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The Golden Temple, Amritsar

Incredible India!

India is home to many religions, and one of these is a centered in the northern Indian state of Punjab: Sikhism. Its adherents believe in a single God, and in the teachings of 10 holy gurus. The temples, or gurdwaras, in the city of Amritsar are both the spiritual and administrative center for 20 million Sikhs worldwide. 

One of Amritsar's greatest attractions and its spiritual hub is the Sri Harmandir Sahib, commonly known as the Golden Temple. This is the holiest temple in the Sikh faith.

Guru Ramdas Sahib, the 4th of 10 Sikh gurus, constructed the temple and its pool in the 1500s as a place of worship for all.

The temple has been renovated many times, adding features such as the marble inlays along the floor. Maharaja Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh Empire of India (1799-1849) had the temple's upper floors covered in 750 kilos of pure gold.

The faithful travel to the golden center of the temple via a causeway, or walkway across the surrounding pool. The water is considered purifying, and Sikhs can bathe in it from the outer platform. Notice temple workers along the walkways using buckets to haul water to the worshippers.

Devotees bathe in the Golden Temple's holy pool. All visitors must remain barefoot, and everyone passes through a separate foot-washing pool before entry.

Temple workers distribute water from the pool surrounding the temple. The water is considered holy, and visitors take home bottles for purification and health.

Sikhism is devoted to peace, humility and equality. Initiates wear symbols of these values, including the distinctive turban, unshorn hair, a wooden comb, an iron bracelet, and a ceremonial blade.

The founding gurus of Sikhism in the 15th and 16th centuries declared that women were equal to men in the eyes of God.

Here, Sikhs make chapatis, a flatbread, for the temple's visitors.

All visitors, wealthy or poor, are welcome to a free meal at the temple kitchen. Visitors sit together on the floor as equals. Every Sikh gurdwara has a free kitchen, and Harmandir Sahib is one of the largest, serving 100,000 a day. Gurudwaras serve vegetarian food to accommodate any dietary restrictions.

Above: a scene from the langar - the Golden Temple's kitchen.

The Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, is housed within the golden temple of Harmandir Sahib. Sikhs consider this holy book to be the "last guru," and it is part of ceremonies.

In the evening, the scripture is given sukhasan or "rest," on a cushion, and in the morning, it is returned to the sanctum and opened to a random page, which becomes the basis of prayers for the day.

Harmandir Sahib is part of a larger temple complex. Another major building is the white-marble Akal Takht, the major center for administration, politics, and justice for Sikhs today. The religion's leader, or Jadethar, is the highest of 5 worldwide Sikh leaders.

Image: a view of the Heritage Street near the Golden Temple.

Incredible India!
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