Amritsar: At a time when the `VIP culture` in India is under threat from the ideology of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, Harmandar Sahib, Sikh`s premier shrine here, has been showing the way of treating everyone alike, including VIPs and celebrities. Even being the chief minister of Punjab does not help here.
Five-time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, 86, will have to wait for a few years to get his turn to get a `Akhand Path`, a Sikh rprayer service of the Guru Granth Sahib conducted at the Dukhbanjani Sahib inside the Golden Temple complex. Badal`s name is among over 130.000 people who figure in the list of people who want the 48-hour long ceremony conducted.
All VIPs and celebrities have to queue up along with thousands of commoners to get a religious ceremony conducted at Harmandar Sahib - popularly known as the Golden Temple and considered the holiest of Sikh shrines.
Such is the rush of people for the religious ceremony that the shrine management has bookings full till 2019.
The ceremony is conducted by Sikh priests (Granthis) at two places - Dukhbhanjani Sahib and Har-ki-Pauri.
All applicants have to specify where they want the ceremony to be conducted.
The `Dukhbhanjani Beri` (tree) is believed to be even older than the shrine.
"The Akhand Path ceremony is held at various places inside the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple). At some places, we have bookings till 2019. Scores of people keep coming for more bookings," Pratap Singh, manager of the Golden Temple complex, said.
"No one is a VIP here. Everyone has to wait for his turn for the ceremony," he added. Other well-known names in the list who are waiting for their turn include Bollywood superstars Amitabh Bachchan, Anil Kapoor and Akshay Kumar and NRI businessman Sant Singh Chatwal.
Many other top politicians, celebrities and influential people are also in the list.
Telecom sector tycoon Sunil Bharti Mittal, actor Rishi Kapoor and a few others have been able to get the ceremony conducted here after waiting for several years.
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) secretary Dalmegh Singh said the list of people who want to get the ceremony conducted was very long.
The SGPC, which is the mini-parliament of Sikh religious affairs, manages gurdwaras in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, including Harmandar Sahib. The SGPC annual budget is nearly Rs.700 crore.
"It is a good thing that the shrine does not entertain VIPs and celebrities separately. Before god, everyone should be equal. Some shrines in other parts of India allow VIP darshan. That is not good," Jagmohan Singh, a volunteer at the shrine said.
Amritsar, the tank of nectar, is located 250 km from Chandigarh.
It is home to Harmandar Sahib (the temple of god). The shrine work was started by Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh guru, in 1574. The shrine was completed by Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Sikh guru, in 1601.
It has been the most revered Sikh shrines over the centuries and attracts millions of devotees and visitors from across the globe annually.