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India: Gurudwara Bangla Sahib

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Gurudwara Bangla Sahib | India | Asia

[Visited: June 2018]

When I approach from one of the many busy roads of Delhi, entering the main entrance of the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib temple complex means stepping into a more peaceful environment, with less cars, but still a lot of people. More people, actually, than I saw out on the street. I walk to the visitor centre, where I am asked to take off my shoes, and someone ties a scarf over my head. Back in 1783, Sardar Bhagel Singh built a small shrine here, and the place has grown into one of the most prominent Sikh sanctuaries of the Indian capital. A Sikh with an orange turban is selling garlands of orange flowers at a stall. People have their pictures taken, or take selfies, with the enormous entrance gate as a frame. The gate consists of marble walls with precious stones in floral patterns: the beauty is in the details.

Picture of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (India): People congregating at the sarovar, or square pool, with Gurudwara Bangla Sahib

Walking up the stairs, I come to a big platform, with a purple-coloured transparent cloth hanging over most of it as a roof. People are lining up for various things, but I do not like lines, and walk straight across, hoping not to insult anyone. For a while, I watch Indians with metal carafes, constantly pooring water into the hands and mouths of worshippers. I descend to the sarovar, the square pond on the west side of the temple. After the eigth Sikh guru gave water to the needy during a cholera epidemic in 1664, the water was considered having healing properties, and it is often taken home by Sikhs. I walk, and stop, and walk, to kneel down and watch. There is so much to see. Sikhs dressed in orange and white, with kesha (long and unshorn hair), kirpan (a sword) and kara (steel bracelet) and kachha (a pair of shorts): four of the five symbols of a Sikh. I am sure they must have the missing one as well: kangha (a comb).

Picture of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (India): Purple cloth with the contours of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib in the background

Some Sikhs are in the water, holding on to chains, sometimes disappearing under the water surface. Upon closer inspection, I also see fish swimming in the not so clean pond. Unfortunately, contamination is bad, and the warm afternoon light I was hoping for, is filtered through a greyish sky. Still, the golden domes of the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib are glowing in the sunlight. After watching the spectacle at the sarovar for a long time, I walk up the stairs: it is time to visit the temple proper. I walk into a golden hall, where three raagis singing verses from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture which also sits prominently on a throne in the centre of the temple. People are seated on the ground on three sides, listening, praying, watching. The recitals are non-stop: people walk in and attend as they like, and leave when they feel the time is right. When I feel my time is right, I leave, chat with some friendly Sikhs who had something to eat at the langar where anyone can get free food. They pose with me, and then I sit at the sarovar until the sun dissolves into the polluted air above Delhi.

Picture of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (India): Floral motif in the arched entrance to Gurudwara Bangla Sahib
Picture of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (India): Woman with colourful dress at the sarovar of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib
Picture of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (India): Sikh with long wooden pole with metal point at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib
Picture of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (India): Sikh with garlands at the entrance of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib
Picture of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (India): Women dressed in sarees at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib
Picture of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (India): Drinking water given by volunteers
Picture of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (India): Sikh with red turban and white shirt
Picture of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (India): Sikh in orange garb at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib temple
Picture of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (India): The golden interior of the temple building seen from the outside
Picture of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (India): Indian at the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib temple
Picture of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (India): Bay window of the main temple building
Picture of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (India): The sarovar, or square pool, with Indians touching the water
Picture of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib (India): Taking a selfie: Indian women at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib

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