The Golden Temple, Amritsar
All the spiritual and historical traditions of the Sikhs as well as faith and architectural brilliance converge from all directions at the Golden Temple, Amritsar. This soothing religious building stands in stark contrast to its surroundings that are crowded to say the least as the areas around the temple have developed according to the status of the shrine. However, the perimeter walls cocoon it from the crowded surroundings and protect the piety of the shrine.
Enter the temple complex and bow to the dominating white marble walls that sort of take you in their protective custody. The main shrine is surrounded by a water tank which in turn is surrounded by a broad pavement on which the pilgrims undertake a ritual walk round the shrine which is considered very sacred.
The water tank is called the Amrit Pool and the city Amritsar also takes its name from the same tank. The shining Golden Temple appears to be floating on the sparkling water surface.
There is no idol or image that is worshiped here, all it has is a holy book (Guru Granth Sahib) within a canopy that is decorated with gems.
Another tradition that needs to be noted is that of Langar which impressed even the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Langar is a common kitchen where people from all castes and religion are fed together. It was a far cry from the then prevalent system where the lower castes were prohibited from eating with people of higher caste.
Kar Sewa (voluntary work) is another instance of the community rising to give the society its due. In this system, everyone whether rich or poor get together in the service of the temple.
The water of the Amrit pool is considered very sacred and is famous for its healing powers. One notable thing about the Golden Temple and other Sikh shrines is that they are open to members of all communities and bar none from the blessings of the almighty.