Visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar literally took my breath away. I know that’s a cliche, but in this case it is true. The Golden Temple had me gasping in two ways.
First, the glowing golden structure in the northern part of India called Punjab where the majority of the population is Sikh is absolutely stunning, especially when you see it and its reflections in the early morning light. Surrounded by white marble and a reflecting pond it is a “Wow.”
It’s also cold. It only took about 20 minutes for my Raynauds to kick in, leaving me gasping. Typically when you visit Eastern religion temples, you take your shoes off to enter the temple grounds. In this case, we had to walk through a small bathing pond and then walk on that gorgeous marble.
Since the temperature was about 30- 40 degrees it was cold. I have Raynaud’s (this syndrome causes your fingers and toes to feel numb and painful in response to cold temperatures) and it flared cutting my time to shoot photos at the water’s edge short where I had to stand on the freezing marble. I went off to find a spot with a warm floor. That I did.
But first let me tell you about the temple. The Golden Temple in Amritsar is the Sikh’s most holy place. It’s huge, actually a city within a city. Built on a spiritual site known for attracting folks to mediate, it was built in the late 1500s, drawing on both Hindu and Muslin artistic styles. It truly rivals the Taj Mahal as a “sight to see” when visiting India.
People come all day to pray and bath in the lake which is seen as a symbolic cleansing of the soul. They can enjoy a meal, and walk around the special pond known as the “pool of ambrosial nectar” and visit the actual temple within the grounds.
The Sikhs are fascinating people. The word Sikh means disciple or learner. The religion was founded in the 15th century by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and is distinct from Islam and Hinduism. They believe in three basic principles: meditating (praying) in the name of God, earning a living by honest means and sharing the fruits of one’s labor with others.
Sikhism rejects caste and caste systems and emphasizes service to people.
I’ll write more about the Sikhs when I do a post on turbans. You’ll see why then.
So, back to the issue of the cold feet. Since Raynaud’s is serious and challenging I knew I had to get someplace to warm up. I found Karl, our Tour Leader, and explained the situation. He took me to the baking area where they were making chapati (bread) for the 10,000 people who eat in the free kitchen every day. The floor was deliciously toasty.
My feet warmed up in no time and the tingling in my fingers went away. While waiting for this to happen I had a great time capturing the chapati making with my camera.
Remember the part about the Sikhs believing in volunteering and feeding people. They operate an absolutely huge kitchen called Guru ka Langar at the Golden Temple. After I enjoyed watching the Sikhs making the chapati I wandered around to see the dining room that holds 3,000 people at a time, the massive dishwashing area and people prepping food.
Guru ka Langar is a symbol of the caste-free egalitarian society that the Sikh gurus hope to create. Everyone sits on the floor and gets the same meal.
While everything was very assembly line oriented, the people were friendly. Multiple people encourage me to get in line to be fed. I even had one guy ask with hand signals if I wanted to join the dishwashing line. It looked like they were having fun. If I had had time, I would have. Would have felt great to join the happy crowd and to contribute to the effort.
Eventually I ventured outside to take pictures of the pilgrims visiting the Golden Temple. I found people happy to stop a minute to pose and occasionally someone asked me to pose for a Selfie.