Tag Archives: Punjab

My 25th Year in Travel

Yep, today is a personal post. I mean, of course, everything I share with you on this travel blog is from my personal experience but this one is different. It’s my birthday blog post! Today, I turn 26 and to commemorate the completion of my quarter life (assuming of course that I live to 100 years), I would like to share with you my 25th year in travel.

My 25th in Travel - Birthday Celeb at YUVA
Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra – 25th Birthday Celebration with YUVA Staff and Volunteers

Continue reading My 25th Year in Travel

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Entering the Sikh’s Heaven (Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab)

I spent the third day of the new year being awed and mesmerized (not to mention frozen) by the Golden Temple in Amritsar. While Amritsar is not the state capital, hundreds of thousands, possibly hundreds of millions, visit this city at India’s northwestern frontier as it is home to the Harmandir Sahib aka Golden Temple. The Harmandir Sahib is considered “heaven” among the Sikhs, followers of Sikhism. (most of us [especially Pinoy] know them as the people with the turban)

Amritsar - Golden Temple Dip
A devout Sikh dips into the sarovar (holy pool) even when it’s about 5 degrees cold

I first came to know of the Golden Temple via an article written by Mamu Rose, a Filipina co-volunteer, who toured the Sikh’s Holy City together with other VSO volunteers. Upon gazing at the picture, I told myself that I, too, shall see the Golden Temple for myself.

Amritsar - Golden Temple Panorama
The Golden Temple is located in the middle of the holy pool

It took months before I was finally able to go but I was so glad that I did. Being at Harimandir Sahib, even though I was not a Sikh or a follower of Sikhism (though I like their teachings, the ones I heard of at least), gave me a certain feeling of calm and peace. The Golden Temple, unlike any other places I visited, I felt these even while I was just about to enter the complex premises.

Amritsar - Golden Temple Entrance
One of the entrances, by the Langer (free kitchen). Covered heads and washed feet are required before entry

I don’t know but for some reason, I felt like I am really being welcomed. That I am being, uhm, ushered in. Alright, alright. You can say I am being dramatic. But that was really what I felt at the time. And mind you, I haven’t actually gone in the Golden Temple itself yet.

Amritsar - Golden Temple Bridge
A bridge connects the pilgrims and visitors from the walkway area to the Harimandir Sahib

It probably was because of the long line of devotees and “curious” tourists waiting to get their chance to enter the Sikh “heaven” (although I think the entire complex kinda feels like that already) but also, more importantly, because I wanted to understand the essence of the Harimandir Sahib better.

Amritsar - Golden Temple Bridge Entrance
Can you see the line just to enter the Golden Temple?

And that moment came later that night when my CouchSurfing kind-of host Sokirt met me at the Harmandir Sahib after the trip to the Wagah (Indo-Pakistan) border. Sokirt is a Sikh, and, I should say, probably as devout as my grand aunt were in the congregation.

Amritsar - Golden Temple Right
The Golden Temple and the lights are reflected by the sarovar during the day and night

How did I say so? Well, when we entered the Golden Temple complex, the first words out of Sokirt’s mouth, was “This is heaven.” And, though I may not share the same views as strongly as he does when it comes to religion, I gotta say, I was sold. I mean, you could hear it in his voice. There was so much faith and belief.

Amritsar - Golden Temple Center
Pilgrims and visitors are highly encouraged to revel at the Golden Temple’s majesty during the day and the night

I haven’t met anyone like Sokirt who had that much reverence and awe for his place of worship. Or for the idea of having “heaven on earth”. Not even my late grand aunt. I probably would not convert to Sikhism but really, meeting a Sikh in their holy site and seeing and feeling how much they believe in the teachings of Sikhism, man, that is something that gets through you.

Amritsar - Golden Temple Night Close Up
The Harimandir Sahib glows and radiates throughout the night

When asked about my favorite places or moments in India, the Golden Temple in Amritsar is definitely always mentioned. Not just because of the beauty of the Harimandir Sahib itself (which was built thrice already after being destroyed due to religious and political conflicts) but of what the temple and the surrounding structures represent. Of course, it might be different for you and me. But if you have the chance, I hope you’d get to visit the Golden Temple and see and feel for yourself how the Sikh’s “heaven” can be a refuge for you as well.

Amritsar - Golden Temple Souvenir Photo
Sokirt said I was a brave girl for coming to Amritsar during winter. Well, at 5 degrees, I guess my 8-layered get-up can cope. 🙂

For general travel information on how to get to Amritsar and visit the Harimandir Sahib, please refer to Wikitravel. If you want to learn more about my experience at the Golden Temple and the other places in Amritsar (Langer [free kitchen], Wagah Border, Jalianwallah Bagh), please be patient Smile for the rest of the entries or leave me a comment.