A Place of Refuge

Upon covering my head and washing my feet, I stepped through the threshold and was overcome by peace. There was a tranquility and reverence in the air, as the voices of priests resonated in Punjabi in waves from the loudspeaker. For Sikhs, the Golden Temple is the holiest place on Earth. Devout pilgrims arrive from all over the globe to bathe in the sacred waters of the “Pool of Nectar”, meditate on the parkarma, and prostrate in prayer while chanting mantras.

The white marble parkarma forms a walkway around the holy pool of water, Amrit Sarovar, in which the actual temple, Hari Mandir Sahib, rests at the center. The dome of the temple is said to be gilded with 750 kilograms gold. While the ornate architecture and décor are quite impressive, it appeared that something deeper was drawing the masses. Perhaps it was their hunger…on a number of levels.

All Sikh temples have Langar or free food, and the Golden Temple is no exception, preparing over 50,000 meals daily, often double that number during festivities. At all hours of the day, one can enjoy a meal of lentils, kheer, and chipati or cup of sweet hot tea. As I ate the nourishing and simple food with hundreds of others, sitting on the floor in rows, all equal, there was a very real sense of sharing, inclusiveness, and community.

As intended, everyone, irrespective of cast, creed or race is offered a place to seek spiritual solace and religious fulfillment...