I have walked barefoot through the streets of Amritsar.
Let me just explain something about myself.
I don’t like to go bare-footed. Anywhere. Ever. Not in my own house or my own yard.
Barefoot at the beach: kind of OK. But that’s it.
But I have walked through the streets of Amritsar without my shoes. All to have the immense pleasure of walking through the Golden Temple complex. And I will confirm: it is definitely worth it. It was worth the too-hot road, the tiny bits of rock that poked my poor feet, and the icky debris that stuck to them. And for me, that is saying a lot.
Walking barefoot on the road is not a usual requirement: there were some current renovations on the temple complex which sealed off the many usual entries. So the place where you leave your shoes for safekeeping while visiting the temple was not close to the open entrance. Hence the walking about. Bare-footed.
As I walked along the road, looking down to ensure I didn’t end up needing a tetanus shot, the top of the temple entrance soared up into view.
Outside there are long sinks where you can wash your hands, face, arms, and neck before entering, as well as pools of water situated so a you must walk through them to wash your feet before entering. Once you are appropriately cleansed, you may enter the temple complex as long as your head is covered and you have not stashed your shoes in your purse or backpack. It is not enough to simply remove your shoes; the shoes must be checked at the remote location.
Once inside the complex, it is like being transported to another world. The marble felt smooth to my poor virgin feet, as long as I stayed on the white squares. The enclosed complex is huge! In the middle is a sacred pond, and in the middle of that pond is the Golden Temple. All around people are sitting, sleeping, worshipping, washing, and visiting. Along the perimeter there are devout Sikhs studying the words of the Guru, reading from beautifully decorated, large books. At other stations volunteers wash cups and offer water to visitors and distribute offerings of pudding. Music, which originates live from the Golden Temple, is amplified and can be heard all over the complex.
Here at the temple people of all faiths congregate to worship and enjoy the spirit of reverence which can be felt throughout. To the left of the main entry, and outside the temple square, there is a gargantuan kitchen where they serve thousands and thousands of people a day. Part of the Sikh religion is a belief in service to others; this is immediately apparent by how many people they serve food, water, and offer shelter. Sikhs and other volunteers clean the entire complex during the night, washing down the floors with milk.
We went in the evening and then back the next morning. Some in our party also attended a ceremony in the wee hours of the morning. At night, the complex is lit up and very beautiful.
The Sikh religion is very fascinating and the people I met were lovely and kind. In a later post, I will write about my visit inside the Golden Temple and post pictures of their kitchen that feeds thousands.