I walked through the water trough with my bare feet and made my way through the crowds to the top of the marble staircase leading into the Golden Temple. I took a long moment to take in the site from that vantage point. A beautiful golden temple sitting in the middle of a lake, called a sarovar. The access to the temple was a wide causeway which extends into the lake, which is always crowded with worshippers.
Only in India have I seen thousands of people filing into temples every day to worship God. When I see these multitudes the words “blessed are the devoted” always come to my mind. It makes me so happy to see such a wonderful sight.
The first time I viewed the Golden Temple from the top of those stairs, I got goose bumps which ran from my head all the way to my feet. I feel this energy every time I visit this place, that’s why I am sure that this is one of the holiest places on Earth.
On my first visit I made my way down the stairs and selected a quiet spot by the water where I could sit in meditation. After a while my right leg started cramping and I stretched it out to get some relief.
Almost immediately I got a peck on my shoulder and someone whispered “Please re-tuck your leg. Your foot should not face the temple.” I was extremely apologetic and worried that I had offended others, but with a big smile he reassured me that all was fine.
We began to talk and he offered to show me parts of the temple grounds that most tourists don’t get to see. We went into the kitchen, where they prepare a free meal (langar) for 100,000 visitors every day. We saw the areas were people are allowed to sleep on blankets through the evening. We went into the meditation room that was devoted to an Islamic woman that had converted to Sikhism. Many people were quietly sitting there in meditation, away from the massive crowds that were outdoors.
Davinder Singh Chawla was the best friend and guide I could’ve ever found to show me these things. On subsequent trips he has continued to show me his Amritsar. We have taken a stroll through the narrow streets, sampling Punjabi treats at the food stalls. He’s taken me to the tailors place to get some new Punjabi suits made. I wanted to buy a gold Khanda (the symbol of the Sikhs) and Davinder helped me find a jeweler for that. He’s even invited me to join his family in their Lohri celebrations, a harvest festival in mid-January. One year I changed my plans and wanted to be in Amritsar for New Years. All the hotels were full, the Golden Temple housing was also full, but Davinder reached out to his large network of friends and was able to find a comfortable room for me, right beside the temple grounds! He’s been an invaluable friend to me and one I will cherish forever.
He’s also taken me to other area gurudwaras, including the Gurudwara Shaheed Baba Deep Singh ji, where Baba Deep Singh is remembered for his bravery fighting the Moguls that had infiltrated the area. Baba Deep Singh’s head was severed in the process, and even though his head was still barely attached, he supported it with his left hand and continued to swing his sword with his right hand. The Sikhs are known for their bravery, but this story stands out as miraculous!! The visit to this gurudwara is something I will never forget.
Davinder now works for the Indian government as a guide on the Amritsar Heritage Walk. It’s the perfect job for him! I highly recommend that you take the time to meet my friend Davinder and enjoy a leisurely, entertaining and informative walk through the narrow streets and alleyways of Amritsar. You can find more info at http://travel.ukpha.org/sites/heritage-walk-through-amritsars-old-city.