Visiting The Golden Temple: Harmandir Sahib 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.

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

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.

Harmandir Sahib: Golden Temple 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.

History Of The Golden Temple: Harmandir Sahib

The Golden Temple, also known as Harmandir Sahib, is a must-see attraction for travelers visiting the city of Amritsar in Punjab, India. It is one of the most sacred sites in Sikhism and welcomes millions of visitors from all over the world each year.

Construction of the Golden Temple started in 1588 under the guidance of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Sikh Guru. It was built on a serene location that was chosen by Guru Amar Das, the third Sikh Guru, due to its tranquil surroundings and natural beauty.

The temple was initially known as Harmandir Sahib and was completed in 1604 with only one floor. However, over time, additional levels were added to the temple. It was built with four entrances, symbolizing that it was open to people from all religions and castes.

In the early 19th century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh renovated and covered the upper floors of the temple with gold leaf, giving it its current name, the Golden Temple. The temple has played a significant role in Sikh history and has been the site of many significant events, including the creation of the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.

Today, the Golden Temple remains a popular pilgrimage site for Sikhs and a must-visit attraction for tourists. Visitors are required to cover their heads and remove their shoes as a sign of respect. It is a serene and peaceful place that offers a unique insight into Sikh culture and traditions.

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.

All Are Welcome At The Golden Temple

All are welcome at the Golden Temple, regardless of their religion, caste, or creed. The temple was built with four entrances, which symbolize that it is open to people from all walks of life. This is in line with the principles of Sikhism, which emphasizes equality and tolerance. Visitors to the temple are required to cover their heads and remove their shoes as a sign of respect, but other than that, everyone is welcome to visit and experience the peaceful and serene atmosphere of the Golden Temple.

The Golden Temple is not just a spiritual center for the Sikh community, but also a place of immense humanitarian service. The temple offers free meals and accommodation to all visitors, regardless of their religion, caste, or creed.

The tradition of serving free meals, called “langar”, began with the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, who believed in the importance of feeding the hungry and promoting social equality. The Golden Temple continues this tradition by serving over 100,000 free vegetarian meals every day in its langar hall. The food is prepared by a team of volunteers who work around the clock to ensure that visitors are well-fed and cared for. The meals are served on the floor in rows, and everyone, including men, women, and children, sits together to eat. The langar hall is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and welcomes all visitors with open arms.

The Golden Temple also offers free accommodation to visitors in its sarai, or hostel. The sarai has basic facilities and can accommodate up to 3,000 people at a time. The accommodation is available on a first-come, first-served basis and is free of charge. The rooms are simple, clean, and equipped with basic amenities such as beds, blankets, and bathrooms. The sarai is managed by volunteers who ensure that visitors are comfortable and have everything they need during their stay.

The Golden Temple’s offering of free meals and accommodation is a testament to its commitment to serving humanity and promoting social equality. It is a unique and humbling experience to witness the dedication and generosity of the volunteers who work tirelessly to provide these services to visitors from all over the world. The temple’s langar and sarai facilities are open to everyone, regardless of their background, and provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all visitors.

In addition to its langar and sarai facilities, the Golden Temple offers a range of other services to visitors. The temple has a free medical clinic, where volunteer doctors and nurses provide basic medical care and medicines to those in need. The clinic is equipped with modern medical equipment and staffed by professionals who provide their services free of charge.

The temple also has a museum that showcases the history of Sikhism and the Golden Temple. The museum displays artifacts, paintings, and photographs that tell the story of the Sikh gurus, the history of Punjab, and the role of the Golden Temple in Sikh culture and history.

The Golden Temple is a unique place that offers a glimpse into the Sikh way of life and its values of community service, equality, and compassion. The temple’s langar, sarai, medical clinic, and museum are a testament to the Sikh community’s dedication to serving humanity and promoting social justice.

