Photographer's Note

Legend has it that the site of the temple, now surrounded by a small lake, was once a forest. It was here that Valmiki, a great Indian poet, wrote the Ramayana, it is here that Sita was banished to, and it is here that Luv and kush her sons heard the stories of their forefathers. It is also believed that Buddha had visited this sacred site.

However, the temple is not known for these myths but as the holiest place of worship for the Sikhs. In a way, it is appropriate as Sikhism promotes secularism, and this is evident in their non-discrimination of visitors to their holy shrine. The only condition, no activty considered to be vice is entertained in the complex and your hair must be covered at all times.

The temple was built under the leadership of the fifth Sikh Guru (Guru Arjan, 1581-1606) and was completed in 1601. The temple was later attacked by the Mughals and had to be substantially rebuilt in the 1760s. The temple is surrounded by a pool of water, called the Sarovar or the Pool of Nectar. Around the pool is a pathway that runs all around it. The complex is filled with stories of conquests, gurus and worshippers and one can easily spend hours walking around reading the many information boards. The temple also provides free food to everyone in the kitchen called the Langar.

The Harmandir Sahib or the main temple houses the Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs, since 1604, three years after its completion. Every night the book is taken to the Akal Takht and brought back in the morning. The Akal Takht is the seat of the governing body of the Sikhs and also houses a museum.

The temple has also played a crucial role in Indian politics when in 1984, Sikh militants had taken over the shrine, led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. The temple was sealed from the inside and was being used as a militant base. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, ordered Operation Blue Star, to recapture the Temple. Though the operation was succesful, the methods used, the deaths of innocent Sikhs, and the general enmity between the Sikhs and the rest of India reached a great high, and Indira gandhi paid by the price when she was gunned down by her own Sikh bodyguards. The state of Punjab was in political turmoil till the turn of the decade. It was an unfortunate scar on this sacred of shrines and anyone visiting today can never fathom how the serenity that surrounds it today could have once been the center of war.

The temple is a must see, plan to spend a few hours there, and plan to eat atleast one meal. The food is clean and well prepared. Photography is allowed everywhere except inside the shrine and the shining, reflecting temple is a sight to remember.

All photos can be seen at http://www.pbase.com/yardbird/india_punjab_amritsar_goldentemple

JasPahal, celinaconroy, ramesh_lalwani, InasiaJones, oguz has marked this note useful

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