By Ashok Jainani
Amritsar, the city built around the holy water pond (Amrit: nectar; sar (sarovar): pond), is the place for experience rather than description. In the center of this pond about six acres wide, is Sri Harmandir Sahib, the God’s abode, where holy Guru Granth Sahibji, the eleventh guru according to Sikh beliefs, is present in immortal form, every day. The temple and the community has a daily ritual at around 10.30 pm, when the holy Granth Sahibji is taken in a flower-decorated palkhi to rest at Akal Takht, about 50 meters away from the main temple and is brought back at 2.00 am to be seated at Harmandir Sahib, famously known as the Golden Temple. Devout Sikhs and followers are ordained that eleventh Nanak is lively and present in the form of holy book originally written by the fifth Nanak Guru Arjan Devji in the late 16th century.
For years, we had been planning to go to this fascinating place, one among few wonders in India. Recently, as part of the smart city project and beautification of national heritage structure, surrounding area around the Golden Temple has been spruced up nicely with restricted vehicular traffic and a new museum in the basement.
The moment we landed at the airport, we felt an air of calm and bliss. We straight drove to the Guru Gobindsingh NRI Yatri Niwas, a few yards from the entrance to the Golden Temple. After keeping luggage in the room, immediately we started 30 km journey to Wagah border for the lowering of the flags parade ceremony that is held every evening. People on this side of the border with Pakistan gather in thousands to witness the ceremony and BSF soldiers are at their maximum spirits. The whole stadium, which is quite larger than the other side, gets converted into a sort of DJ party where soldiers play patriotic songs and children and ladies dance.
After paying obeisance to the Guru Granth Sahibji at around 8.45 pm at Sri Harmandir Sahibji, we entered the two-storey Langar hall, community kitchen, that accommodates about a thousand people at a time and serves food, tea and milk 24 hours a day. People take prashad here every day on a condition that one recites holy-name Waheguruji while receiving it from sevaks, who distribute the food and clean the hall in self-less service. There are three beris (jujube trees) on the bank of the pond dating prior to the temple construction that began in 1577 AD, each has a distinct name and impressive story behind. A dip in holy pond is considered to be equivalent to bathing in 68 holy rivers. One thing that is truly marvelous is that there is no noise within the entire temple complex, even though thousands of devotees visit the temple every day from all the four gates. In the early nineteenth century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab province offered 750 kgs of gold to cover the upper floors of Sri Harmandir Sahib, which gives it distinctive appearance and English name.
The next day morning, it was partly cloudy that made it comfortable to visit Jallianwala Bagh, Again, it’s difficult to describe how the place had witnessed massacres of so many innocents by the bullets of Gen Dyer and his soldiers. You can’t control emotions running through your eyes when you see a well, now closed, from where dead bodies of 120 innocents were recovered.
Battery operated three-wheelers are very affordable and good for local transport and our driver Dalersingh was very helpful to pick and drop at various places. These include Gobindgarh Fort on the outskirts of the city. The fort constructed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, that served as a prison during British rule, is now converted into a tourist and local attraction with a studio displaying lazer-show and restaurant serving food. Harbindersinghji (Honey) Grover, a local businessman and of a helpful nature, shared stories connected with the temple and the town. I shall go there again to listen more stories, see more and hear the divine Vaani sung from the Golden Temple.