Sikh religion is a reformist faith founded in the 15th century. It opposes idol worshipping, superstitions and rituals along with the caste system. Sikhs are liberal, tolerant and progressive minded. They are also easy to spot because of their characteristic turbans and beards.
The Golden Temple is situated in the middle of a holy pool where sikhs are baptized. It is connected by a long marble causeway to the periphery. The temple is breathtakingly beautiful. It is majestic, serene and peaceful.
The dome of the temple is covered with 220 lbs of gold donated by Maharaja (king) Ranjit Singh in 1830. It is a three storied temple, decorated with beautiful pietra dura. The motifs, found throughout the temple, are mostly of flowers and birds studded with semi precious stones. In the "court of the lord (Durbar Sahib)" is where the Holy Book-Guru Granth Sahib is kept, covered by a jeweled canopy. Taking photographs here is not allowed and your head must be covered and shoes removed as you enter the temple. Throughout the day, you can hear priests chanting musical verses from the Holy book "Guru Granth Sahib."
It was an overcast, cloudy day as we walked around the periphery of the temple. The serenity of the place transcends calmness and peace on you despite the fact that it is always crowded with devotees. I stood in line to enter the sanctum sanctorum to pay my obeisance to the Lord.
Later, my family and I headed to the community kitchen. The free kitchen is an institution of sikhism that expresses the principle of equality and the ethics of sharing. In this tradition, everybody rich or poor, male or female, old or young sits on the floor together and is served food cooked fresh in the community kitchen on site. 24/7 meals are served everyday, around the year to anybody who visits the temple. Hundreds of devoted volunteers prepare the food at the community kitchen called "langar". You can also spend a night or two at one of the temple inns (pilgrim guesthouses). All for free.
On site is a museum showcasing sikh history. It has a collection of paintings, coins, weapons and ancient manuscripts chronicling and documenting the sikh religion's tumultuous history.
The old city surrounding the temple is mesmerizing. Narrow alleys bustle with everyday life, chaotic traffic, vendors selling street food, and chai shops. Meandering through these lanes is a crazy, frenzied experience. The balconies of the centuries old houses intricately decorated with lattice work remind me of the bygones.
Old banyan trees majestically shade the streets and are usually a hub for people to hang out. In one of the shops in the bazaar outside the temple I found traditional footwear (jutti) studded with sequins, beads, stones, fancy thread work. I couldn't resist buying myself a pair.