The Golden Journey

A shrine, monument and a space of faith, the Golden Temple in Amritsar is one of the world's most popular heritage sites, with over five million pilgrims and tourists visiting it every year. Capturing the timeless spirituality and beauty of the Golden Temple through the centuries is The Golden Temple of Amritsar, Reflections of the Past (1808-1959), which was released at the Capitol Book Depot on Friday evening. The 303-page coffee table book has been put together by Amandeep Singh Madra and his co-author Parmjit Singh. Published by Kashi House, the publishing wing of the UK Punjab Heritage Association, it explores the temple's golden era of peace, prosperity and patronage and captures the richness and unique nature of the Sikh cultural inheritance.

For this book, designed in the colours white and gold, the authors have unearthed hundreds of the rarest, earliest and stunning images of the shrine, city and inhabitants of Amritsar and combined them with two centuries of eyewitness accounts and travellers' tales from the past.

The book, which was ten years in the making, focuses on the rich cultural heritage of the Sikhs and Punjab and includes nearly 500 artists' and photographers' impressions, including the earliest known painting — an Indian miniature dated 1825 — and photograph (dated 1856) of the shrine. The vast collection of paintings, sketches, lithographs and photographs have been painstakingly unearthed by the authors from archives around the world. The book gives readers a rare chance to look at one of the most recognised buildings in the world, from its origins in the 16th century until now. There are revealing insights into the iconic building and its tumultuous history, as well as the majestic palaces and gardens of Amritsar.

The images are complemented by intriguing excerpts from 70 written accounts, ranging from the earliest discovered, from 1808 by a one-legged British spy, right up to the Hollywood heartthrob Lew Ayres, in search of the exotic and esoteric in 1959. Starting with a detailed introduction that records pre-Sikh mythology, including tracing the temple's history, there are stories of the Pandavas and the visit of Buddha. The past acts of destruction, re-building of the temple, quotes from the Gurus and observations of visitors makes it a visual and wordy treat. The temple's story is also inextricably linked to the rise of Sikh power and turning of the tide on successive Mughal and Afghan incursions on the holy shrine, which the authors brilliantly chronicle.

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