Vivid is the memory of walking into “Bombay Cafe” in Guelph, Ontario and being sincerely welcomed by the owner. Unforgettable was his shinning smile matching his bright orange turbin. Although anxiously awaiting to devour the restaurants delicious authentic Indian cuisine, I stood there looking at a glass framed poster of what looked to be an ancient architectural master piece, noticeably in Gold. Somehow through the mystique of the photo, I sensed that what I was looking at was a sacred holy place, sparkling with value much more than its enormous monetary worth. In my intense fixed gaze he said aloud to me, “it’s made with real gold you know… that’s my religion’s most sacred temple in Punjab, India… (his voice slightly changing with a story tellers animated intonation)…
THE GOLDEN TEMPLE!”
It was his reverence that instigated my next thought as I then responded aloud, “I will go there, one day… I will see it with my own eyes!” This forgotten moment jolted into my consciousness the moment I stepped barefoot into the cleansing pool at the palatial entrance. A ritual done by all upon entering before one is graced by setting their eyes on the opulent holy temple of the Sikhs.
Ones head must be covered also before entering; it’s a sign of respect and quite possibly the reminder of divinity above ego, humbly one shrouds the mind for higher consciousness. My excitement was towering with curiosity. Pulsating was the awareness that a precious moment is here and now, in witnessing experience. What made it even more significant to me were the people I was with, the Bhullar Family; true reverent Sikh devotees who live their faith. Their generosity and kindness is honestly like none I’ve experienced before from “strangers!” Balwinder, the patriarch of the family is an intelligent, strong and energetic history teacher I met a few weeks earlier on the train to Amritsar enroute to Dharamshala, who insisted I meet and stay with his family. He literally lives up to the Indian belief and saying that “guests are like God.” Instantly my Indian family grew yet again.
A double blessing I received being taken in by such a Godly family as one of their own. Also in being so lucky as to get insight into the Sikh religious doctrine by their sweet niece Amrit, followed with a grand tour with them at their most reverential place of worship. Before my eyes, there I was in the flesh, witnessing true numinous splendor; the resplendent magnificent Golden Temple!
(Insert angelic voiceover “AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH” LOL)
Like the Taj Mahal, it takes your breath away, literally! Observing myself in its presence, my lungs filled to capacity as if the invisible part of me wanted to take in all its divine invisible essence that is undoubtedly felt within. Staring in silence and awe, I wasn’t sure what to think or how I felt. Watching everyone else around me fall to their knees and touch their forehead to the sacred ground, I followed suit and realized at that moment my mind was pellucidly empty, so much so, I couldn’t even recite a prayer! It was as if I was sedated in the tranquil state of nothingness. I simply was… I simply was being. This state over came me and I was lifted into my ‘I AM’ presence. So easily and effortlessly elevated, my higher self arose like a dormant sunrise waiting to surface. This state was my experience for the endurance of the visit. Walking around and taking it all in, I had a sense of disorientation. It was obviously night time, yet it felt energetically lighter than the delicate ascension of a crisp summer morning. In what seemed like a lofty gait, our leisurely stride around the rectangular perimeter felt lucidly calming, as if there was no time. Looking around, I noticed the large LCD screens that held the lyrics of the chanting that resounded by surrounding groups and echoes of those who sang as they marched the same path around the contained reservoir.
I noticed a line up of both men and women, some waiting their turn to drink and some waiting to bath in the largely unlit holy water. This water is significantly different then the filtered water available for just quenching thirst. Volunteers on their knees rigorously wiping the marble floor with rags so the next person can get on the floor and indulge or digest the sanctified water, quenching the thirst of the inner spirit. Looking into the dark body of placid liquid, you can see fish and a slight film on the surface. Regardless, my faith was strong and fearless. I wasn’t going to miss out on the venerated water. My state of mind wouldn’t allow any kind of fear or perceived negativity… ok… maybe for a second I thought of the concern of plausible consequences, but I felt like I could use some holy bacteria now and again! 😉
It’s not just the main temple situated in the centre of the water that is of interest. There are a number of exquisite edifices enclosing the precious centerpiece. Ancient trees, monuments, art and inscriptions allow for an infinite pilgrimage of discovery.
