What would make a fearless warrior fall to his knees and drop his sword?
Love and God.
The Golden Temple vs the Taj Mahal
Finally, the Golden Temple (aka Harmandir Sahib) was my long-awaited India highlight. Ever since I’d seen a photo of the Golden Temple hanging in a small hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant in Hawaii, I wanted to see it in person; moreso than the Taj Mahal. But perhaps it’s beyond it’s beauty, it’s still a working temple, rather than relic and it draws a mixture of both, tourists and Indian pilgrims from across the globe. Interestingly the Golden Temple averages more visitors a day than the Taj itself.
You can’t easily compare the two as they stand for completely different symbolic purposes. The Taj stands as a heavenly letter erected for human love, while the Harmandir Sahib stands for a powerful love letter to heaven. Side-by-side however, the Golden Temple is a more immersive and spirit invoking experience. It feels alive, because it is.
Purity & power at the Golden Temple
As the spiritual centre and pilgrimage spot for the fiercest-known warrior class in India– the Sikhs– the Golden Temple is a jewel to behold and the worship that evolves from it is something powerful and pure! It’s said that Sikhs are supposed to volunteer at the temple for at least one week in their lifetime, so you might find some volunteers devoutly performing their karmic duty.
During the day, the pristine white marble of the surrounding temple fortress gives it a serene feeling. golden beauty that illuminates both, night and day.
Walk the temple grounds, as chants over the loudspeaker move pilgrims to solemn meditation. Watch as pilgrims descend the steps into the pool, to take a dipping cleanse in the Ganges pool.
Video of the Golden Temple Amritsar (below or if you can’t see this video, go here):
Harmandir Sahib Temple etiquette
- You can’t go into any Indian temple without first, removing your shoes.
- Wash your feet at the entrance before entering.
- Men and women must cover their hair (10 ruppee bandana is sold for men; women bring a shawl or scarf)
- No smoking or drinking alcohol
- No photography allowed inside temple itself
Eating at the temple dining hall
The temple dining hall offers free meals. Eat everything on your plate, then take it to the volunteers to wash. Each week a family or several volunteers their time in the kitchen to help prepare meals for all the visitors that come to the temple. There is a donation box upon leaving if you care to make a small donation for your meal.
There are also many restaurants near the temple.
Golden Temple Hours
The temple complex is open from 6AM until 2AM.
Staying at the Golden Temple
There are serai or lodgings for pilgrims to stay at inside the Golden Temple. No advance booking, but it operates on a first-com, first-serve basis. When you arrive at the temple, ask around and they’ll direct you around the back. The facilities are not great but can be rudimentary. Keep in mind, there may not be a western toilet where your lodgings are at. Donation expected: 100 ruppees. There are also individual rooms with AC for 500rs, Non-AC is 200-300 Rs.
Here’s a map of hotels near the Golden Temple.
Tip: I’ve seen one of the lodging facilities and some dorms have beds, some without. Everything is rather old and unkept. I would advise a hotel unless you really care to rough it. Haven’t seen the private rooms, but keep in mind the beds get used often, if not daily by pilgrims from all over. Here’s a sample of my tolerance for budget India guesthouses, so you get an idea. Read Where did I lay my head in budget India?
Arriving from the train station: There are free shuttle buses to the Golden Temple
Going to the Wagah Border: Taxis leave from Amritsar behind the Golden Temple. You should leave Amritsar by 3:30PM as it will be a 45 minute ride. A taxi might cost around 350 ruppees . An alternate option is to take a shared taxi which will cost about 80-100 rupees per person. Parking fees (around 100 ruppees) may be charged on top of that as your driver will need to park and wait for you.