The Golden Temple (correctly known as Harmandir Sahib and Darbar Sahib) (2132-2149) must rank among the most awe-inspiring spiritual destinations anywhere. The expanse, the symmetry, the visual impact of white marble and the sheer simplicity of it all, evoke such emotion. A grey sky and a light drizzle added a dimension we hadn’t come across in images of the temple seen over the years.
The temple was built on a plot of land gifted by Emperor Akbar to the third Guru, Amar Das’ daughter Bhani on her marriage to Bhai Jetha who became the fourth Guru, Ram Das. In 1577 Guru Ram Das excavated a tank which eventually gave the city its name (the pool of nectar).
Construction of the temple was completed by the fifth Guru, Arjan Dev. After compiling the Adi Granth in 1604, Guru Arjan Dev placed it in the newly constructed gurudwara. The Adi Granth, the first compilation of the teachings of the Gurus and other saints, would be placed on Guru Arjan Dev’s bed during the night with the Guru himself resting on a sheet spread on the floor beneath it.
To this day, between 11 pm and 3 am, the holy book is brought from the sanctum sanctorum and placed on the fifth Guru’s bed in the Akal Takht, the seat of temporal authority at the northern end of the complex. A sheet is placed on the floor as a mark of reverence for the compiler of the holy text.
The sanctum sanctorum is a beautiful twin-storey structure with floral patterns etched on the marble wall. The devout sit within the building as also in the passage outside listening to the recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib seated there. A similar arrangement is followed on the first floor and the terrace. The first floor has an opening that allows a view of the holy book on the ground floor.
The sense of decorum, discipline and service came as a culture shock in a country where indiscipline and a complete lack of responsibility in public places is the norm. People patiently awaited their turn on the causeway leading to the sanctum sanctorum. No pushing or trying to squeeze ahead. No shouting either.