Moreover, the Golden Temple is an architectural masterpiece that features a stunning blend of Islamic and Hindu architectural styles. The temple’s main building is covered in gold leaf and features intricate carvings, marble inlays, and colorful glasswork. The temple is surrounded by a large pool, called the Amrit Sarovar, which is considered sacred by Sikhs.

The Golden Temple is not just a religious site, but also a cultural landmark that attracts millions of visitors from around the world every year. It is a symbol of peace, unity, and harmony, and a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Punjab or India.

The Golden Temple Is Open 24 Hours A Day

The Golden Temple’s 24-hour schedule is an important part of its tradition and reflects its commitment to serving humanity. The temple is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and welcomes visitors from all walks of life.

The temple’s 24-hour schedule allows visitors to experience the temple’s different moods and energies at different times of the day. The temple is particularly serene and peaceful during the early morning hours, when the first prayers of the day are offered. This is a time when visitors can experience the temple’s tranquil atmosphere and meditate or offer their prayers in peace.

The temple’s 24-hour schedule also allows visitors to participate in the temple’s different services and activities at any time of the day or night. For example, visitors can join the langar service and have a free meal at any time of the day, as the langar hall is open 24 hours a day. The temple’s medical clinic is also open 24 hours a day, providing basic medical care to those in need.

The temple’s 24-hour schedule is made possible by the dedication of its volunteers, who work tirelessly to ensure that the temple is always open and welcoming to visitors. The temple has a large team of volunteers who work in shifts to maintain the temple’s cleanliness, serve food in the langar hall, and provide assistance to visitors.

The temple’s 24-hour schedule also reflects its commitment to serving humanity. The temple’s langar service, which provides free meals to visitors, is a testament to its belief in promoting social equality and serving those in need. The temple’s medical clinic, which provides basic medical care to those in need, is another example of its commitment to serving humanity.

In addition to its 24-hour schedule, the Golden Temple also hosts a number of special events and celebrations throughout the year. The temple celebrates major Sikh festivals such as Gurpurabs, which mark the birthdays of Sikh gurus, and Baisakhi, which marks the Sikh New Year. These celebrations are marked by special prayers, music, and festivities that attract visitors from all over the world.

The Golden Temple’s 24-hour schedule is an important part of its tradition and reflects its commitment to serving humanity. It allows visitors to experience the temple’s different moods and energies at different times of the day and provides a welcoming and inclusive environment for visitors from all walks of life.

10 Tips For Visiting The Golden Temple

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history, culture, and religion. As one of the most important sites in Sikhism, the Golden Temple attracts millions of visitors every year. Here are ten tips for making the most of your visit.

