The Golden Temple of Amritsar
the sacred place of sikhism

Photo by Colores de India

In the state of Punjab, 28 km from the border with Pakistan, is Amritsar, whose name means "pond of the nectar of immortality". With 2 million inhabitants, this ity is the cultural and spiritual epicenter of the Sikh (Sikh) religion.

In Amritsar is the most sacred place for the Sikh community: the Harmandir Sahib, known as the Golden Temple, where Sikhs make a pilgrimage at least once in their lives . This place attracts as many people as Taj Mahal itself and is the main destination of non-resident Indians.

The city of Amritsar is also known for two major massacres that occurred in connection with the Harmandir Sahib: the 1919 massacre, carried out by the British, and the Blue Star operation during the mandate of the first Indian Minister Indira Gandhi, in 1984, in order to quell the separatist movement whose top leaders were entrenched in the temple.

THE GOLDEN TEMPLE

In the Punjab province, the first Sikh communities were born, being naturally the place where their religious center was built. The beginnings of the construction of the Golden Temple date back to 1588, under the Mughal empire of Akbar, who financed the architectural project that would stand out not only for being the most sacred to Sikhism but for its beauty and majesty.

By 1601 the Golden Temple was finished and on August 16, 1604 the first volume of the scriptures was brought to the temple.

This temple was built on an artificial pond called Amrit Sarovar, which fulfills two purposes, the first is to create the optical illusion that the construction floats on water and the second is that its water has a sacred character within the rituals purification. The water is considered sacred and visitors take bottles home for purification and health purposes.

The Temple is located within an extensive exclusion zone where it is only possible to enter on foot. Then the white marble shines on the floors.

Photo by Colores de India

There are four entrances that represent the Gate of Peace, Gate of Life, Gate of Learning and Gate of Grace. These doors must always remain open to everyone. To access it is needed to descend stairs, since it was built on a lower level of the land, emphasizing humility before entering the facilities.

Covering the head and bare feet are also required. Sikhs bow their foreheads to show reverence for sacred scripture.

Inside there are no images that represent the supreme God because they consider that it is not possible to make any representation even symbolic that represents his magnanimity.

Once inside, pilgrimes sit on the floor in front of the holy book, the Granth Sahib, as a way to demonstrate equality between all, which is one of the pillars of faith; neither is there the figure of priest to lead the liturgies, it is enough that any member expresses his interest in leading the prayers and singing the hymns.

There is a community space, the langar, which is a large dining room that provides free food to anyone who needs it. In this space, social differences are erased since everyone is fed with the food prepared by the members of the community, in equal conditions: sitting on the ground, barefoot, in a straight line, neither forward to claim a superior status nor back to denoting inferiority, which breaks with the Hindu traditions in which the members of the highest castes - Brahmins - did not share the table with people of lower castes.

Harmandir Sahib's langar is one of the largest, serving 100,000 people a day. The food served is vegetarian to adapt to any dietary restriction.

Photo at goldentempleamritsar.org

SIKHISM PRECEPTS

Talking about the origins of Sikhism, as a religious doctrine, goes back to the 16th and 17th centuries, when there was great tension within the Indian territory between the most powerful religious groups in the region: Hindu and Muslim. Sikhism emerged as an alternative that opposed belief in the caste system, which has led Hindu society to social stratifications that translate into inequality and discrimination.

Guru Nanak was the founder and the first of the ten Gurus that the Sikhs have had.

Nanak was raised as a Hindu, although later in his spiritual quest he belonged to the Sant tradition of northern India, a movement associated with the great poet and mystic Kabir (1440-1518). The Sants composed hymns of great beauty expressing their experience of the divine. Their tradition was largely based on Vaishnava bhakti (the devotional movement within the Hindu tradition that worships the god Vishnu), although there were important differences between the two. Like the followers of bhakti, the Sants believed that devotion to God is essential for liberation from the cycle of rebirth in which all human beings are trapped; however for the Sants, God cannot be embodied or represented in concrete terms.

Photo by Colores de India

After the death of Guru Nanak in 1539 and in order to continue spreading the moral precepts of Sikhism and keep alive the message revealed by God, the tradition of naming a successor, a guru (a word of Sanskrit origin whose translation means teacher ). The tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh (died 1708), designated the holy book as the eleventh and final guru in perpetuity. The compilation of all the teachings that gave rise to the sacred text began with the fifth Guru Arjan, in 1604. This book therefore has the particularity of having been written by the founders of the religion themselves, unlike the sacred books of other great ones. religions.

There are an estimated 30 million Sikhs in the world today, most in India, but there are large communities of the faithful in England and Canada.

Among the most important pillars of Sikhism are:

- Practice meditation and chant the name of God in prayers

-To lead a family, social and community life.

- Earn money honestly through work, maintain a physical and mental balance, and accept God's blessings and gifts.

-Share money and goods within the community, through collective consumption and helping those who need it.

-Equality between men and women.

Photo by Colores de India

THE FIVE Ks OF THE SIKHISM

Unlike most other religions, practitioners wear the five articles of their faith, which are known as the Five Ks:

Kesh, uncut and very clean hair, considered a gift from God.

Kangha, a small wooden comb to keep your hair tidy and that serves as a reminder that you must lead an orderly life.

Kirpan, a dagger about 15 cm long, a symbol of courage, faith in God and defense of their faith, as well as commitment to defend the weak and the oppressed. The kirpan should never be drawn to attack, but can be used for self-defense or to protect a third party.

Kara is a steel bracelet worn on the right wrist (unless the user is left-handed). The circle of the bracelet is a symbol of God and unity, and the steel symbolizes strength and the fight for good.

Kach a brief tied with a drawstring, symbolizes purity and modesty, and fidelity to the spouse.

The most easily recognized symbol of Sikhism is the turban worn by men. It symbolizes discipline, integrity, humility, and spirituality, and is an obligatory part of faith, not a social custom.

In order to eliminate the caste differences that arise from surnames, all men carry the last name Singh (lion) and women Kaur (princess).

Photo at wikipedia.com




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