Golden temple. Amritsar, Punjab, India

A visit to Golden Temple and Jalianwala Bagh, Amritsar

Land of a thousand blessings, where amrit rains and where many sacrificed their lives for the love of motherland 

Before the sun rises at Golden Temple, Amritsar

Words and photographs: Ambica Gulati

Wahe Guru, Wahe Guru, the sounds of shabads from the Golden Temple floated into the brahma muhurta. It was 4 o’clock in the morning and there was a nip in the air. It was November 2015. Among the millions who visit it for their myriad reasons, my sister and I were two more. We wanted to witness the early morning opening ceremony of the Guru Granth Sahibji. Just as the sun rises, the words of the guru once again open the doors for blessing seekers every morning. In an eternal quest to end the pain and live again another day full of sunshine and hope, the seekers come to bathe in the holy waters of the Golden Temple and absorb the power of the miraculous words of the Guru Granth Sahibji.

IMG_20151114_042713Feet cleansed in the waters on the entrance steps, we walked in, clicking away the well lit home of the guru. The gentle waters of the holy pond shimmered and glistened, so inviting but the slight chill deterred from stepping in. But some were not scarecrows. Some old, some young, they were taking their morning blessings in the holy water, perhaps wishing to wash off their sins or cleanse their soul. We watched and watched the main sanctum. Slowly my feet moved towards it in silence, watching the words of the shabads shine on the screens at the four corners.

IMG_20151114_043121Heads covered, we walked in, bowing to the revered book, up the stairs to the first floor, bowing once again to the book there. Devotees sat around doing their japa. And then to the rooftop, once again bowing to the revered book. And then we sat in the open, watched a couple taking photographs, blatantly ignoring the warning about photography not allowed within the gurudwara premises.

Ignoring this, we sat cross legged. We had not exchanged a word since walking in. The air flowed over and within the water, rising up into the sky and flowing through our breath. I looked up, into the dark sky, the lights of the gurudwara trying to rise up into the infinite space.

IMG_20151114_043602The air swirled around me. My eyes closed, I asked the air what was in store for me. Was I redeemed of my sins? Was the guru around me? All I heard was the swirl of the air around me. I breathed slowly, the air of the guru’s home. I opened my eyes a little, was the guru around me? Only the air was around me. Eyes closed, I breathed in and out, slowly, deeply. Did I hear a voice? I could hear the air whispering sweet words of hope. The fragrance of flowers came through the air. Was it an angel near me? Was it the guru blessing me? Was it the famed amrit varsha (rain of immortality)? I don’t know, but all I know is that I was floating high, up and into the sky. The sweetness of the air filled my lungs, my very being. And then something told me to get up. Slowly, I opened my eyes; the air had not vanished but the nip made me shiver. My aura tingled, my nerves pinched. I asked myself why my body didn’t want to get up. Why it wanted to sink in the air once again? The stairs called. My sister and I were up and slowly moving down, asking the people to give space to walk. The sound of my voice had broken the euphoria of silence and the air. I came into in the world of devotees once again. The palki (carriage) with the Guru Granth Sahbji was entering the golden sanctum. It was time once again for the words of the guru to shed their blessings on the seekers.

The reverie broken, watching the flowered palki go into the sanctum, the fervent guardians keeping everyone out of the way, we walked out for a handful of kada prasad. It was time to bow again, say goodbye to the air and wear my shoes to go to the place of sacrifices, just a few seconds walk from the Golden Temple.IMG_20151114_162655Jallianwala Bagh-where thousands died during the independence period. A massacre by the Britishers against the freedom fighters. The breeze passing through the trees spoke of their pain, embedded on the walls. A lamp burns day and night. Does the light take away the pain or does the light make you realise the pain? I watched the flames, dancing in the breeze.IMG_20151114_163209The bullet holes in the walls were an unforgettable remembrance of bloodshed, of pain, of sacrifice. Nothing comes free, not even the air we breathe, not even the land we walk on, not even the blessings we seek. In hushed voices people point out the scenes of death. Outside the sound of horns and clutter of shops beckon one into the world of freedom.

Walking past the photographs of the martyrs, we came out of the enclosed garden, the bullet holes had told their tale, the sacrifice of thousands beat in the heart, and we looked towards the gurudwara seconds away. It never sleeps, standing testimony to the Guru’s infinite blessings, letting the air carry away the pain of forced sacrifice.

An unforgettable November morning, a city of blessings and sacrifice, a city cited as ‘thin place on earth, a place where heaven and earth come very close’. A city which reminds millions that blessings and sacrifices go hand in hand.


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