Photo Essay: Harmandir Sahib Golden Temple

The Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) at night

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.

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.

Well not everyone is smiling here:

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.

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

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

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.

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole August 11, 2013 at 6:15 am

Aww. Grumpy Gus the goldfish. He’s cute. Love the photos :) they’re so pretty.

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Samuel Jeffery August 12, 2013 at 7:07 am

Thanks Nicole! Grumpy Gus the Goldfish wasn’t thrilled that I had a camera in my hand as opposed to some tasty treats ;)

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Muza-chan August 11, 2013 at 9:12 am

Great photos :)

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Samuel Jeffery August 12, 2013 at 7:11 am

Thank you! Means a lot coming from you :)

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Heather August 11, 2013 at 9:36 am

Lovely photos, especially the portraits. I feel like I was there alongside you!

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Samuel Jeffery August 12, 2013 at 7:12 am

Thanks Heather!

That’s very kind of you to say :)

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Maria August 11, 2013 at 1:19 pm

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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Samuel Jeffery August 12, 2013 at 7:13 am

Thanks Maria! I’m so anxious to travel in India again :)

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Mary @ Green Global Travel August 11, 2013 at 10:56 pm

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!

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Samuel Jeffery August 12, 2013 at 7:14 am

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.

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Abhishek | Wild Navigator August 12, 2013 at 7:34 am

Great pictures & post Samuel :-) 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 :-)

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Samuel Jeffery August 12, 2013 at 7:49 am

Thanks Abhishek!

I’m impressed by Sikhism as a religion and I wish other religions were this accommodating and welcoming of everyone (no matter what their belief system is).

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Abhishek | Wild Navigator August 12, 2013 at 7:56 am

Your welcome Samuel :-) yes, I agree & I guess we just need to take the best from every religion to see the best they can offer !! Will you be going there again ? My family live in ludhiana & not far from Amritsar !!

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Samuel Jeffery August 13, 2013 at 8:42 am

I’m hoping I can return later on this fall with Audrey :)

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Arianwen August 12, 2013 at 8:28 am

There are some absolutely stunning photos in this post. My favourite has to be the fish though!

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Samuel Jeffery August 12, 2013 at 8:32 am

Thanks Arianwen, that’s probably my fav photos as well ;)

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Tim at Adventure Strong August 12, 2013 at 2:51 pm

The Golden Temple at sunset is a gorgeous photo! And as always, the candid photos are great too.

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Samuel Jeffery August 13, 2013 at 8:47 am

Thanks Tim!

I’m really looking forward to heading back again soon. Hopefully this time around I’ll take more video with Audrey.

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Lillie - @WorldLillie August 12, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Wow– LOVE these photos!!!!

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Samuel Jeffery August 13, 2013 at 8:50 am

Thanks Lillie! I loved your photos from India as well :)

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Stephen August 13, 2013 at 11:29 am

Nice shots! I’ve been in India a couple months now, but haven’t yet made it up to Amritsar. Hope to get there!

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Samuel Jeffery August 14, 2013 at 1:49 am

Thanks! Where have you been so far? We’re hoping to make a return trip later on this year.

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satish ranade August 14, 2013 at 8:16 am

Very beautiful photo essay. I loved it a lot. Keep on posting such beautiful posts.

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Samuel Jeffery August 15, 2013 at 5:18 am

Thanks Satish! I have more photo essays coming soon :)

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Abby August 15, 2013 at 4:42 am

Wow. Just wow. That temple is unlike anything I’ve seen, and your photos are gorgeous.

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Samuel Jeffery August 15, 2013 at 5:17 am

Thanks Abby! Visiting here was one of the best surprises during my trip to India in 2010.

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flipnomad August 15, 2013 at 8:57 am

I like this place more than the Taj Mahal, I find it more serene and peaceful!

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Samuel Jeffery August 17, 2013 at 4:34 am

I totally agree with you! If I had to choose between revisiting one or the other I would definitely pick the Golden Temple.

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James @ Ghana Tours August 15, 2013 at 2:02 pm

wow, amazing shots! Such beautiful colors & details…very nice!

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Samuel Jeffery August 17, 2013 at 4:35 am

Thank you James! It’s certainly a colorful place :)

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YJ @ thefancyvoyager August 15, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Gorgeous photo essay! Love the photo of the guard’s silhouette during sunrise!

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Samuel Jeffery August 17, 2013 at 4:36 am

Thanks YJ! Arriving at the temple before sunrise was definitely a highlight.

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Gabriel August 20, 2013 at 3:49 pm

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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Samuel Jeffery August 21, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Thanks Gabriel,

I completely agree with you. My favorite times to visit were morning and late at night; it was simply magical then.

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noel August 21, 2013 at 4:39 am

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!

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Samuel Jeffery August 27, 2013 at 5:32 am

I hope you get to go soon Noel! I can’t wait to go back myself.

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silviaceriegi August 21, 2013 at 9:27 am

wonderful pictures and a magical place!

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Samuel Jeffery August 27, 2013 at 5:31 am

Thank you! It truly is a magical place :)

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Jenny August 24, 2013 at 2:25 am

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.

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Samuel Jeffery August 25, 2013 at 4:07 am

Thanks Jenny,

It’s a wonderful place to visit.

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Ron | Active Planet Travels August 26, 2013 at 11:07 am

Saw some things on this photo essay that I fell in love with and others I just didn’t want to see (ahem…the candid shot) haha. I hope he doesn’t come across you blog! But in other worldly news, the goldfish is adorable. :-)

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Samuel Jeffery August 27, 2013 at 5:31 am

Hahaha…I hope he doesn’t either ;)

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Vid September 4, 2013 at 3:28 pm

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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Samuel Jeffery September 5, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Thanks!

We ended up staying there for a few days. I really want to go back! These pics are from 2010.

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Stephen S. September 10, 2013 at 3:03 pm

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.

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Samuel Jeffery September 11, 2013 at 2:25 am

You’re definitely rewarded for waking up early! I can’t remember a day in recent months where I’ve been up early though :(

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Zoë Dawes September 18, 2013 at 9:12 am

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 :-)

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Samuel Jeffery September 18, 2013 at 10:26 am

Thanks Zoë!

That’s very kind of you to do that :) I really want to visit India again soon and I’d love to go back to the Golden Temple :)

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Yenny Lee September 19, 2013 at 1:09 am

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.

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Samuel Jeffery September 19, 2013 at 6:36 am

Thanks Yenny! It truly is a place that is mesmerizing :)

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Tour Dubai September 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm

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

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Samuel Jeffery September 26, 2013 at 2:08 am

Thanks, I definitely agree with you about the benefits of waking up early for sunrise :)

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aneesh ahmad January 27, 2014 at 8:45 am

This place truly is beautiful during the sunrise and set.

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Jasraj March 3, 2014 at 8:11 pm

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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Samuel Jeffery March 4, 2014 at 5:45 am

Thank you very much Jasraj!

I can’t wait to return to India soon :)

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Nikhil November 2, 2014 at 5:02 am

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………….

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