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.
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.
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.
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.