Amritsar, India -The Golden Temple and Judgement of the Sikhs

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The Golden Temple an India Must See

Amritsar and the Golden Temple was on or radar. There were a few reasons this was so.  We had seen an Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown show in Punjab, India and it seemed interesting to us to visit the Sikh spiritual center.   Amritsar is in the province of Punjab and we really thought it would be a must see place,  due to Anthony's show on the subject.  We had tried to get there earlier in the month, and getting there by train would have put us out-of-the-way and off schedule.  Now, we were able to book from Agra with a night train to Amritsar and see the Golden Temple. 

We hopped an afternoon train to Amritsar, a 16 hour train getting us there in the morning of the next day. We couldn't check into our hotel in Amritsar until noon and got there at about 8am. So stored our bags at the hotel and walked around the city. We immediately felt out-of-place in Amritsar. Amritsar is the Sikh holy city and the Golden Temple is their crown jewel in the crown of India. There is also the Wagah Border with Pakistan.  One other place was the restaurant that Anthony Bourdain ate at in Amritsar in his Punjab, India No Reservations Episode. These two places can be found our post of the Wagah Border.

 

 

 

Line To The Golden Temple

Golden Temple

Not Liking Amritsar

We didn't like the city of Amritsar and wanted to see what there was to see... and get out.  In many ways, we felt judged for being there.  Yet, we had to see the Golden Temple and sucked up any insecurities we had.  In the morning we went to the Golden Temple.  The temple was very crowded on Saturday, yet very beautiful.

The line to actually walk into the temple in the middle of the complex was hours long, and people were literally pushing each other in what looked a lot like a cattle lot, probably smelled that way too.  The Golden Temple is on an "island"  with a walkway leading to it from the outer banks of the shallow man-made lake (Pool of the Nectar of Immortality) around it. We decided not to do that, and just walked around and snapped a ton of pictures.

 

 

The Golden Temple And Pond

Golden Temple

Temple History

The Golden Temple is the spiritual center for the Sikhs. The main temple in the middle of the pond is called "The Harmandir Sahib" meaning the "Temple of God" Also, whoever bathed in the pond will obtain  spiritual and temporal blessings.   The center of the Temple houses the Guru.  The guru isn't a person, but book.  At any given time, 100,000 to 300,ooo visitors can visit the temple.  Today, I would think there were at least that.  The Golden Temple also holds the Akal Takht (the throne of the timeless one).  The Akal Takht is the seat of God's temporal authority here on earth according to the Sikhs. 

 

 

Shoe Drop Off

Golden Temple

Washing Our Feet

Golden Temple

What to Know

The temple is beautiful and the area around the temple is clean. With all Sikh temples worldwide, the Harmandir Sahib is open to all persons regardless of their religion, colour, creed or gender. There are restrictions however:

  • Maintain purity of the of the temple and body:
    • No shoes.  You check in our footwear in one of the largest shoe check places on the planet before entering.  
    • No drinking alcohol, eating meat, or smoking cigarettes.
    • Upon entering the temple you must wash your feet.
  • What to wear:
    • Full body must be covered, no shorts
    • Everyone must cover their head.  Men and women alike.  Cheap scarves are for sale if you don't bring one.
  • How to act:
    • Respect must be given by no loud talking, laughing or acting the fool  This is a very holy place and they demand reverence.
    • Begin at the information office (where you check your shoes) 
    • The Sikhs preach all acceptance of anyone regardless of age, sex, caste system, color, or any other differences. We found this to be true in the Temple, but not necessarily the belief on the street outside the temple (3 blocks away) where we smoked a cigarette.  

 

 

One of the soup kitchens

Golden Temple

The Longest Run and Largest Soup Kitchen

The Golden Temple also runs one of the largest free kitchens in the world.  They can serve over 100,00 people a day a mean that consists of soup and bread.  They have these stations on the four corners of the temple complex.  This was quite the revolutionary ideal in the 16th century when it was instituted.  Back then, caste systems prevented people from interacting with each other and sitting down to a meal with someone of a lower caste was unheard of.  

What Every Sikh Must Do

Although we didn't like Amristar, we liked the Golden Temple Complex.  We felt as if were being judged in the city at times by the Sikhs. This puzzled us for they preached such acceptance in the temple complex.   The religion preaches one thing and some of the people do another.   There are 5 main five articles of faith for the Sikhs that they must adhere to:

  1. Kesh:   Never cut your hair {Face or Head) and keep it under the turban.  The turban is a spiritual crown as is the hair.  
  2. Kangha:  Comb your hair twice a day with a small wooden comb (called a Kangha) and worn only in the hair under the turban. Reminding them to keep their life organized and tidy.
  3. Kara:  Wear an Iron bangle (bracelet) at all times.  It's to remember that whatever done with the hands is in the name of god.
  4. Kachera: Undergarments that show true chastity.  Some Sikhs even bathe in it. It symbolizes self-respect and control over lust.
  5. Kirpan: You must always wear a short knife or sword. This symbolizes a Sikh's duty to come to the defence of those in peril.

Change In Perspective

It is amazing that the Sikhs practice such a religion that interferes with your daily life in such a way.  Many religions of the world have similar things, however the Sikhs bring it to another level.  Can you image following devoutly these 5 things.  I am sure there are more restrictions, including what you eat and when.  It amazes me that people follow religion with such devotion.  
 
Traveling exposes us to religions and people who are not like ourselves.  It is hard to understand and we can judge them the same we felt judged by the people of Amritsar and Sikhs in general.  Maybe we weren't being judged at all, and our own prejudice was interfering in our beliefs on the people on a whole.  Maybe we were only judged by a few "bad apples".  We can't judge a whole group of people based on the actions of a few.  Tolerance and becoming non-judgemental is the "Golden Lesson" from the "Golden Temple".  

Golden Temple Video

Golden Temple Photo Gallery

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3 thoughts on “Amritsar, India -The Golden Temple and Judgement of the Sikhs

  1. Wow.. Really impressed with ur blog and how indepth u have researched on places and their importance. Good going buddy..

    1. Thank you Pat! I appreciate the nice comment. We really do try to research where we are going and assimilate ourselves as much as we can into the culture of an area. We feel that to simply visit a place isn’t enough. We really want to learn about the place and sample the culture. Thanks for stopping by.

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