Amritsar...Many treasures to behold...The Golden Temple...



The Golden Temple as seen through a decorative archway on the religious grounds of the historic Sikh location.
Yesterday morning, our highly competent Amritsar guide Amit, met us at our hotel to begin a walking tour of the historic city with a focus on the world famous Golden Temple of the Sikh people.

India's Sikh population is approximately 24 million, which is only 1.72% of the country's total population. Out of the total Sikhs in India, 77% are concentrated in state of Punjab, where we are now located.
We didn't go inside the Golden Temple when the queue could easily have resulted in waiting in the line for four hours. This photo is only a small portion of the queue.
Sikhism may be found predominantly in the Punjab state of India but Sikh communities exist on every inhabited continent, with the largest emigrant population being in United States, Canada and United Kingdom.

For a comprehensive view of the Sikh principles, which are too detailed for us to include here, please click here. We were fascinated when Amit explained the Sikh ideology, so far removed from the perceptions many possess about this and other religions of the world.
There are many rules surrounding the reading of the Holy Book, one of which includes, once the reading begins it cannot be stopped until completed. There is a 17 year waiting list to receive a copy of the sacred book. This and many other priests sit quietly day after day reading the sacred book written in a language few Sikhs are able to translate.
There is so many aspects to this faith, we could spend years attempting to explain it. However, the purpose of our posts is share our travel and daily life experiences, leaving little time or space to elaborate. The web provides literally millions of entries to further explain details and answer questions curious readers may possess.

In any case, Amit provided us with an overview that undoubtedly enhanced our experience of seeing the Golden Temple, its people and it exquisite surroundings.
Shoes are not allowed in the area of temple and women must wear scarves and men must wear some form of a turban.
Below, we've including history of the Golden Temple which may appeal to those fascinated with religious history.

From this site: "Sri Harmandir Sahib, also known as Sri Darbar Sahib or Golden Temple, (on account of its scenic beauty and golden coating for English speaking world), is named after Hari (God) the temple of God. The Sikhs all over the world, daily wish to pay visit to Sri Amritsar and to pay obeisance at Sri Harmandir Sahib in their Ardas.
Amit helped Tom fashion a turban. I thought he looked good with it!
Guru Arjan Sahib, the Fifth Nanak, conceived the idea of creating a central place of worship for the Sikhs and he himself designed the architecture of Sri Harmandir Sahib. Earlier the planning to excavate the holy tank (Amritsar or Amrit Sarovar) was chalked out by Guru Amardas Sahib, the Third Nanak, but it was executed by Guru Ramdas Sahib under the supervision of Baba Budha ji. The land for the site was acquired by the earlier Guru Sahibs on payment or free of cost from the Zamindars (landlords) of native villages. The plan to establish a town settlement was also made. Therefore, the construction work on the Sarovar (the tank) and the town started simultaneously in 1570. The work on both projects completed in 1577 A.D.

The land for the site was bought by the Guru Ram Das Sahib on payment from the Zamindars (landlords) of native villages.

Building are being renovated on the grounds of the Golden Temple.
Guru Arjan Sahib got its foundation laid by a muslim saint Hazrat Mian Mir ji of Lahore on 1st of Magh, 1645 Bikrmi Samvat (December, 1588). The construction work was directly supervised by Guru Arjan Sahib himself and he was assisted by the prominent Sikh personalities like Baba Budha ji, Bhai Gurdas ji, Bhai Sahlo ji and many other devoted Sikhs.

Unlike erecting the structure on the higher level (a tradition in Hindu Temple architecture), Guru Arjan Sahib got it built on the lower level and unlike Hindu Temples having only one gate for the entrance and exit, Guru Sahib got it open from four sides. Thus he created a symbol of new faith, Sikhism. Guru Sahib made it accessible to every person without any distinction of Caste, creed, sex and religion.

