We visited the Golden Temple of Amritsar and got to know the Sikh religion and culture
The Golden Temple of Amritsar is the sanctuary of the Sikhs and the most visited place in India. It is estimated to receive 100,000 visits each day, even more than the Taj Mahal. The city of Amritsar is located in the state of Punjab, north of India bordering Pakistan.
The construction of the temple took place between 1588 and 1604. Entrance is free and anyone can access it; all you need to do is cover your head and take off your shoes.
It is a religious place but also has a long history of conflict. The most recent, in 1984, occurred during an independence movement by the Sikhs. The Indian army assaulted the interior of the temple and there were tough clashes that killed 83 soldiers and 492 civilians.
Sikhs never accepted help from the Indian government for the reconstruction of the temple. As a result, until 1999 they were repairing it with funds and labor from pilgrims.
Sikh Culture – Who are the Sikhs?
Sikhism, or Sikhism, is a religion founded in the 15th century, making it one of the youngest religions in the world. Today, it is the ninth in number of faithful and the fourth largest in India after Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. There are some 20 million followers in India, the majority of whom are in Punjab.
Religion was born with the idea of trying to create a more just society where the caste system of Hinduism, superstitions and injustices were fought against. The Sikhs are great defenders of equality, so if you want to be a Sikh, the first thing you have to do is change your surname. All Sikhs have the same surname “Singh” (lion) men and “Kaur” (princess) women.
The word Sikh means “disciple” and refers to the fact that one must always be learning. For the Sikhs, Sikhism is more than a religion, it is a way of life. Its principles are based on the belief in one god, helping those in need, fighting oppression and abandoning superstition.
Sikhs are characterized by their unmistakable turban. They have a reputation for being a religious people but also a warrior. In the past they formed a large part of the British Raj Army and today many of them are integrated into the Indian armed forces.
Visit to the Golden Temple of Amritsar
It is advisable to visit the temple both day and night. Before entering you leave your shoes in a cloakroom near the entrance and cover your head with a handkerchief. If you don’t have one, they leave one for you. Then you go through a small stream to clean your feet. Everyone passes by and there are people who even drink that water.
Once you enter the enclosure you breathe serenity and above all respect for the place. The Sikhs bathe peacefully in the lake with the serious face that characterizes them. There is a free dining room and rooms so that the most needy can sleep over. Inside the Golden Temple is the sacred book of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib. Throughout the day his verses are recited and many people sit there for hours listening to them.
For them, just being there is a spiritual experience. For us, bridging the gap, it was too. In my case, I left the Golden Temple with a feeling of admiration and respect for these people and this religion.
Wagah, the border with Pakistan
Our second day in Amritsar we went to Wagah, the only border crossing between India and Pakistan. Every afternoon at 16:15 a rather unusual and very peculiar ceremony is held there. On both sides of the fence that separates India and Pakistan there is a grandstand. The grandstand on the Indian side is much larger and more animated than the one in Pakistan.
When soldiers from both countries come on the scene, they aggressively head for the fence and make threatening gestures of dispute and victory across the border. On the Indian side there is a speaker who encourages the people and the soldiers. Everyone goes crazy, cheering for their own with Indian flags in their hands or painted on their faces.
At the end of the show, the border opens, and two officers on each side shake hands. The atmosphere is tense but mutually respectful. The flags are lowered, the border is closed and everyone returns proud of where they came from.
That same night we said goodbye to Amritsar, a chaotic and overpopulated city, but thanks to the Golden Temple and the Sikh culture it is worth visiting.
Around 11 am we took a bus to Bikaner, in the state of Rajasthan, a place famous above all for the temple of Karni Mata, better known as “The Temple of Rats“.
Before becoming a Muslim, a Sikh, a Hindu, or a Christian, let’s become a Human first.
– Guru Nanak Dev Ji –