My weekly Slice of Life are my letters to my Doddamma. She is my father’s elder brother’s wife. Doddamma literally means ‘elder mother’. She is 88 years old. She cannot hear properly if I telephone to talk to her. So, I have been writing letters to her since October 2017. I enjoy writing letters and she is happy to read them. They are only about the everyday moments in my life. I post my letters to her every week.
We planned our vacation a few months ago. We wanted to go to Amritsar, home of the Golden Temple (GT) or Harmandir Sahib and to Mcleodganj in Dharamsala. The Dalai Lama visits the Tsuglakhang Temple, popularly known as the Dalai Lama temple two or three times in a year.
We left on the 1st evening for Hyderabad. We stayed the night with anna (elder brother). On 2nd morning our flight to Amritsar was at 8 o’clock. I always feel a little apprehensive when the plane takes off since there is nothing under us. But when we go above the clouds it is like being in a different world. The clouds look like the infinite ocean.
We reached Amritsar at 11. We had to put on our sweaters as it was very cold. Our hotel was very near the Golden temple which is in the older part of the city. We told the driver that we would call the hotel and the receptionist would give the directions but they had more faith in the GPS. At the end we had to take an electric autorickshaw 😊 from one point as the roads were too narrow. Only electric autorickshaws are allowed near GT. The narrow alleys of the old part of the city with shops and eateries on both sides are fascinating. Our hotel was good and the staff helpful.
We went to the G T at 2.15, just five minutes away. At the entrance there is a shoe and baggage counter. We kept our footwear there. Before entering the temple complex we have to cross a stream of running water to clean our feet. All have to cover their heads and scarves are provided. I covered my head with my shawl.
Entering the complex was like entering a different world. On the right side is the AkalTakth and on the left, the entrance to the Golden Temple. It is a small and beautiful shrine. We joined the queue and slowly made our way towards the sanctum. The temple was as beautiful inside as it was on the outside. There are floral designs on the wall and some inscriptions too. There are carpets everywhere for people to sit. In the central chamber the Adi Granth was being read. We sat outside the sanctum for some time and then went to the first floor. We sat there too. There was peace and serenity in the air. We were inside the temple for more than an hour. It was a divine experience. We were given Kada Prasad when we came out of the temple. The prasad is made from wheat flour, ghee and sugar. It was delicious.
That day ( 2nd January) was the birthday of Guru Gobind Singh, the spiritual leader of the Sikhs. We were lucky to be there. There were fireworks. Hymns were sung continuously. Thousands of diyas and candles were lit. The final Ardas or the ultimate prayer address to the Almighty was powerful and touched the heart. Everyone was standing and when the hymn ended all knelt, facing the temple and touched their head to the ground. It was an emotional moment too. Then we went to the Langar hall to have food. The feeling of service and devotion is inherent in the temple complex. All are welcome to eat food that is served there. We were served chapati, dal, a vegetable dish and rice kheer. Devotees do all the work as part of their service to God. There is no discrimination at all. We learnt that food is served twenty fours a day.
The Golden temple is closed from 11 pm to 22 am when the Guru Granth Sahib is taken from the temple to the Akal Takth.
That day was an amazing day. Being in the temple complex, watching all the devotees and soaking in the atmosphere is an experience of a life time. We went back to the hotel at 8.30.