When I lied down on the red carpet at the corridor, and glanced at the shining bright Golden Temple past midnight, with rain showers adding a cool sense to my soul and body alike, a three-fork lightning appeared right above the shrine. A flash of a moment. Like enlightenment. And I slept under the magic envelope of that human-made architecture of serenity.
I had earlier set out from Chandigarh by evening, sans any travel companions, and reached Amritsar by bus around 12 pm. I was sitting on front seat and was tortured by the non-stop series of Punjabi songs that sounded good at first but then played throughout the journey.
A cycle-rickshaw-wala took me to the entrance of the temple, under low pitch rain. He regularly insisted me to avail a room from some nearby hotels, and I sympathetically denied his chance to have a fair piece of commission. Apologies!
The Temple complex had a well-planned structure to safe-keep our foot-wears without any charges, by giving tokens in exchange. Through an arched entrance of white marbled walls, I entered inside, to be marvelled at the first sight of the much adored Golden Temple. Standing like a lone warrior at the middle of a pool of water.
The place is not-at-all over hyped. You enter the gates, through the entrances, knowing that you have seen the pictures of what you are going to see a hundred times in internet or magazines or other places and have got familiarized of the sight of what is going to be revealed at the very next step perhaps, but even then when you actually see the architectural wonder the very next step, you get hooked at its influencing glory, in multiple folds actually, if you are seeing it for the first time.
The wet cold marble floor did send calm chills through my naked feet as I walked peacefully around the Golden Temple. The complex was in fact very wide and the Temple occupied only a tiny portion in the middle. A path stretched from the shore on to it, which is otherwise surrounded by an artificial lake, filled with large fishes and occasional bathes by devotees.
The blue scarf I bought from outside remained tied on my head, and as I roamed around knowing that the Temple was closed for a while. I went to where the food is being offered.
Roti, two curries, a sweet dish, a tiny apple – and as one rises both hands to receive the rotis, one does feel a gush of gratitude within. It’s not imposed, but natural. Especially when you haven’t eaten for a long time.
Outside the food hall, you get to drink as much as tea you like to have, using a metal bowl. As a tea-lover, this was a huge delight.
The inner marble walls of the complex had names of various people inscribed on them, perhaps the names of the contributors for the proper maintenance of the place. I know about some of my friends who had taken paid rooms available within the complex, so as to contribute back to the immense generosity of the Sikhs.
People were sleeping within the halls and the side corridors where carpets were laid. I preferred the corridor. As I lied down, using my backpack as pillow, in a position so as to get the clear view of the Golden Temple whenever I opened my eyes, the lightning struck. And rain began to attain more momentum.
I slept for a while only thanks to the prayers that began to play in speakers. The rain subsided. The Temple was opened again. I went there passing Punjabis who looked like guards wearing Blue uniforms and a dagger on their waists, crossing the path with other devotees flooding even after 3 am in the morning. Photography was not allowed inside.
Once I reached nearby did I notice that Golden plates with inscriptions were used to cover the walls of the temple, and that too only more than until a little half below. The temple space within was small, with prayers and offerings and devotional songs sung, along with two videographers shooting the whole procedure with their huge cameras, as part of a documentary or something.
By 4 am, I left the temple. I might have waited until the sun rose to see another phase of the magnificent beauty of the space. But I was saturated already. And I felt like leaving something unfulfilled, of seeing the Golden Temple under daylights.
I retrieved my chappals and walked out of the temple complex into the secluded streets of Amritsar.
Neat. Serene. Blissful. The way the Golden Temple is managed shows that spirituality and religion need not be dirty or chaotic as we see in Haridwar or Benares. If you haven’t visited this place, do it once in your life at least. The tidiness and the way the place is managed is enough to blow your mind. Especially in India, where dirt and chaos is synonymous with the country’s name.