One place that has truly mesmerised me throughout my life is the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. As a kid I wondered – is the temple really made of gold? As a teenager I wondered – is the Sikh religion really as tolerant as people say? As an adult I wondered – is the temple really so magical that all your prayers get answered? Well, when I finally got an opportunity to visit, I couldn’t pass up the chance – and best of all, I found a lot of answers!
Reaching the Golden Temple
We reached Amritsar late in the evening. It took us a while to reach the Golden Temple area as our driver stumbled with directions and we kept going through narrow bazaars instead of taking the new road that would take us directly to the area.
Important advice: IF you are planning to use google maps – search for “Saragahri Car Parking” and take the Golden Temple Way from the Grand Trunk Road which takes you directly to the car parking (please check the “satellite” version of Google maps to get a better idea). Another option is to set your destination as “Cafe Green Saragarhi Sarai” or “Saragarhi Sarai” hotel.
We were able to get a room at the Saragarhi Sarai hotel. I would highly recommend staying there as the rooms are clean and it is within walking distance to the Heritage Market and the Golden Temple.
Once we reached our hotel, we waited for a bit before we were assigned a room and were able to settle into our room. Our original plan was to visit the temple the next morning at 5 am with an escort who would show us all the things to do the right way. However, the Heritage Market area next to the hotel that leads up to the Golden Temple looked so vibrant at 9 pm that we were not ready to call it a night. So, we slowly headed towards the temple enjoying a bit of shopping along the way.
Shopping near Golden Temple
We thoroughly enjoyed shopping for trinkets and textiles in the market. The vibrant colours and happy people everywhere created such an electric atmosphere. We slowly walked towards the Golden Temple. We passed by Jallianwala Bagh but it was closed for the day.
The Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib)
The Golden Temple was a stunning sight at night. Beautifully lit up… not so many people to make you feel overwhelmed. After spending some time sitting by the water, we decided to walk around. By the time we reached the main temple entrance, it was about 10:15 pm. We saw a beautiful procession of people coming out of the temple. We asked a guard stationed close by what was going on and he told us it was the nightly ritual where the holy book is taken out from the temple to its nightly resting place.
There were still people waiting in line to go inside the main temple… so we joined the line and went inside as the closing ceremonies were taking place. After visiting the main area, we realised we could walk up where a holy book was being read. One more flight of stairs there was another area where the holy book was being read. From the top floor we could see the beautiful areas surrounding the temple… it was spectacular. As part of the closing ceremonies, there were many volunteers cleaning the temple and preparing it for the next day. Completely satisfied with our visit, we came back to our room and slept.
The next morning we were ready by 5 am. We headed back to the temple area, this time with our escort, and waited in the queue to go inside the temple. The magic of the time was that we were able to experience the Golden Temple transition from night to day break and it was amazing.
After a wonderful visit, where we followed all the proper rituals, we headed to the langar area (the place where you can sit with others and partake food with other visitors). We were too early for breakfast but we were able to enjoy a nice morning snack that consisted of Indian mixture with an Indian sweet and a cup of tea.
On our way back from the temple, we visited Jallianwala Bagh. The well area was under renovation so we were only able to take a peek, but we were able to see other parts of the memorial.
Afterwards, we walked around for a bit before heading back to the hotel to pack up and leave. We left by about 10:30 am.
The market in front of the Golden Temple is very well built and generally speaking, you pay fair prices. However, it does not harm to bargain a bit.
Staying close to the temple is a huge advantage. You can freely walk and explore the area without feeling unsafe.
People are helpful but use common sense. Stick to the main roads and don’t wander off into the side streets.
Respect the local traditions and cover up properly (remove shoes, cover your head, legs, etc.).
If you can, visit the Golden Temple at night as well as during day time. It was really nice to see the different sides of the temple happenings.