The Golden Temple in Amritsar is one of the most spiritual places in India. The temple is a Sikh temple (aka gurduwara). It was constructed in 1604. Made entirely of gold, the temple is simply spectacular in its architecture and beauty teaching lesson of egalitarianism and humility.
Even though I grew up in north India, merely a four hours drive from Amritsar, I never had a chance to visit the Golden Temple before. Every time I planned a trip there, something or the other happened that prevented me from attaining this lifelong desire.
Fortunately, I made it last week. Amritsar is a small city in Punjab and very close to the India-Pakistan border. As a result of its location, the city can sometimes be unstable and unsafe, but lately no major cases of violence have taken place there.
After parking in the car garage, I walked through the busy streets of Amritsar where everything goes. If you don’t watch out, you can get run over in no time. There is a shoe deposit area before the temple where visitors need to drop off their footwear and walk barefoot for a few more yards on dirt roads before reaching the main entrance to the Golden Temple. Once there, worshippers must do ablution by washing their hands, feet and face.
The walk down the stairs gives a first glimpse of the gold of the temple which is a breathtaking sight. The temple itself stands in the middle of a lake and is surrounded by smaller temples made of white marble, a large courtyard and places for pilgrims to rest, eat and hydrate.
After soaking in the magnificent views of the temple, it was time to go inside and take blessing from the Sikh Gurus. First I bought some offering (Prasad) to offer to the priests. With hundreds of people visiting, there was almost two hours wait in the line before I could go inside. In the main temple, the priests chant away scriptures that are soothing to hear. Worshippers pay their respects by bowing down to the Guru’s, making their offerings and saying their prayers. Immaculate marble inscriptions adorn the walls and ceiling of the inside of the temple. The entire experience is very spiritual and refreshing to the soul.
I have been told the best time to visit is 4am when the temple opens and the crowds are thin. Also, that is the time when the Guru Grant Sahib (the holy book) is taken inside in a procession. When it’s dark, the temple lights up and make the gold glisten in the dark against the clear blue water. It’s definitely worth staying at one of the hotels overlooking the Gold Temple so that you can see it both in day and night.