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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Golden Temples and Police Escorts

I recently posted about our visit to the Wagah border between India and Pakistan. Every so often there is a moment or event that surpasses all expectations. It feels so far away from the ordinary that I keep pinching myself to make sure it is real. Our entire day in Amritsar felt like this. We were met at the airport by the Colonel and a police escort. (See photo below) Yes, an official police escort jeep with four men in it. Wonder how much they got paid for riding around following us all day?? I never got a complete answer to why we needed a police escort, but they were with us from 900 am until we left the city limits at 700 in the evening.

Our first stop was at the Golden Temple where we had to stop to take off our shoes so as not to bring outside dirt, germs, and whatever else into the temple. From this "de-shoeing" area we had to walk through a small pool of clean water to purify the feet.
Then we purchased and donned the required head covering before entering.

Finally we were entered the Golden Temple. Below is from Wikipedia newest favorite blog assistant.
Its name literally means Temple of God. The fourth guru of Sikhism, Guru Ram Das, excavated a tank in 1577 AD which subsequently became known as Amritsar(meaning "Pool of the Nectar of Immortality"), giving its name to the city that grew around it. In due course, a splendid Sikh edifice, Harmandir Sahib (meaning "the abode of God"), rose in the middle of this tank and became the supreme centre of Sikhism. Its sanctum came to house the Adi Granth comprising compositions of Sikh gurus and other saints considered to have Sikh values and philosophies, e.g., Baba Farid, and Kabir. The compilation of the Adi Granth was started by the fifth guru of Sikhism, Guru Arjan Dev.
There in the middle of the lake sits the Golden Temple.
Our family dressed "appropriately" for the temple.
Thousands of people from all over the world enter the temple daily. They wash in the water to rid themselves of sin and diseases. They drink the water. They take water home to bless their homes and share with those who cannot make the trip to the temple.

You must walk in a counter clockwise motion around the lake to reach the temple.

The Darshani Deorhi Arch stands at the beginning of the causeway to the Harmandir Sahib; it is 202 feet (62 m) high and 21 feet (6 m) in width. The gold plating on the Harmandir Sahib was begun by Emperor Ranjit Singh and was finished in 1830. The Sher-e-Punjab (Lion of the Punjab) was a major donor of wealth and materials for the shrine and is remembered with much affection by thePunjabi people in general and the Sikh community in particular. As seen below the visitors line the causeway as they wait to see the inner temple, leave their offering, make prayers, and receive a blessing.
There are musicians who sit inside the temple and can be heard throughout the complex via loudspeakers. They sing Sikh prayers and chants. As we waited on the causeway, there were certain chants that must be known by all Sikhs. The crowd would begin to chant and hum all around us.

As with the Wagah Border, this was one of those locations about which I have read and seen television specials. Again, I had to pinch myself to make sure we were really there. It was a day full of reminding myself to live in the moment and appreciate the wonderful opportunities we have been given.

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