Two Sikh men standing at the edge of the holy body of water. Men and women bathe separately in this man made lake for its healing powers.
The building work completed in 1601 A.D. on Bhadoon Sudi 1st, 1661 Bikrmi Samvat (August/September,1604). Guru Arjan Sahib installed newly created Guru Granth Sahib, in Sri Harmandir Sahib and appointed Baba Budha ji as its first Granthi i.e. the reader of Guru Granth Sahib. After this event it attained the status of ‘Ath Sath Tirath’. Now the Sikh Nation had their own Tirath, a pilgrimage center.

Sri Harmandir Sahib, is built on a 67ft. square platform in the centre of the Sarovar (tank). The temple itself is 40.5ft. square. It has a door each on the East, West, North and South. The Darshani Deori (an arch) stands at the shore end of the causeway. The door frame of the arch is about 10ft in height and 8ft 6inches in breath. The door panes are decorated with artistic style. It opens on to the causeway or bridge that leads to the main building of Sri Harmandir Sahib. It is 202 feet in length and 21 feet in width.

During the year but especially during the heat of the summer months, metal glasses are used to serve tap water to visitors. The glasses are washed by these women using a trough of ash, not water.
The bridge is connected with the 13 feet wide ‘Pardakshna’ (circumambulatory path). It runs round the main shrine and it leads to the ‘Har ki Paure’ (steps of God). On the first floor of "Har Ki Pauri", there is continuous reading of Guru Granth Sahib.

The main structure of Sri Harmandir Sahib, functionally as well as technically is a three-storied one. The front, which faces the bridge, is decorated with repeated cusped arches and the roof of the first floor is at the height of the 26 feet and 9 inches.
As we walked down a road toward the temple.
At the top of the first floor 4 feet high parapet rises on all the sides which has also four ‘Mamtees’ on the four corners and exactly on the top of the central hall of the main sanctuary rises the third story. It is a small square room and have three gates. A regular recitation of Guru Granth Sahib is also held there.

On the top of this room stands the low fluted ‘Gumbaz’ (dome) having lotus petal motif in relief at the base inverted lotus at the top which supports the "Kalash" having a beautiful "Chhatri" at the end.

We walked through the old part of the town of Amritsar on our return to the hotel.
Its architecture represents a unique harmony between the Muslims and the Hindus way of construction work and this is considered the best architectural specimens of the world. It is often quoted that this architecture has created an independent Sikh school of architecture in the history of art in India."

Of course, we're excited to share photos we'd taken at the temple. Excessive photo taking is frowned upon, and thus we were discriminating in choosing what appealed to us most. 


Although not maintained many of these old apartments are still occupied, a few centuries after they were built.
Our few hours at the palace was enhanced by the knowledge and expertise of our guide, who works extensively with visitors of the US Embassy. We were truly honored to have him to ourselves for the day.

After the Golden Temple he walked us through back roads and narrow alleyways to further enhance the scope of our experiences. For us, seeing famous landmarks is certainly a huge plus but the ins and outs of "where the people live and interact" is equally important to us.

We were fascinated by the historic architecture.
In the early afternoon, we took a short break from the tour to allow us time to prepare and upload yesterday's post. By 2:15, Prince, our driver arrived and he and Amit took us to our next adventure, witnessing the closing ceremony of the equivalent of the "changing of the guard" and the nightly closing of the gates at the India and Pakistan border. Fascinating! We'll be back with photos and story in tomorrow's post.

Tomorrow morning, we're heading for the airport for a full travel day with two flights and a 2¼ hour layover in between. We don't expect to arrive at our hotel, the Hotel Ganges Grand in Varanasi until after 7:00 pm where we'll stay until February 20th when we'll fly once again Khajuraho. More on that later.

Back on the busy street we reveled in the strong cultural influences.
We had a fantastic day yesterday and we're enjoying a quiet day off today to work on our zillions of photos for today's and tomorrow's posts. 

Have a spectacular day, dear readers!

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