Amritsar is quite simply extraordinary—one of the world's most rewarding destinations—frequented by devotees, tourists and the Sikh Diaspora. On my overnight trip to thank God for answering my fervent prayers in the weeks leading up to this visit, what I experienced there was not just a pilgrimage which draws millions of Sikhs from across the globe; it was simultaneously congregational and intensely personal.
Faith is all I carried with me at 11:30 a.m. as I deposited my sandals at the cloak room and covered my head with my favourite red scarf with zardozi motifs. The marble path leading up to the gurudwara was piping hot as I approached the entrance and stepped through the water channel to cleanse my feet. Whenever I stepped into the gurudwara complex, I felt I had entered an oasis far from the chaotic hustle bustle of the street outside. PS The entrances from all four directions signify that people from all walks of life are welcome! Situated in the middle of Amrit Sarovar, the gold plated walls of Golden Temple glittered in the sunlight. Its reflection in the waters of the sacred pool was a magnificent sight and I circumnavigated the waters to click plenty of photographs to keep as memories before bowing to touch my forehead to the marble — paying homage and expressing deep gratitude to God.
Everywhere, there were devotees meditating, praying or taking dips in the holy lake excavated by Guru Ram Das in 1577. The entrance to Golden Temple is over a bridge that connects the courtyard to the temple in the middle of the lake, which houses the Granth Sahib, the scriptures of which are recited all day. Usually, the devout line up methodically and walk towards the inner sanctum. Today, being amaavas, it was chaotic as people from neighbouring villages descended in droves and made their way towards the path leading towards the inner sanctum (it took me two hours to get to the beginning of the line and another hour getting inside for a minute!). The mood swayed between prayers and frenzied chanting of 'Wahe Guru' as people offered those of us in the line cool rose-flavoured milk and water at regular intervals. Though it took hours to get into the inner sanctum due to the thousands of people ahead of me, I had a wonderful experience of connection. It's easy to be a part of the sangat if you open yourself to it… at times with a smile or comment but often chanting 'Wahe Guru' in the flow. I was struck by powerful feelings it evoked in me and then closed my eyes and took a few moments to offer prayers and seek blessings for my home. It was past 3 p.m. when I headed out, the sunshine blazing down on me, but it had been worth the effort — just being there had made me feel blessed and reinforced my belief that Wahe Guru will guide us through life.
Hungry, I headed over to Kesar Da Dhaba, a renowned vegetarian restaurant that opened as a small dhaba set up by Lala Kesar Mal in Lahore in 1916. The food was so sumptuous that its rumoured Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru used to order parcels of food! After the partition, the dhaba shifted to Amritsar, and is famous for its stuffed parathas topped with a slab of butter, dal makhani and phirni served in clay pots. Delicious! Satiated, I headed back to Hyatt Amritsar, and spent the evening chilling in their spa before dining at the Oriental restaurant and calling it a night.