Why I Love The Golden Temple
(And You Should, Too!)
It was the year 2008. I had newly switched over from my first job. From the hectic production schedule of Asian Paints, now I had finally bagged something which I loved to do: Marketing. This company, called Ozone, had been involved in water treatment solutions.
I was assigned New Delhi to start with. I worked hard; things clicked and within a year I was delegated entire North India.
Golden temple, Amritsar was one of our esteemed clients. Since it was under North Zone, I was the single point of contact for all maintenance related activities. This was a very important part of after-sales process. Mom-dad had visited there earlier (same year) and couldn’t stop singing its praises. I was equally excited to visit the place, known as the spiritual and cultural hub for Sikh religion.
Arriving at Amritsar
When the tour was finally scheduled, I took my usual luggage and expected some ruckus at the airport just like visiting any other city in India. I was a frequent traveller and was pretty used to negotiating with taxi drivers in such situations. I thought Amritsar would be another case of those bargaining conflicts one has to undergo while traveling. As soon as I exited the airport, a Sikh cab driver (must be in his late fifties) greeted me with a smile and asked where I wanted to go. He was very polite and offered to put my luggage in the cab.
India has always been a culturally rich country. Kids are brought up learning basic etiquettes on how to respect elders. That’s why, when the cab driver offered to lift my luggage, the very thought of some elderly person doing an activity of physical exertion made me restless. I immediately protested and carried my suitcase. He just laughed and still helped me put the luggage in the cab.
My discomfort with the novelty of the place was soon eased by his delightful conversation. In fact, when I told him that my company was involved in cleaning the water of Golden Temple, he was so happy that he refused to take the cab-fare out of goodwill. Eventually we reached our destination. I was pleasantly surprised by such unexpected friendliness and so decided to take down his contact number to stay in touch and later succeeded in giving him a tip.
And there it was; the religious abode to all Sikhs- the magnificent grand- Golden Temple!
I was awestruck by the sheer aura of the place. It was so serene. Golden Temple is considered as the spiritual center of the world’s fifth largest religion: Sikhism. It was a different but powerful experience!
I was astonished to see the architectural beauty of the building and the super clean and clear water surrounding it (also called Amrit Sarovar or the pool of nectar), despite having such an enormous number of visitors every single day! The water is said to have spiritual properties. I really felt proud that my company’s water treatment services were being used for such a noble cause.
The unusual architecture of the temple from outside made me wonder if the entire building is actually floating on water. In fact, the first floor is submerged in the lake, which can only be seen during Kar Sewa when the pool is drained and cleaned by volunteers. Kar Sewa is a practice followed by Sikhs to encourage humility and kill ego by serving as a volunteer because a volunteer should never talk about his/ her work and should complete any work allocated with a spiritual frame of mind.
The day to day activities of Golden Temple are carried out mostly by volunteers or the Kar Sewak. It can be cleaning every nook and corner or serving Langar (food) at the Community Kitchen to almost 75,000–1,00,000 people at a time!
Wait! Who said there are no free lunches in the world? ;)
The warmth of the people, the taste of the food, the efforts of the volunteers, can be overwhelming. You’ll be touched by the dedication of the community servers who offer voluntary services and prepare delicious food for all who visit, without compromising hygiene and cleanliness. Volunteers from all over the world visit this place. There is always enough food, and no one is ever, EVER turned away!
How it all started
I was awestruck with everything about this place so I tried reading more about Golden temple’s origin and history. It is said that Buddha spent some time there, and later the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, meditated at the Lake. It was constructed under the aegis of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the Fifth Sikh Guru.
I guess the best part was that the Nanak V invited his great contemporary mystic and Muslim savant, Mian Mir, to lay the foundation stone of the temple. He wanted to build a common place of worship for the Sikhs. This wish laid the foundation of the building and consequently, he designed the architecture of the temple. It’s architecture draws on both Hindu and Muslim artistic styles. Thus amalgamating a unique structural wonder, a co-evolution of the two.
The building is mostly made out of marble but is gold plated which covers most of the outside area. The place displays rare works of craftsmanship of fine art by Sikh Artists. The beautiful designs portraying, birds, animals, flowers have been engraved in marble and then speckled with flamboyant semi precious stones, that constitutes an amazing art work. In Golden Temple, one can find life everywhere in the shape of human beings, birds, animals and flowers. On the ground floor, in the interior hall, is the Holy Book: Guru Granth Sahib, placed under a magnificent canopy, studded with jewels.
It is the central religious text of Sikhism, considered by Sikhs to be the final, sovereign guru among the lineage of 11 Sikh Gurus of the religion. Amazing! Isn’t it?
Food, food .. FOOD!
The Staff of the Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee who took care of the temple was gregarious and kept me entertained throughout the visit. I remember one of them, (fondly called Sardaarji) was the caretaker of my room. Every morning he would bring fresh breakfast and sit with me. He would tell me about his life, aspirations, connection with Golden Temple, the motivation to serve and everything else.
I still think of how Sardaarji used to keep urging me to eat more, putting extra portions in my plate. This is one of the peculiar things about our country. We love expressing love via food. It can be an introvert father to his son, or the mother-in law to a newly married groom. It can be your co-passengers in the train journey or the regular neighbors inviting you for some chitchat.
Food connects people like nothing else in our country.
All in all, it was a great experience visiting the place. I kept coming back during my tenure as a marketing manager with Ozone not just for business obligations but more for the sense of belongingness I felt with Golden Temple.
Other projects came in the meantime and eventually I resigned from the company to pursue higher education. Then one fine day, I went out with my friends to watch this movie called Rang De Basanti. It was a politically charged Bollywood film with rebel music (by A.R. Rahman) and superb cinematography and action aimed in particular at today’s youth.
Ik Omkar- the mesmerizing chant
There is a scene in the movie in which the characters visit Golden temple; the soulful music of Ik Omkar Satnam is played in the background. Ever since then, every time I listen to this chant, it makes me feel positive from the inside out. Perhaps this is the reason I even kept it as my phone’s ringtone for almost three years in a row!
Even today, whenever I listen to this beautiful song, there’s an instantaneous feel good vibe that I experience.
Golden temple has been one of the best places I’ve ever visited in my life so far and the tranquility one feels in the temple is reflected in the entire city. Probably that’s the reason the Sikh driver was so selflessly humble, the lovely Sardaarji; the organizers of the committee were so polite and everything seems so perfect when one visits the city of Amritsar. Those chants of Wahe guru ji da khalsa, wahe guru ji di fateh (Wonderful Lord’s Khalsa, Victory is to the Wonderful Lord) sound so refreshingly serene. And everybody engulfed in its aura can feel something immensely positive and spiritual about Amritsar. Ah! I think it’s time for another trip. :)
Disclaimer: I’m neither a theist by beliefs nor a Sikh by religion. But one thing is for sure: I love Golden Temple! I love everything about it. If anything I posted here is religiously not correct, please forgive my ignorance and feel free to contact for any modifications. Cheers!