Calm and serene atmosphere is what you can expect when you visit the Golden Temple (also known as the Harmandir Sahib). Located in Amritsar, Punjab, this gurdwara (as a Sikh place of worship is called) is considered as the holiest place of worship by the Sikh community. There are certain festivals when you can see it being lit up with beautiful fire lamps and trust us, the view is just magnificent and breath-taking. Let us take you to a Golden Temple tour of this holy place which is one of the most important religious destinations of North India:
- Symbolic Architecture: The Golden temple has a symbolic architecture in such a way that it reflects the ideology of the Sikh religion. Sikhism believes in the equality of all human beings and this is very much evident as the Golden Temple has four entrances which symbolises that it is open for people coming from any race, religion or caste. The architectural style that has been employed in its construction is a mix of Muslim and Hindu style. Further, Harmandir Sahib has been built on the ground at a lower elevation than the surrounding area.
- World’s largest free kitchen: The Golden temple houses the world’s largest free kitchen. According to sources, 1,00,000 people (on an average) are served free food daily which is called as Langar (community kitchen). The food served includes chappatis (flat wheat bread) and dal (lentil soup) and it is served in one common eating hall, again reflecting the Sikh ideology of equality. Volunteers come from different parts of the country and also from abroad to show their devotion by serving lunch here.
- Rich embellishments: Canopy of the Golden temple is embellished with Gold and hence the name. This Golden plating was not there until Maharaja Ranjit Singh (Emperor of the Sikh kingdom) decided to do so out of his religious reverence (completed in the year 1830). Not only the gold plating but most of the other precious architectural ornamentation in the gurdwara was presented by the Maharaja himself.
- Sarovar: Golden temple is surrounded by a lake on all its sides which is called as the Sarovar. It is filled with amrit literally translating to holy nectar. Fed by the glistening waters of river Ravi, this lake is a place where calmness reigns supreme. The devotees bathe in this lake which is thought to have healing properties for the body and soul. It is interesting to note that the sarovar supports aquatic life as some exotic species of fish reside in it.
- Historical Importance: Golden temple is a historically important place for the Sikh community. It was here that the first of the Sikh Gurus and the founder of Sikhism: Guru Nanak Dev used to meditate. Guru Arjan (fifth Sikh Guru) conceptualised the thought of constructing a place of worship for Sikhs after which he started building work of the Harmandir Sahib in 1588. He also placed Adi Granth: holy book of the Sikhs inside the gurdwara.