The Shrine that never sleeps

In times when more and more shrines remain closed for designated hours, visit to a temple that never sleeps – just like our conception of the God – can leave a lasting impression. The Golden temple at Amritsar is one such shrine and can nudge you into that realm when you experience not-here-li-ness even when you are milling in a crowd of five thousand people at four o’clock in the morning. Here is what I saw:

Suvarna Mandir at 5:30 am - or so. (c) margie parikh

Suvarna Mandir at 5:30 am – or so. (c) margie parikh

The gates are never closed, and some Amritsaris – like the owner of a Fulkari dress material shop – told me that they close the shop at 10pm, go home, have dinner and then do the Darshan at any time between one or two am and sleep. At 4:15 am, the Brahm Muhurt is already upon you, when you stumble out of the hotel. But there is no trouble finding the rickshawala to take you to the Suvarna Mandir – the ever-awake Golden Temple at Amritsar.

When I went to the temple, at 4:30 am, it was already bustling with people who were going back. A Pradakshina is called for. The huge walkway surrounding the temple is specked thickly with people walking with you, sitting in mediation, or in deep prayers, and some resting from their travel. There is a ton of gold sitting in front of you, but it does not look ostentatious. Not even glorious. It simply IS. In its presence, you don’t wonder how much it would cost.

At 5:00 am, the holy Granthsahib is brough out from their resting place, and carried inside the temple using a palanquin. The eyes of the young carrier, set inside thick black lashes look alert. There is no iota of sleep or forced wakefulness.

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Young guard being shaped under the watchful eyes of the old guard (c) margie parikh at Suvarna Mandir

So, you join the crowd of about a thousand people and move towards the shrine. The marble is dusted with rose petals and there is no dirt. The petals are picked up carefully, one by one, by the faithful. The stream of prayers wrap you and you are inside a magnificent inner sanctum – the seat of the Granth Sahib – covered with intricately carved gold. You feel at once all by yourself, connected to The One and a part of the sea of humanity – all of it at the same time. You don’t think of your experience, you don’t think. You just BE.

Outside, the Sun God would have begun the approach and the surroundings silently announce the approach.

The North clock tower at the suvarna mandir (c) margie parikh

The South clock tower at the suvarna mandir (c) margie parikh

You see the faces of the faithful and wonder if their are lit up with the light or also the faith.

The young get initiated in the faith - early am at Suvarna Mandir (c) margie Parikh

The young get initiated in the faith – early am at Suvarna Mandir (c) margie Parikh

and then…

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The lights fade and the lights burst…

Burstinng glory of the sunrise (c) margie parikh

Bursting glory of the sunrise (c) margie parikh

and then…

Why would you want to be anywhere else at that moment? (c) margie parikh

Why would you want to be anywhere else at that moment? (c) margie parikh

… and then of course, you come back to the daily world. Come out of the shrine, take the second right and find the shop where you get the milk boiled in Kadai. Then head to Bhrawan da Dhaba for Amritsari Chhole and Kulcha of your choice, On route, take a tour of Jaliyaan Wala Baag, and wonder what it would be meaning to the morning walkers to return to this place where hundreds of peaceful innocents were killed by Michael O’Dyer. After breakfast, you stroll in the market and buy Fulkari dress material and embroidered leather shoes. Also take in the display of swords and guns in the arms shops. Rest and go to Wagha border to see a ritual of change of guards and wonder how the guards were doing the parade and keeping the gate while ceasefire was being breached to kill soldiers elsewhere along the same border. The only difference was, that on the Indian side, people were dancing to the patriotic music streaming from the loud-speakers.

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