  1. Dress modestly: The Golden Temple is a religious site, and visitors are expected to dress modestly out of respect for the Sikh culture. Both men and women are required to cover their heads, and wearing shoes is not allowed inside the temple complex. Visitors are encouraged to dress in loose-fitting clothing that covers their shoulders and legs, and to bring a scarf or head covering.
  2. Be respectful: The Golden Temple is a sacred site for Sikhs, and visitors are expected to be respectful at all times. This means avoiding smoking, drinking alcohol, or engaging in any behavior that could be considered disrespectful. Visitors should also speak softly and refrain from touching any religious objects or sacred spaces.
  3. Plan your visit: The Golden Temple is a vast complex, and there is much to see and do. To make the most of your visit, it is advisable to plan in advance. Allocate enough time to explore the different attractions, and consider visiting during off-peak hours to avoid crowds.
  4. Be prepared for crowds: The Golden Temple is a popular tourist destination, and it can get crowded, especially during peak season. Be prepared to wait in line, and be patient. Visitors are encouraged to maintain a calm and respectful demeanor, even in crowded areas.
  5. Try the langar: The Golden Temple’s langar is a unique experience and an integral part of Sikh culture. The langar is a free meal service offered to all visitors, regardless of their religion or background. The food is prepared by volunteers and served in the langar hall. Visitors are encouraged to try the langar, which is a simple vegetarian meal.
  6. Explore the temple grounds: The Golden Temple is not just a religious site, but also a cultural landmark. Visitors can explore the temple’s different attractions, including the museum, which showcases the history of Sikhism and the role of the Golden Temple in Sikh culture and history. The temple also has a medical clinic that provides basic medical care to those in need.
  7. Respect the temple’s guidelines: The Golden Temple has a set of guidelines that visitors are expected to follow. These include covering your head, removing your shoes, and not taking photographs inside the temple. Visitors should also refrain from smoking, drinking, or engaging in any behavior that could be considered disrespectful.
  8. Learn about Sikhism: The Golden Temple is the holiest site in Sikhism, and visitors are encouraged to learn about the religion and its culture. The temple has a museum that showcases the history of Sikhism and the role of the Golden Temple in Sikh culture and history. Visitors can also attend the daily prayers and listen to the hymns sung by the temple’s singers.
  9. Take part in the community service: The Golden Temple is a place of community service, and visitors are encouraged to participate in the temple’s different services and activities. This includes volunteering in the langar hall, helping out at the medical clinic, or participating in the cleaning and maintenance of the temple.
  10. Enjoy the experience: The Golden Temple is a unique and immersive experience, and visitors are encouraged to enjoy it. Take the time to soak in the temple’s peaceful and serene atmosphere and appreciate its beauty and significance. Visitors can also take a stroll around the temple complex, enjoy the park surrounding the temple, and savor the local street food sold by vendors outside the temple.

Accommodations in Amritsar Near The Golden Temple

If you’re planning to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar, finding the right accommodation can make your trip even more memorable. Here are some options to consider that are located near the temple:

  1. Golden Temple View Homestay: This guesthouse is a popular choice for budget-conscious travelers who want to be within walking distance of the Golden Temple. The rooms are basic but clean and comfortable, and some have views of the temple. The hosts are known for their hospitality and will help you with anything you need during your stay.
  2. Hotel Temple View: If you’re looking for mid-range accommodation that’s just steps away from the Golden Temple, this hotel is a great option. The rooms are modern and well-maintained, and many have views of the temple. The hotel’s rooftop restaurant is a popular spot for enjoying a meal while taking in the view of the temple.
  3. Radisson Blu Hotel Amritsar: For those who want a luxurious stay near the Golden Temple, this upscale hotel is an excellent choice. Although it’s a 10-minute drive away from the temple, the hotel offers shuttle service to and from the temple throughout the day. The rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated, and the hotel has a spa, rooftop pool, and multiple restaurants to choose from.
  4. Hyatt Amritsar: This luxury hotel is another excellent option for those seeking a high-end experience during their visit to the Golden Temple. Although it’s about 15 minutes away from the temple, the hotel offers complimentary shuttle service to the temple. The rooms are spacious and stylish, and the hotel has a spa, rooftop pool, and multiple restaurants to choose from, including one that serves authentic Punjabi cuisine.
  5. Ramada Amritsar: This mid-range hotel is a great option for those who want to be close to the Golden Temple but still have access to modern amenities. The hotel is about 10 minutes away from the temple and offers comfortable rooms, a restaurant, a bar, and a rooftop terrace with views of the temple.

Regardless of where you choose to stay, keep in mind that the Golden Temple is open 24 hours a day, so you can visit it anytime you want. And if you’re planning to visit during peak season, be sure to book your accommodation well in advance to avoid disappointment.

