It does require some courage and will power to walk on the hot marble flooring of the Golden Temple in the noon hours when temperatures touch 44° Celsius and at times even go beyond that.
No doubt, synthetic and jute mats have been laid all around the marbled parikrama of the shrine, but these have to be constantly watered to keep them soft and cool. With the hot sun beating down from above, it takes no time for these mats to dry up. The dried mats virtually pinch into the soft skin of the feet of the pilgrims.
In such a situation, the only option left for the pilgrims moving around the sarovar (holy tank) is to use the veranda. But this option is not easily available, as it remains packed with pilgrims for most part of the noon hours. To escape the sun's rays, pilgrims after paying obeisance at the sanctum sanctorum, use the veranda for taking a quick afternoon nap or just some rest, till things get cool enough for them to go back home.
Those who cannot find space in the veranda move over to the spacious Dewan Manji Sahib Hall, where many a pilgrim can be found snoring away under the breeze of the fans. Normally, the sewadars do not permit pilgrims to rest or sit under the Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) entrance of the shrine, but in such extreme weather conditions, this space too is occupied.
STEPS TAKEN BY SGPC
With around a lakh pilgrims visiting the shrine each day, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) does its best to provide relief to the devotees. All through the day, its 'sewadars' remain busy watering the mats around the 'parikrama' and ensuring that pilgrims who take a nap in the veranda or at any other place inside the shrine complex, do not have their feet towards the sanctum sanctorum.
Ceiling fans are fitted on the canopy stretching from the Darshani Deori to the sanctum sanctorum. It is on this stretch that devotees have to wait for 30 minutes or even more to pay obeisance at the sanctum sanctorum. A 'shamiana' fitted with fans has been installed on the 'parikrama' near the Akal Takht for the convenience of pilgrims.
In the sanctum sanctorum, four air-conditioners work all through the day, to keep the air inside cool enough for pilgrims, praying or listening to 'kirtan'. Of late, the SGPC has also installed 'shamianas' at 'Har-ki-Pauri', where devotees partake 'amrit' (holy nectar) and also at 'Dukh-Bhanjani Beri', the most important spot for taking a dip in the 'sarovar'.
SOME ADDITIONAL STEPS
On Sundays or on important religious occasions, the SGPC instals pedestal fans that spray water, below the Akal Takht. However, in view of the extreme heat wave conditions, SGPC secretary Dalmegh Singh on Tuesday asked Golden Temple manager Partap Singh to ensure that these fans are installed on all days of the week till the heat wave subsides.
The secretary also ordered the installation of 'shamianas' outside Ghanta Ghar entrance of the shrine and at various spots in the 'serai' (rest house) area of the complex, which also houses the SGPC offices.
"I have asked the authorities to instal a 'shamiana' fitted with fans in the two lawns between the 'langar' (community kitchen) building and Dewan Manji Sahib Hall. This is being done to create additional space for pilgrims who wish to escape the heat", stated Dalmegh.
MORE ACS FOR 'SERAIS'
At present, the SGPC has 634 rooms/halls, exclusively for the stay of pilgrims at its six 'serais'. Of these, 300 have been fitted with air conditioners while another 206 have coolers and the remaining have just fans fitted in them.