There are daily ceremonies at dawn and dusk. The morning ceremony is called Prakash. This when the Guru Granth Sahib (holy scriptures) is carried into the Gurudwara, a place of worship which translates to “the residence of the Guru or the door that leads to the Guru.” The evening ceremony referred to as Sukhasan is to "retire" the Sikh holy Scriptures for the day.
No visit to the Golden Temple would be complete unless you partake in the “Langar” or free kitchen. Langar is the Sikh term for a community kitchen in a Gurudwara. This free vegetarian meal is served to anyone regardless of their religion, caste, gender, economic status, or ethnicity by specially trained volunteers. The concept of Langer is, believed to have originated with the first Sikh Guru in 1500 AD as a means to uphold the principle of equality among all people. This concept of equality is further shown but taking the meal while sitting on the floor.
When you are done with the Golden Temple be sure to take in the local market of Amritsar which is world-famous for clothes and food. One can try the delicacies of Punjabi cuisine in the local street of Amritsar.
India is a huge country with many attractions but a visit to the Golden Temple and a tour of the local market will be well worth the trip.