Places To Eat Near The Golden Temple

Amritsar is known for its rich and delicious cuisine, and the area around the Golden Temple is a foodie’s paradise. If you’re planning a visit to this historic site, be sure to sample some of the local specialties at these fantastic restaurants:

  1. Kesar Da Dhaba: This legendary restaurant has been serving up traditional Punjabi food since 1916, making it a must-visit for anyone traveling to Amritsar. The restaurant’s signature dish is dal makhani, a creamy lentil dish that’s cooked with butter and spices for hours. The result is a flavorful, comforting dish that’s perfect for a chilly evening. Kesar Da Dhaba also serves other Punjabi favorites, such as chana masala and makki di roti (corn bread).
  2. Bharawan Da Dhaba: Another iconic restaurant near the Golden Temple, Bharawan Da Dhaba is famous for its Amritsari kulcha, a type of stuffed bread that’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The kulchas are filled with a variety of ingredients, including paneer (cottage cheese), potato, and onion. The restaurant also serves other Punjabi dishes, such as sarson ka saag (a mustard greens dish) and paneer tikka (marinated and grilled cottage cheese).
  3. Kanha Sweets: If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to stop by Kanha Sweets, located just a few minutes away from the Golden Temple. This charming shop is known for its peda, a sweet made with condensed milk, sugar, and cardamom. They also have a variety of other sweets and snacks, including jalebi (a fried, syrupy dessert) and samosas (a savory pastry filled with spiced potatoes and peas).
  4. Crystal Restaurant: For a taste of fusion cuisine, head to Crystal Restaurant, located within walking distance of the Golden Temple. This trendy restaurant offers a unique blend of Chinese and Indian dishes, such as chili chicken and paneer tikka pizza. They also have a rooftop seating area with stunning views of the temple, making it the perfect spot for a romantic dinner or a night out with friends.
  5. Bhai Kulwant Singh Kulchian Wale: If you’re in the mood for some street food, look no further than Bhai Kulwant Singh Kulchian Wale, a popular stall located just outside the Golden Temple. The stall serves up delicious stuffed kulchas, a type of bread that’s filled with a variety of ingredients, such as paneer, potato, and onion. The stall is a favorite among locals and tourists alike, and it’s the perfect place to grab a quick and tasty snack before heading back to the temple.

No matter where you decide to eat, be sure to savor the rich and flavorful cuisine of Amritsar. From creamy lentils to crispy breads, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Visiting The Golden Temple: Final Thoughts

A pilgrimage to the Golden Temple in Amritsar is a soul-stirring journey that promises to leave every traveler spellbound. This magnificent shrine is not just a historical marvel, but a place of great spiritual significance that embodies the essence of Punjab’s rich cultural heritage.

The Golden Temple’s magnificent architecture, with its glistening domes, pristine marble walls, and tranquil waters of the surrounding pool, are a breathtaking sight to behold. The intricate designs and exquisite artwork throughout the temple are a testament to the dedication and craftsmanship of the Sikh people, who have made this sacred place a true masterpiece of art and architecture.

But the Golden Temple is not just a feast for the eyes. It’s also a feast for the soul and the stomach, as it offers free meals and accommodations to all visitors. The langar, or community kitchen, serves up delicious vegetarian food to an average of 50,000 people every day. It’s a beautiful sight to see people from all walks of life sitting together, sharing a meal, and experiencing a sense of unity and equality.

Around the Golden Temple, there are numerous restaurants and food stalls that offer a variety of local delicacies, such as the famous Amritsari kulcha and dal makhani. Kesar Da Dhaba and Bharawan Da Dhaba are iconic restaurants that serve up the best of Punjabi cuisine, while Kanha Sweets is a must-visit for those with a sweet tooth. Crystal Restaurant offers a fusion of Chinese and Indian dishes, and Bhai Kulwant Singh Kulchian Wale is a popular spot for street food.

As the sun sets, the Golden Temple transforms into a mesmerizing sight, with the glittering reflection of the temple’s lights shimmering on the surrounding pool. The sounds of kirtan, devotional music, fill the air, creating an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.

Visiting the Golden Temple is a journey that promises to awaken the senses, ignite the spirit, and offer a glimpse into the vibrant and colorful culture of Punjab. Whether you’re a history buff, a spiritual seeker, or a foodie looking for new flavors, the Golden Temple is a destination that will leave an indelible mark on your heart and soul.

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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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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™‚

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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™‚

  12. 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.

  13. 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!