In the film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi the characters Surinder Sahni and Taani Gupta visit the Harmandir Sahib at Amritsar as part of their journey to understand God's hand in their lives and relationship.
I was immediately impressed not only by the temple structure, but by the reverence for this place that was reflected throughout the actions of the characters. I wanted to understand more about this golden temple.
The Punjabi city of Amritsar is the spiritual centre for the Sikh religion and home to the Harmandir Sahib - "The Temple of God" - also known as the Golden Temple. According to the Gurbani website:
The Harmandir Sahib is considered holy by Sikhs because the eternal Guru of Sikhism, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, is always present inside in it and its construction was mainly intended to build a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life and all religion to come and worship God equally.
The temple is surrounded by a large lake of water, known as the Sarovar which consists of Amrit ("holy water" or "immortal nectar").
There are four entrances to the temple, signifying the importance of acceptance and openness; ostensibly, this concept is reminiscent of the tent of Abraham in the Old Testament -- his tent was open on all four sides in order to be able to welcome travelers from all directions.
Inside the temple complex there are many shrines to past Sikh Gurus, Saints and martyrs. There are three holy trees ("bers") each signifiying a historical event or Sikh saint.
Inside the temple there many memorial plaques that commemorate past Sikh historical events, saints, martyrs and includes commemorative inscriptions of all the Sikh soldiers who died fighting in World Wars I and II.
Anyone who wants to enter the Harmandir Sahib may do so, irrespective of religion, colour, creed or sex. The only restrictions are that the person must not drink alcohol, eat meat or smoke cigarettes or other drugs while in the shrine.
Visitors are, as well, expected to dress appropriately and everyone must cover their heads as a sign of respect, remove their shoes and wash their feet in the small pool of water as they enter the Harmandir Sahib premises. Head scarves are provided.
All Sikh temples (Gurdwaras) in the world follow this traditional rule that everyone is welcome to enter. There are four doors to get into the Harmandir Sahib, meaning that Harmandir Sahib is open to anyone.
The Hamardir Sahib Gurdwara, or "place of worship" is surrounded by a large lake or holy tank, known as the "Sarovar", which consists of Amrit -"holy water" or "immortal nectar". The sarovar is fed by the River Ganges. But actually, there are five sarovars in Amritsar:
Many sacred Sikh shrines can be found in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar. Of particular importance are the five sacred pools in this city. These are called sarovars and it is the practice of some Sikhs to have a dip in all five of these holy pools. The ritual, apart from being good exercise, acquaints one with the importance of these five sites.
While you can take a dip or sprinkle the water over your head, swimming is strictly prohibited in the sarovar. As mentioned above, people going to the Harmandir Sahib are expected to attend with an attitude of worship and reverence. The Guide Map of Sri Harmadir Sahib explains:
Sri Harimandir Sahib, Amritsar is not only a central religious place of the Sikhs, but also a symbol of human brotherhood and equality. Everybody, irrespective of cast, creed or race can seek spiritual solace and religious fulfillment without any hindrance. It also represents the distinct identity, glory and heritage of the Sikhs. To pen-down the philosophy, ideology, the inner and outer beauty, as well as the historical legacy of Sri Harimandir Sahib is a momentous task. It is a matter of experience rather than a of description.
As advised by Sri Guru Amar Dass Ji (3rd Sikh Guru), Sri Guru Ram Dass Ji (4th Sikh Guru) started the digging of Amrit Sarovar (Holy Tank) in 1577 A.D., which was later on brick-lined by Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji (5th Sikh Guru) on December 15, 1588 and He also started the construction of Sri Harimandir Sahib. Sri Guru Granth Sahib (scripture of the Sikhs), after its compilation, was ϐirst installed at Sri Harimandir Sahib on August 16, 1604 A.D. A devout Sikh, Baba Budha Ji was appointed its ϐirst Head Priest.
Sri Harimandir Sahib has a unique Sikh architecture. Built at a level lower than the surrounding land level, The Gurudwara teaches the lesson of egalitarianism and humility. The four entrances of this holy shrine from all four directions, signify that people belonging to every walk of life are equally welcome.
Unfortunately, in October 2008, the Times of India reported that:
Angered by the soaring list of film shootings at the Golden Temple, the most revered shrine of the Sikhs, priests have said the gurdwara could soon be put out of bounds for most of Bollywood.
The development comes days after Shah Rukh Khan shot for his film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi at Harmandir Sahib.
"Everybody wants to shoot at the Golden Temple," an angry Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) president Avtar Singh Makkar complained on Wednesday.
"We have decided to be more wary and circumspect in granting permission to film crews for shoots at the Golden Temple," said SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar. "Only those films or programmes that help the Sikh cause will be allowed to be shot inside the Harmandir Sahib," he added.
The SGPC's announcement on keeping the temple out of bounds for film crew has shocked Bollywood. Film-maker and cinematographer Manmohan Singh said, "How can they do that? There's only one Golden Temple and one can only go there and shoot. The SGPC needs to rethink this. At the most, it can frame guidelines for people like us."
Yet, while watching Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi ("A Match Made by God"), I feel blessed to be able to journey to the Golden Temple with Surinder Sahni and Taani Gupta and to feel the presence of God through that place and the story of these characters.
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