If you want to know one of the beating hearts of the spirituality of India, Amritsar is one of the places not to be missed. Amritsar in Punjab is a dusty and busy city which can be reached by an hour and a half flight from Delhi. After entering the front gate of the town into the medieval narrow streets teeming with every human activity and animals, the mind calms down immediately and you feel the desire to meditate. From the point of view of history, Amritsar has a complex and difficult past. It lies near the border with Pakistan.
The city of Amritsar is named after the holy bath, amrit sarovar built in 1577. It is said that the tank was much older, strategically located along one of the silk roads more jokes since ancient times today become one of the Indian highways, connecting Lahore Pakistan and Kolkata. And the water is miraculous, not only purifies the soul and heals the body but from disease. If not attract you to the sacred ablution can sit on the edge of the tub to keep the devotees or the countless moving fish heedless of humans fishing is absolutely forbidden.
Turning clockwise around the water you can see an ancient tree in whose branches are tied colored wires on which there rest and an incredible amount of birds. The Ber Baba Budha Sahib is a tree that at the ripe old age of 450 years is more older than any other existing building as the ancient temple structure built in 1604, that was destroyed and restored several times. The cover of the golden dome is the most recent addition, built by Ranjit Singh in 1803 and 1830.
One of the great attractions of the city is the legendary Harmandir Sahib, also known as Darbar Sahib or the Golden Temple. The Golden Temple of Sikhs in Amritsar is a destination that I cannot imagine someone might get disappointed. The Golden Temple is located on an artificial island connected to the mainland by a covered walkway called the bridge of the Guru. The place is kept clean by Sikh volunteers all the time, day and night. A place where you do the day without noticing the passage of time. On the other hand there is the Akal Takht, a multi-storied building and the center of the secular activities of the Sikh community.
Akal Takht and Harmandir are complementary, as faith must in fact get out of the closed individual prayers and living in society. But the two buildings also embody two contrasting aspects of religion while in the spiritual center is chanted the holy book, the Adi Granth, which spreads the message of universal brotherhood, century-old home in the sixth Guru turned religion into a cult warrior, the Khalsa.
Historically Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak as a spiritual movement of synthesis to promote the peaceful coexistence of religions, but as a result of political events has exalted the idea of revenge against the Mughal enemies of the faith.
Today both aspects coexist in the golden temple. Harmandir, on the throne in the center of the room, it reaffirms the idea of a god full of love for everyone and we honor the Adi Granth Sahib, the holy book of spiritual guidance declared by the tenth and last spiritual leader of Sikhism.
We feel well-liked and embraced by the sincere hospitality of the Sikhs as there is even the Guru Ka Langar, a kitchen capable of feeding 50-60 thousand people every day thanks to the work of volunteers. Here anyone can eat for free. Hundreds of people, all volunteers cook, grind spices, cut vegetables, wash trays and pots. Some knead and prepare chapati and naan bread, while others prepare dal and spicy stewed vegetables.
We encounter fierce looking men in colorful turbans and swords, that require more than 400 meters of cloth and can weigh 40-50 kg, which are symbolical. Blue ones are of Nihangs with symbols and metal pendants, and warrior Sikhs flaunt sword, dagger and iron bracelets. A museum with the history of the Sikhs is placed near Akal Takht, if you want to deepen their knowledge of religion. We were enchanted by the colors of the saris and the mystics in meditation.
The Golden Temple is the most important center for the Sikhs and is open to all, without discrimination. To enter just take off your shoes, cover your head and put away the cigarettes which are strictly forbidden in the whole area of the complex.
Better avoid visiting during the hottest hours, unless you have the feet of zinc to walk on hot marble. At night the charm of this lovely temple acquires more depth. The confusion decreases, the domes are reflected in the water like a mirror and at 10 at night a ritual procession accompanying the Guru Granth Sahib to rest near Akal Takht, where he remained until 4 or 5 days in the winter and then return to the throne in Harmandir.
We arranged to make a long visit in the late morning and early afternoon and then returned in the evening after dark to admire it illuminated by carefully positioned lights. During the interval between the two visits we went to the wagah border between India and Pakistan, to see the change of the guard and lowering of the flag, a very folkloric show with the participation of many people of both countries all accompanied by songs and dances.
How to get there:
Amritsar airport (11 km) has direct connections with Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai and Srinagar
At the station there are trains to/from Delhi (455 km with 7 to 12 hours of travel), Mumbai and Kolkata.