Golden Temple

Golden temple is perhaps the most important destination in Sikhism. It has actually become a symbol  of the religion with its shining gold an attractive sight in the simmering in a bright sunlight as well under artificial lights at night.

Mughal emperor Akbar, impressed with the ideology and thoughts of Guru Nanak and Guru Angad, granted some land to Guru Angad’s daughter on her marriage. His son-in-law after some years built a water tank on one of these lands. Later a temple – the Golden temple and then a city – Amritsar was built around that water tank. 

Though the temple was brought into the present shape after many years by Maharaja Ranjit Singh (the temple was destroyed multiple times by the invading Afghans), but the ideology for it to be a symbol of a new faith is sown in the building plan.

Sikhism was born out of a combination of Hindu and Muslim religions. But Guru Arjun gave it a distinct identity and Golden temple is an example of that.

In a Hindu temple, a person has to climb stairs to reach the prayer hall. The golden temple was specifically designed such that people have to climb down the stairs from the road level. Also, generally Hindu temples have one entrance whereas the Harimandir as it is also called has 4 entrances.

Interestingly, the four doors symbolize the four castes of Hindus – Kshatriya, Brahmin, Shudra and Vaishya. It symbolized that the doors were open to all who wished to enter.

The philosophy still stands today and the temple is visited by people from multiple religions, castes and nations. It obviously is one of the most important pilgrimage destination for the Sikhs.

The experience of visiting the temple, though was not so great the last time around :

Strengthened Beliefs.. err.. Non-Beliefs

It was 3 years ago, at the time I was leaving Chandigarh to Join Infosys, Hyderabad, that I went to a Gurudwara/ Mandir on extreme insistence of my parents. It happened again, today when again I am set to leave Chandigarh. It was a trip to Golden Temple, Amritsar this time. There was an unordinary rush at the most important pilgrimage place for Sikhs. The first thing that struck me, apart from the scorching heat was lack of any kind of security system – anywhere. While there were around 40 – 50 Thousand people, I couldn’t spot a single policeman. To plan and execute some bad things seemed to be the easiest thing to do there. The next thing to notice was the enormous rush of people. There were huge lines and average time a person took to get 2 minutes in front of the Guru Granth Sahib in the main complex was rumored to be 4 hours. We had some VIP ‘contacts’ which reduced our ‘turnaround time’ to 30 minutes.

This thing led to confusion for me. You go to a religious place to pray, pay homage, thank god or ask for His blessings. But there too one doesn’t have the patience to stand for his turn. All this basically becomes a ‘task’ which has to be completed. Not that I am targeting people who have VIP influences. Even the one standing in line is not by choice. Given a chance he will jump to take the advantage. While, as VIP you bypass the line, you get jealous and sometimes angry looks from the ones standing in lines. Who wants to stand in long lines, in so much heat?
Even inside, in front of the sacred book, while paying obeisance, there is so much pushing and pulling to get ‘close to God’. So much that even if one wants to pray in silence for a minute, he can’t. Seconds later, you will experience a push here and a nudge there.

Who has the time man?? Get over with it quickly. It’s a task. After completing this task, you have the next task ready – to manage a touch at the sacred tree. And then to get a sip of the holy water, a dip in the ‘sarovar’. You fight your way through all these and emerge a winner. At the end you are satisfied – not because you feel spiritual or at peace with yourself but of finishing all tasks in record time (courtesy VIP connections)

Carvings on the Golden Ceilings
Ironically, my beliefs in being a non-religious person were strengthened today. There was not a single moment after entering the complex that I closed my eyes or folded my hands – not even while kneeling down and paying the customary obeisance. For me, it was just an opportunity to see a historical place, admire the beauty and click a few photos to put in Orkut and blog. But unfortunately, there were problems even with that. Inside the main building, as I stood admiring the precision and accuracy with which a pattern was carved out, I was quickly shoved off as I was blocking the line. May be going to Jalianwala Bagh and Wagah Border could have been more satisfactory for me.

Photo to put in Orkut 😉