Photo Essay: Harmandir Sahib Golden Temple

Harmandir Sahib: Golden Temple in Amritsar

The Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) illuminated at night in Amritsar, India
The Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) illuminated at night in Amritsar, India

One of the most pleasant aspects of travel is when you discover something that exceeds your initial (or preconceived) expectations. Visiting the Harmandir Sahib Temple, also known as the Golden Temple, located in Amritsar, India ended up being one of the top highlights of my travels in India. Unlike the Taj Mahal, which is more of a tourist experience, the Golden Temple is a religious/spiritual experience.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this prominent Sikh Gurdwara temple is that it is open and available to everyone regardless of sex, race, creed or religion. The only restrictions or rules revolve around visitor behavior upon entering the premises. Removing your shoes and then proceeding to wash your feet in a small pool of water is required before setting foot in the temple. Wearing a head covering as a sign of respect is paramount; however, (for those without adequate covering) scarves are provided.

Taking the time to wander around the temple, at all times of day, with the masses is what I remember the most to this day; it was especially impressive during sunrise and sunset when the Golden temple would shine from the reflection of the sun.

The most spiritual text of Sikhism (the Guru Granth Sahib) is always present inside the temple which is considered holy by Sikhs. The Golden Temple literally means ‘the Temple of God’ and is the most significant architectural accomplishment in Amritsar.

It's the faces that often make a place memorable. While taking in the atmosphere of the Golden Temple I distinctly remember this girl who had glint in her eyes and a shy smile.
It’s the faces that often make a place memorable. While taking in the atmosphere of the Golden Temple I distinctly remember this girl who had glint in her eyes and a shy smile.

It’s the faces that often make a place memorable. While taking in the atmosphere of the Golden Temple I distinctly remember this girl who had glint in her eyes and a shy smile.

Waking up early in the morning to visit the Golden Temple afforded me the opportunity to walk around without the crowds. This man stood in awe for several minutes.
Waking up early in the morning to visit the Golden Temple afforded me the opportunity to walk around without the crowds. This man stood in awe for several minutes.

Waking up early in the morning to visit the Golden Temple afforded me the opportunity to walk around without the crowds. This man stood in awe for several minutes.

Nothing like smiling faces and cute poses from children to liven the experience. You'll notice the distinct head dressing required to enter the temple.
Nothing like smiling faces and cute poses from children to liven the experience. You’ll notice the distinct head dressing required to enter the temple.

Nothing like smiling faces and cute poses from children to liven the experience. You’ll notice the distinct head dressing required to enter the temple.

Well not everyone is smiling here: grumpy fish with a frown
Well not everyone is smiling here: grumpy fish with a frown

Well not everyone is smiling here: “You talking to me? You looking at me?

In the afternoon the temple can get awfully crowded - especially near the Gurdwara.
In the afternoon the temple can get awfully crowded – especially near the Gurdwara.

In the afternoon the temple can get awfully crowded – especially near the Gurdwara.

I like to think of this photo as the Three Wise Men :)
I like to think of this photo as the Three Wise Men πŸ™‚

I like to think of this photo as the Three Wise Men πŸ™‚

This group of people marvel at the Harmandir Sahib from a distance.
This group of people marvel at the Harmandir Sahib from a distance.

This group of people marvel at the Harmandir Sahib from a distance.

A guard with a most impressive beard stands tall outside of the main entrance to the Harmandir Sahib.

A guard with a most impressive beard stands tall outside of the main entrance to the Harmandir Sahib.

A photo of bare chested man with distinct smile and an impressive beard.

A photo of bare chested man with distinct smile and an impressive beard.

Devotees pay their respect by bowing in servitude.

Devotees pay their respect by bowing in servitude.

I snapped this photo of the Golden Temple from a distance during sunset.

I snapped this photo of the Golden Temple from a distance during sunset.

Aside from the impressive golden color of the temple, the people offer an even more eclectic mix of colors.

Aside from the impressive golden color of the temple, the people offer an even more eclectic mix of colors.

This guard is rendered as a silhouette during sunrise.

This guard is rendered as a silhouette during sunrise.

The edges and corners of the complex are the best place to view the temple from afar.

The edges and corners of the complex are the best place to view the temple from afar.