There is something strikingly alluring about the entry of the temple. It’s not only the grandeur of the ingress but the extravagant meticulous detail that has obviously spared no expense; thus is the re-occurring theme of the Golden Temple’s entirety. Walking through what seems like a vast royal corridor, one is guided along the solid marble bridge which has been carefully thought out, allowing for controlling and pacing crowds when necessary, like all other main attractions. Luckily we walked through at what seemed like no delay at all.
Once again venerating the large step before entering with the touch of the forehead, the hypnotic sound of a richly aerate harmonium and devout chanting resounds in the square temple, and a new sense of awe surfaces. Attempting to get an unencumbered look between limbs of those in front, prayers and money are thrown at the feet of the musicians and the lead head who is reading from the holy book of The ‘Guru Granth Sahib‘ I was told someone reads the scripture in those pages 24 hours a day, in shifts and uninterrupted intervals. Devotees gather around listening, praying, meditating and some distracted checking their facebook messages indiscreetly.
Wondering around, enthralled with every inch of luxurious detail and the intensity of the devotees, we made our way up to the second floor. It would be impossible to capture in words how beautiful it is inside and of course such sacred things remain that way with no photo’s allowed inside. Respecting that code of honour although I was heavily tempted, visually it is something you must see with your own eyes! The walls are so richly decorated with such elaborate detail. Ancient scriptures in the most beautiful handwriting are even extended into the cornered stairwells. Delicate carvings and glass shelving with artifacts surround the central gated open concept which leads up to the cathedral ceiling, giving those on the second floor visual and audible access to the kirtan on the crowded 1st floor. There are small rooms inside the temple and inside the other buildings with other devotees reading out loud from the most enormous religious books I have ever seen. I took a photo of one outside the temple in another building to give you an idea.
Sitting there on the second floor, finally giving into the compelling lure of meditation the temple naturally exudes; as a family we closed our eyes and enjoyed the powerful stillness. The feeling brought tears to my eyes. Overwhelmed with such gratitude, beauty and devout love of the divine. Although I know I can love the divine anywhere and no where, in such a highly charged temple like this one, the energy just makes it so much more abounding! Instantly in shutting my eye lids, I had open access to the abundant serenity. As if every devout visitor has contributed to its deep fertile peace, loving tears softly poured out, as love flowed in.
Upon exiting we were given Prasad, (which could be anything but typically edible food that is first offered to the divine then given as a blessing or communion.) The Prasad was the most wonderful Prasad I had ever had in my life! So warm, sweet and moist almost like a thick brown sugar candy porridge… you can taste and feel the goodness settle in your stomach… so lovely. I could have slept the night there not needing anything, not even shelter. In walking out, I realized how many people had the exact same thought; imagine a nights sleep in that vibration! Many devotees just find a random spot and claim it as their bed for the night… I had a train to catch so that wasn’t in the cards for that evening.
It’s obvious that there is no apparent lack in divine energy or in monetary flow at the Golden Temple. Not just in the prominent structure but also in values. Everyone regardless of any race, religion, nationality, gender, age etc, is not only welcome but can also eat at no cost or expected donation. After our meditation we went to the community kitchen. Each of us were given utensils and a Thali plate (a silver plate with different divisions to separate varieties of foods from mixing.) Walking into the dining hall were huge long rolls of carpet for everyone to sit in lines and be served by volunteers. After eating some Dal and Chipati (green lentils and a round flat wrap of bread) with sweet rice pudding for dessert, we walked with our dishes into the dish pit area and handed our dirty dishes again to volunteers who “wash the dishes of the devotees, symbolically washing away their ‘sins’ or wrong doings.” A beautiful systematic gesture for the greater good. My entire visit was truly beatific; forever I will remember it in my mind and heart as a blessed memory, more precious than gold.