Destination: The Golden Temple, Amritsar
The Golden Temple is the
ultimate Sikh pilgrimage. The Harmandir Sahib, as it
is traditionally known, actually means the temple of
Hari or the Supreme God. Also known as the Darbar Sahib,
the stupendous, architectural masterpiece is located
in the city of Amritsar. The temple stands in the middle
of a square tank known as the Amrit Sarovar (Pool of
There is a causeway across
the Pool of Nectar to reach the Temple. The shrine is
symbolical of the doctrines of Sikhism. It also represents
the magnificent strength of all the Sikhs. The amazing
thing about Harmandir Sahib is that it has doorways
on all four sides, meant to be open for the people of
all the four castes. Every devout Sikh looks forward
to visit and offer prayer at this magnificent temple
Guru Arjan Dev thought
of building a central place of worship for the Sikh
community. In 1588, after finalizing the design of the
Darbar Sahib, he laid down the foundation of the temple
himself. His followers started living in the adjacent
area and the town of Ramdaspur came up. The town of
Ramdaspur later came to be known as Amritsar, deriving
its name from the holy pond that beautifies the area
surrounding Hari Mandir. The planning to dig the holy
tank or Amrit Sarovar was made by Guru Amar Das. However,
the construction of the tank took place under the supervision
of Baba Budha ji. The land for the site was acquired
free of cost from the zamindars (landlords) of native
villages. The first Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh made
Amritsar his spiritual capital. He developed the temple
further including the gilding of the embossed plates,
renewing of the pietra dura and the embellishment of
the ceilings with the mirror and floral designs.
WHEN TO VISIT
Normal: Throughout the year
Special Event: The Golden Temple becomes
a hub of activity during the Gurpurbs when pilgrims
throng the shrine in large numbers
The Golden Temple is located
in the old city, which is south of the railway station
of Amritsar. From the station, one can hire a cab for
the shrine. The airport is situated 12 km northwest
of the town. Taxis can be hired from the airport to
reach the temple. The Amritsar bus stand is located
to the northeast of the Harmandir Sahib.
Visiting the Darbar Sahib is an enthralling experience.
Some characteristic rituals are required to be followed
here, which are simple and peace promoting. At the Golden
Temple, a day comprises of the following activities:
2.The Harmandir Sahib
3.Parkarma Shrines and Ath Sath Tirath
4.Decorated Palki and Sawari
5.Parkash Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji
7.Rahras and Arti
Amrit Vela means the pre-dawn moment—the time when the
clock strikes four in the morning. The pilgrims wake
up and start preparing for a serene early morning visit
to the Darbar Sahib. After reaching the temple entrance,
one must take off their shoes at the ‘shoes counter'.
The next step is to dip one's feet at a channel of running
water. On the way to the temple, there are lined-up
flower stalls for one to buy garlands or just fresh
flowers for offering.
The sublime shrine is reached by descending a flight
of marble stairs. The idea is to teach humility to mankind.
The staircase leads to the parkarma, where the inspirational
and awesome Harmandir Sahib is situated in the center
of the Sarovar. Naturally, one is inclined to bow down
to touch the cool marble with their foreheads. To go
around the entire parkarma, one has to start from the
left and stop at shrines on the way, before making it
finally to the Harmandir.
The Parkarma Shrines and Ath Sath Tirath
The Dukh Bhanjani Ber is the very first shrine on the
parkarma. It is actually built around a jujube tree.
Legend has it that a dip in the sacred pool inexplicably
cured a crippled youth. The Sikhs believe that a visit
to the temple remains incomplete without bathing at
The next stop is a raised marble platform, known as
the Ath Sath Tirath. It is believed that taking a bath
near it fulfils one's wish of visiting the 68 holy places
of India. The next corner has the shrine of Baba Deep
Singh, the legendary old warrior who died at this spot.
The names of Sikh martyrs who died in the wars are inscribed
on marble tablets set in the floor of the parkarma or
on the pillars of the verandahs. The Akal Takht and
the Darshani Deorhi are the next destinations for the
The Decorated Palki and Sawari
Now begins the ceremony of bringing down the Guru Granth
Sahib. For the occasion, a gold and silver palki (palanquin)
is prepared. Attendants lay down fresh sets of silk
and brocade coverings, and sprinkle rose water.
