Covering my head, bare feet I crossed the Threshold after dipping my unshod feet in flowing water meant for washing feet before entering the temple premises. The moment I was inside, I felt I had entered a different world. The chanting of hymns, the calming atmosphere and the sheer presence of spirituality took me into a trance.
It was afternoon; the sun was in the mood of flaunting its capability of burning everybody before it can call it a day in three hours time.
I was at the complex of the Golden temple in Amritsar, one of the major attractions of India and an important seat of Sikh history and culture. It is standing at the center of the holy tank. Sri Harmandir Sahib or the golden temple is made in marble with gold plating added to it while the interior is decorated with fresco work and gemstones.
The guards appointed at every few meters watched with alertness and helped people but mostly they stood motionless with only their sharp eyes moving. They wore saffron colored robes and stood with their spears.
I could see people of all ages taking dip in the holy water. There was a boy with crutches going down the steps of the tank with the help of his friends. There were old people with folded hands praying and slowly immersing themselves in water. A few steps down, there is a long thick chain. It is to warn people not to go beyond that point and also to give them a hand in case they feel like holding it.
At the women’s section of the tank, I thought the continuous movement of women to and from was making the floor dangerously slippery but, I also saw was a woman on her knees continuously mopping the wet floor ! I could feel such selfless gestures everywhere in the precinct.
I felt apprehensive about clicking pictures. It was not a place for a photo shoot; people come here to worship, offer prayers and find solace. I did not want to disturb their sanctity.
Bare feet I moved forward, saw a foreigner, probably a Japanese, wearing a hat standing in a corner with his tripod clicking pictures. I took my chance, asked a guide and he nodded without uttering a word. My first photo of the place just happened.
Not that photography wasn’t allowed here. I felt very awkward to hold camera in my hand where hands of every single person I was looking at, were either folded for worshipping or serving the community in one form or the other.
But as a traveler I need to capture my experiences and show to those who are interested in knowing about it.
I sat on the edge of the tank cherishing my moment of calmness. There was no hurry. The hot air turned into cool breeze after grazing through the tank water. The multi-colored fish also felt safe in the water and continued playing. There sat a composed father chanting the hymns and watching over his infant daughter squealing with joy in an attempt to catch those fishes.
People from different field, religions and faiths were queued up to have Darshan of guru Granth sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs. This temple welcomes all and gives them a sense of serenity however disturbed they may be.
I did not want to leave. The sun had set and now it was dark. The reflection of the lights danced on the water. While days make you see people offering prayers, mopping, guiding, serving food and water; the nights show the beauty and peace of this place.
The tinkling sound, the reflection and the calmness of night had set in.
Contented, I bade bye to the place promising myself of another satiating visit to Amritsar to get immersed in the atmosphere.
P.S.– This article was recently published in a magazine.
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