Nicole and I reached a turn in the road and stood facing down the avenue towards Amritsar’s Golden Temple. The domed roof stood out over a grand, white marble building, the high sun glinting off the gold clad structure.
We started forward towards the Sikh’s most holy place and a swarm of hawkers descended on us en-masse. Offers of taxi rides, postcards and toys that went “squeak” were most common, but we were also offered a selection of different coloured handkerchiefs. It turns out these were to wrap into bandannas that would cover my hair as I would not be allowed in with it exposed! I chose a plain white one and then we deposited our shoes in the secure cages before falling in step with the worshippers and walked down the cold white marble to the entrance.
As we approached the main gateway we had to ford a warm tank of water which ‘cleansed’ us as we entered. Sikh guards stood in the gateway in pantaloons and tunics, wearing long swords at their hips. I threw one a smile and received a broad toothy grin in return. The marble steps led up through the gateway to a landing. We stood there at the top looking out over the inner courtyard in awe. Below us the steps led down to a huge water tank in the centre of which sat the Golden Temple, its marble structure topped with an astounding dome, gilded with 750KG of pure gold. A long bridge spanned the pool connecting to the inner temple and hosting a long queue of people awaiting entry.
We walked to the edge of the tank where large koi carp swam close to the surface of the water. We both stepped down into the holy water and soaked in the atmosphere. From a nearby building we could hear singing and chanting amplified across the pool. It’s said that the chanting never stops as there are always worshipers or monks present inside the inner temple to carry it on through day and night.
As we walked around the edge of the grand pool we found ourselves in the midst of a large Sikh flash mob. Suddenly there were people all around us, passing pails down to the edge of the pool, where they were filled and then returned back up the chain. Then the water was thrown down on the white marble as others with brushes came in from behind, sweeping the water along. This cleaning process passed by as quickly as it arrived, heading down the length of the pool, in a giant, endless loop. It seems the cleaning is almost as consistent as the chanting.
Further on we came to a large structure that the gathered Sikhs seemed quite intent on. Walking inside we saw many people sat on carpet praying toward a large window in which a solitary figure sat guarding a small pedestal covered in a shroud. Under this shroud we were told, was the original Sikh Holy Book; the Guru Granth Sahib which contains the teachings of the original ten gurus.
There was a definite sense of peace and tranquillity about the place, and Nicole and I sat for some time listening to the chanting before moving on to explore the city further.
As the sun set that evening, thousands of kites were launched into the sky. Children ran down the alleys pulling their strings and men stood atop the roofs of nearby buildings commanding theirs. This unexpected sight marked a perfect end to an amazing day.