The head priest of the Harmandir appears with the Guru
Granth Sahib on a cushion on his head. The event is
marked by the drumbeat of the Nigara.
The procession solemnly moves across the plaza, through
the Darshani Deorhi, and along the causeway, stopping
as it reaches the main door of the Harmandir. The head
priest reverently lifts the Guru Granth Sahib out of
the palki, places it on a silk cushion on his head,
and enters the holy shrine.
Parkash is the ceremony in which the head priest carries
the Guru Granth Sahib to its place of honor, which is
a place below the velvet canopy, richly brocaded in
silver and gold. He then sets it on velvet cushions
and silks placed on a manji sahib. Then the head priest
sits in front of the Holy Book and reads it aloud the
Vaaq (the Lord's message) to the sangat (congregation).
Now it is time for the entire sangat and the sewadars
to stand up for the Ardas (prayer). The shabad kirtan,
or the chanting of sacred verses, takes place after
The Har-ki-Pauri is the place to be visited after the
Ardas prayer. It is on the southern side of the inner
parkarma. There is a marble staircase leading into the
sarovar. Visitors stop here to sprinkle water from this
sacred pool into their heads. One can drink a little
bit of water for its remedial power also.
Continuing on the inner parkarma, the devotees again
bow towards the Guru Granth Sahib. Then they make way
back over the causeway, through the Darshani Deorhi
and onto the main parkarma. At this stage, one would
see the Ber Baba Buddha or the Tree Shrine. Baba Buddha
was the first head priest of the Harmandir Sahib
Rahras & Arti
The evening is a time for the devotees to come and listen
in deep thoughtfulness to the evening recitations. It
is time for the Rahras, the Arti and the shabad kirtan.
At end of the prayers, the Sri Guru Granth Saheb is
reverentially and royally carried to the palki waiting
outside. The palki is carried by dedicated Sikhs. The
grand Darshani Deorhi is shut down for the visitors
EVENTS AND FESTIVALS
The Golden Temple comes alive during the Gurpurbs. The
Gurpurbs are deeply ingrained in Sikhism. They are so
important that the Sikhs used to sacrifice their lives
in order to organize them. The primordial Gurpurbs are
the Dewali or Bandi Chhor Diwas (October/November),
Vaisakhi or Khalsa Sajna Diwas (March 30) and the Sahidi
Diwas that marks the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev (May/June).
The birthday of Guru Nanak is celebrated on Kartik Pooranmasi
day (which generally falls in November). Sikhs from
all over the world congregate at Harmandir Sahib to
celebrate the Guru's birthday. Another Gurpurb is the
birthday of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru, which
is celebrated with great devotion on Poh Sudi Saptami
Gurpurbs are generally celebrated for three days. Before
the actual date, Akhand Path is organized in the Gurdwara.
The procession of Nagarkirtan is held a day before.
This is led by the Panj Piyaras (five beloved ones)
and the palki (palanquin) bearing the Guru Granth Sahib,
both of which are followed by groups of kirtani. The
passage of the Nagarkirtan is bedecked with religious
posters, flags, and flowers. Kirtan Darbar and Amrit
Sanchar are held in the Gurdwara hall. The langar (food)
is served to the visiting devotees.
The Golden Temple authorities provide lodging at the
following sarais or rest houses:
1.Sarai Shri Guru Ram Das
2.Shri Guru Nanak Niwas
3.Shri Guru Hargobind Niwas
4.Shri Guru Arjan Niwas
5.Akal Rest House
Sarai booking has to be done seven days in advance.
HOW TO REACH
The nearest airport is the Raja Sansi Airport,12 km
northwest of town. Taxis are available there, to reach
the destianation Amritsar. There are flights that connect
Delhi, London and New York.
Those desirous of reaching Amritsar by trains, they
can reach the place from Delhi (447 km), Calcutta (1,855
km), Mumbai (1,843 km), etc. The Samjhauta Express also
connects Amritsar to Lahore in Pakistan.
All the major cities in the northern India are connected
by road with Amritsar. The major destinations include
Delhi (447 km), Shimla (322 km), Chandigarh (217 km),
Dehradun (392 km) and Jammu (219 km).