On a sultry summer’s day, we drove down to Vellore, to see the grand Hindu religious structure called the Sri Lakshmi Narayani Golden Temple.(Vellore is infamous for it’s summer temperatures, so tourists may be cautioned against travelling here in the months from late March to June). This temple draws hordes of tourists from all parts of the country. From the city of Bangalore, this is exactly 180 kms away, located in the state of Tamil Nadu, and can be done as a one day trip. Luckily, we had friends here who guided us well on how to approach this site. Entry tickets to the temple need to be bought from the ticket counters. For the elderly and disabled, there is a special facility of a wheel-chair. One needs to leave shoes and electronic devices, including cell-phone and cameras in the car, for we had been told that there was a strict security system in the temple.
In South India, most temples have this strict rule of not allowing cell phones inside the temple premises. This is an advantage as people don’t spoil the atmosphere by clicking pictures, posing, standing in the way or talking loudly over their phones. However, this can also mean that you need a prior agreement with your driver as to where you will be meeting him and an approximate time limit. Our experience started from here. Once out of the car, we literally hopped, skipped and jumped to the main temple gate, for the tar was burning hot and scalded the underside of our feet. To our relief, the entire pathway from the gate had mosaic flooring, and a damp jute carpeting had been provided for tourists to stand on. Fortunately for us, we did not have to wait in the queue for too long.
The complete path to the temple was star-shaped, following the traditional Hindu pattern. The Golden Temple is built right in the heart of this star-shaped pathway, which covers an over all distance of about 2 kms. The pathway is cool, built of marble, and has covered corridors. At each of the “points” of the star, a provision for drinking water and a resting place was given. People looked happy and cheerful with this arrangement, and so did we. It gives great solace to think that clean drinking water is close at hand on a hot summer’s day, even though you’re not desperate for a drink just then.
Through the complete walk down this star shaped structure, a marvellous landscaped garden accompanies you. This comprises lush green grass, crotons, season flowers, sculptures, and even a man-made waterfall. We were told that the entire concept of such pleasant surroundings is that a person who is on a spiritual quest, should unburden all his worries and anxieties before approaching the Divine. The huge water body which ran alongside, filled with coins and bangles, was purportedly to rid oneself of negative emotions: water is said to be a great absorber of negative vibrations.
We were so carried away by the beautiful surroundings, that the heat and hardship of the journey were quickly forgotten. All of a sudden, we reached a sloping plinth which led up our target: the wonderful, extraordinary, awesome and dazzling Golden Temple.The Golden Temple of Vellore is, as it’s name suggests, built with around 1,400 kgs of pure gold. Intricately carved, and maintained with amazing care, this temple is the stuff dreams are made of. The founder of this temple, Guru Sri Sakthi Amma, philosophises that a potential devotee will be drawn to God if there is something to attract him to a spiritual place, and hence the concept of this mega valuable temple. Indeed, on reaching the idol of Sri Lakshmi Narayani, we were drawn like a magnet. Call it faith, devotion or sheer attraction, there is something startlingly attractive about the Goddess, an embodiment of Shakti (Durga, Saraswati and Maha Lakshmi). Any religious experience is a highly personal one, and so is this. I had once read a comment on the internet (before my visit) which said, ” This must be what Heaven looks like.” Owing to a strict ban on cameras here, one is unable to click any personal snaps. Most tourists and pilgrims prefer to stay overnight in the city , in order to glimpse the temple by night. Lit up, the Golden Temple is truly a dazzling and amazing sight to behold.It can be stated confidently that the Golden Temple of Vellore is one of the must-see spots for anyone travelling in South India.
Article by Ruma Sen