Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple, is located in the Punjabi city of Amritsar. It is Sikhism’s most holy site and was completed in the year 1604AD. The Harmandir Sahib is clad in 750kg of gold and surrounded by a pool of reflection which is called Amrit Sarovar and gives the city its name. The Punjabi-English translation is ‘Pool of Nectar’.
Since the partition of British India in 1947, some of the 18million Sikhs living in Punjab have coveted the establishment of an independent country of Sikhistan. Political tension climaxed in 1984 when the Indian military advanced through the Golden Temple, flushing out Sikh separatists. Modest government figures indicate that a total of 83 Indian soldiers and 492 civilians were killed. Later that year, the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated in retaliation.
Arriving in Amritsar just before dawn on a sleeper train, I was able to witness the ceremony whereby the original copy of the Sikh holy text is transported along the causeway to the Temple. The welcoming attitude of the pilgrims was unforgettable and head coverings, meals and accommodation within the pilgrim’s accommodation block (housing around 15,000) were all proffered without mention of charge and gratefully accepted.