here we are entering the main gate of the Golden Temple complex. We have checked our shoes and are wading through w shallow pool to wash our feet.
one of the side temples within the temple complex
we join this line of pilgrims to enter the Golden Temple and see the Holy Book.
from a balcony I notice that each of the tiled squares below is a different pattern.
this is the open air hall where literally 10,000s of people are fed every day.
the plates and cups are metal and here you can see the huge pile of dishes
We left McLeod Ganj and started a six hour trip to Amritsar. most of the drive was through the small villages and countryside of rural India. Water buffalo were busy in the fields, plowing up the small terraced plots to prepare for the next planting of rice. we had a few detours as roads are constantly being upgraded and re-routed. these upgrades take years, so some of the detours are well worn and all the trucking and commercial traffic is streaming through these small villages. the fumes are unbelievable as the trucks are much bigger than our car and because everyone drive 3 inches (literally) from each other, we are always face to face with tail pipes etc. after a few hours face skin takes on a tight acidy feel.
we checked into our expensive hotel close (“close to the Golden Temple” turns out to be 3 km away!) and after looking around our room realize we cannot stay there. it is a good looking hotel but unkempt and too filthy to stay in. (showers don’t work, toilets plugged) jospeh bravely steps outside to scout out another place for us and – praise God! he comes back in a few minutes and herds us over to another place which is inviting and clean. we enjoy a thorough shower – washing the fumes and chemicals away.
in the morning we take a rickshaw to the Temple and join the thousands of pilgrims from all over the world who some to the home of the Sikhs. we make an offering and are given prasad (offering sweet) and get in line to enter the Golden Temple. The Golden Temple is part of a whole temple complex with many buildings, smaller temples, shrines, rooms for pilgrims, kitchen etc. in the middle is a small lake and the Golden Temple is in the middle with a walkway leading to it.
in the Golden Temple is the holy book and everyone of course wants to see it. This area is only open for a few hours in the morning – a holy man is reading it. we circumambulate the Temple with thousands of people, all of us bare foot, quiet and reflective. we eat a meal in the temple – they feed over 10,000 people a day. the sit on the floor in rows and men go up and down the rows, filling our plate with rice and dahl. afterwards we visit the ‘kitchen’ – it is filled with literally thousands of volunteers. rinsing the metal plates and cups, rolling chapatis, stirring pots of dal that are big enough for 8 people to sit in. trucks are coming in and out, bringing firewood, potatoes, flour, vegetables etc. it is an amazing undertaking – to feed thousands of people every day.
it is very busy in the morning so we return in the evening – it is quieter and beautiful as the reflection of the Golden Temple twinkles in the lake.
we met a gentleman who welcomes us and says: “this temple belongs to everyone. if you are hungry you can eat here. if you have no where to sleep, you can sleep here. we are open 24 hours a day. when you enter this temple, it is not a Sikh temple – it is your temple. whether you are christian, jew, hindu, buddhist – no matter – it belongs to you. here, someone is reading the holy book 24 hours a day. this has been going on for many years. it is the only place on earth where this reading of holy words goes on 24 hours a day”. it was a wonderful welcome and i was grateful to hear his words.
i had to smile however, because i know of another place where holy reading and prayer is going on 24 hours a day – for over a hundred years – my spiritual home – Unity Village.