I snapped this candid portrait just after this man finished taking a dip.

I snapped this candid portrait just after this man finished taking a dip

This is a photo of a man sitting down while reading.

This is a photo of a man sitting down while reading.

Two guards converse with one another.

Two guards converse with one another.

This man takes great care in wrapping the blue headdress around his head.

This man takes great care in wrapping the blue headdress around his head.

A silhouette shot of a man walking around during sunset.

A silhouette shot of a man walking around during sunset.

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  1. says: Nikhil

    Really it’s a remarkable description of Golden Temple……….I am surprised with the photo shoot…….All the pictures are very nice and clear…seems I am personally standing in the temple………….

  2. says: Jasraj

    Sitting here in Leeds, reminiscing of events in my home country (India) I find myself looking at your amazing collection of photos from Amritsar. I’m a Sikh myself and the photos have touched me to a great extent and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to admit that I’m a bit teary eyed after reading your blog. I’m a student here in the UK and am going back to India in April. I can’t wait to go back and enjoy the serenity of the temple and pay my respects. Keep up the good work!!! And I recommend you to go to Varanasi as well, it’s a lovely old place full of colour and stories and of course spirituality.

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  4. says: Tour Dubai

    I think you have a great blog here and the pictures of the devotees at the Golden Temple are just mind-blowing! I have been there are well and the most beautiful time to capture the temple it at sunrise.

    I am currently residing in Dubai right now and you should visit it too. If you do just contact Tours Dubai

  5. says: Yenny Lee

    The photos are so dramatic! I loved every one of it!

    I know there’s a lot of things going on in India right now, and it’s such a breather to see this beautiful edifice. The temple somehow reminds me of buildings in Europe, and I’m not joking. It’s so wonderful especially when seen from afar at night.

  6. says: ZoΓ« Dawes

    Such evocative (and quality) photos really bring this article alive. I’ve always wanted to visit India and this post highlights a few of the reasons why. I’m currently working for a UK travel company and will share it via their Twitter @indus_uk feed πŸ™‚

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  9. says: Stephen S.

    Getting a picture like the man staring at the sunset with no crowds is why I have been getting up early and heading to some sites….Well, that is part of the reason, the other part is jet lag and I’ve been going to bed at 8 p.m. each night.

  10. says: Vid

    Sam,

    These are some of the most amazing shots I have seen of the Golden Temple. It’s funny how we grew up a few hundred kilometres from Amritsar and never visited this gem. Now that we live thousands of miles away, we try to plan it in our short visits back home. Irony, eh?

    Did you do a day trip from Delhi or did you spend a few days in / around Amritsar?

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  13. says: Jenny

    Beautiful. I had not heard of this temple, but I would definitely love to see it. Interesting how in some religions you show respect by covering your head, and in others by taking off your hat.

  14. says: noel

    Wow gorgeous, the portraits are amazing…note to self – must visit india soon, the colors and people are amazing! thanks for sharing these beautiful people!

  15. says: Gabriel

    Great photos. This place truly is beautiful during the sunrise and set. I love waking up early as you get to experience so much more out of the day. The early morning light and sunrises are awesome.

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  18. Great pictures & post Samuel πŸ™‚ I go to the golden temple every year as have been going from childhood. As a person who follows Sikhism as a religion – the main aim is to welcome & treat everyone with respect. The Langaar (free meals) that we get is a practice that takes place in all gurudwaras all around the world. Its such a beautiful & peaceful place – the golden temple & all individual worries & problems are said to be washed way with ones presence there. Thank you for posting πŸ™‚

  19. Gorgeous photographs of the Golden Temple! Such beautiful architecture and an awe inspiring place! I am awe of the fact that volunteers prepare food for all of those attending the temple or on pilgrimage every day! In so many ways, it truly is a spiritual and faith instilling experience!

    1. Thanks Mary! I totally agree with you. Having the opportunity to visit at all times of day and have a communal meal really cemented this experience ahead of visiting the Taj Mahal (which I also found very impressive). I’m hoping to return later on this year or next to film the experience.

  20. says: Maria

    Nail on the head within the first paragraph Sam! It did exceed all my expectations – and I’m just looking at the photographs. Kudos!

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