Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 90, The Sri Harimandir Sahib, Amritsar, India

Sat Sri Kal from Punjab

Today we are going to a place of both stupendous beauty and sublime peacefulness. Originally a small lake in the midst of a quiet forest, this site has been a meditation retreat for wandering mendicants and sages since deep antiquity.

The Buddha is known to have spent time at this place in contemplation.

Two thousand years after Buddha's time, another philosopher-saint came to live an
d meditate by the peaceful lake.

This was Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of the Sikh religion. After the p
assing away of Guru Nanak, his disciples continued to frequent the site; over the centuries it became the primary sacred shrine of the Sikhs.

Yes, we are visiting the Sri Harimandir Sahib of Amritsar in India today.

Sita told us not to drink alcohol, eat meat or smoke in the shrine( that is now on the tentative list of UNESCO world heritage sites.

We left our socks and shoes at the facility near the entrance, covered our heads with the bandanas that are provided, and then washed our feet by wading through the shallow pool before
Wow, this place is simply magical......

Beginning early in the morning and lasting until long past sunset, hymns are chanted to the exquisite accompaniment of flutes, drums, and stringed instruments.

Echoing across the serene lake, this enchantingly beautiful music induces a delicate yet powerful state of trance in the pilgrims strolling leisurely around the marble con course encircling the pool and temple.
The most famous and sacred part of the complex is the Hari Mandir (Divine Temple) or Darbar Sahib (Court of the Lord), which is the beautiful golden structure at the centre of a large body of water.

The water that surrounds the Hari Mandir is a sacred pool known as the Amrit Sarovar (pool of ambrosial nectar).

The temple is reached by following the Parikrama, which circumscribes the sacred pool in a clockwise direction

The lake was enlarged and structurally contained during the leadership of the fourth Sikh Guru (Ram Dass, 1574-1581), and during the leadership of the fifth Guru (Arjan, 158 1-1606), the Hari Mandir, or Temple of God was built.

From the early 1600s to the mid 1700s the sixth through tenth Sikh Gurus were constantly involved in defending both their religion and their temple against Moslem armies.

On numerous o
ccasions the temple was destroyed by the Moslems, and each time was rebuilt more beautifully by the Sikhs.

From 1767 onwards, the Sikhs became strong enough militarily to repulse invaders.
Peace returned to the Hari Mandir.

The temple's architecture draws on both Hindu and Moslem artistic styles yet represents a unique coevolution of the two.

During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), Hari Mandir was richly ornamented with marble sculptures, golden gilding, and large quantities of precious stones.

The gold-plated building features copper cupolas and white marble walls encrusted with precious stones arranged in decorative Islamic-style floral patterns.

The structure is decorated inside and out with verses from the Granth Sahib (the Sikh holy book).

Within the sanctuary, on a jewel-studded platform, lies The Guru Granth Sahib or Adi Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture and the final Guru of the Sikhs.

It is a voluminous text of 1430 angs (parts), compiled and composed during the period of Sikh Gurus, from 1469 to 1708.

It is a collection of hymns or shabad, which describe what God is like and the right way to live.

Some of the major messages can be summarized as follows: -
  1. All peoples of the world are equal
  2. Women are equal
  3. One God for all
  4. Speak and live truthfully
  5. Control the five vices
  6. Live in God's hukam (The Will of the One GOD)
  7. Practice Humility, Kindness, Compassion, Love, etc
The fascinating scene inside the Hari Mandir is televised throughout India for Sikh viewers.

A chauri (whisk) is continually waved above the Book as lines of Sikhs pay their respects by touching their foreheads to the temple floor and walls, continuing in a clockwise direction at a relaxed pace.

Every night, the Granth Sahib is carried in procession along this bridge to its "bed" in the Akal Takht, the seat of the Sikh parliament (built 1609).

Called the Palki Sahib, this nightly ceremony provides a chance for all male pilgrims and visitors to actively participate in the veneration of the Holy Book.

Lines form in front of and behind the heavy palanquin and each man shoulders the burden for a few seconds before passing it along, forming a human conveyer belt that allows everyone to participate and everyone to rest.

Another major highlight of the Golden Temple complex is the Guru-ka-Langar, a dining hall where around 35,000 people a day are fed for free by temple volunteers. Everyone is invited to join this communal breaking of bread, so we did too.

All participants sit on the floor, regardless of caste, status, wealth or creed, powerfully symbolizing the central Sikh doctrine of the equality of all people.

All Sikhs are expected at some point in their lives to volunteer for a week at the temple, and everyone we saw working here is fulfilling that duty, so we helped them too by peeling some vegetables and washing some dishes.

Did you know that the foundation stone of the historic building was laid by a non-Sikh?
The Guru gave the task of initiating the building to a Muslim
Saint Hazrat Mian Mir ji of Lahore in December 1588.

Can you imagine Julius II the Pope who asked Michaelangelo to redesign the Vatican asking him to find a Jewish Rabi to lay its cornerstone?

The Guru had been asked by the previous Guru to find the Holiest man in India to lay the stone for the Gurdwara. Guru Arjan in choosing his friend Hazrat Mian Mir ji to lay the stone showed the world the true message of religion, promoting Interfaith dialogue and interaction.

In the circumambulation of Nectar pool, near the main entrance there is an old Beri known as Ber Baba Budhaji. flash.html

Marti wants to know what is a Beri? It is a TREE, Ziziphus mauritiana, Indian Jujube also know as Narkeli kul, Ber, Boroi, Bor, Beri, Indian plum is a tropical fruit tree species, belonging to the family Rhamnaceae)

When Baba Buddhaji supervised the tank's construction, this Ber tree extended over his head its umbrella-like leafy branches thus protecting him from parching summer and roaring clouds. Thus, though humble, the Ber Baba Buddhaji served Guru's cause in its own way.

Sita told us that this holy shrine is richly decorated during holy festivals like Diwali

and the Guru's birthday.

A sight to behold.

We also learnt some Punjabi phrases:
  • hello => Sat Sri Kal

  • how are you (to a friend) => Kiddha

  • how are you to (older person) => tusi tikh ho

  • if they ask you 'how are you' you say (friends) => tikh ha

  • if if they ask you 'how are you' you say (older person) => tikh takh ha
We loved Punjab:-)


Alan Defugue said...

wow, i wish i were there and there and there!

Anonymous said...

Some great pictures of Golden temple and really exciting article . It was interesting and the video was cool . How did u manage all these pictures ? It was wonderful . Here is a page that i would like to share with everyone , it has some
great Great Books on Harmandir Sahib or The Golden Temple

Rajasthantraveling said...

This is a very interesting blog and so I like to visit your blog again and again. Keep it up. Goa is a truly divine place. Goa is India's second smallest state by area and fourth smallest state by population. It is located in south west region of India.Goa Tour Packages.