Imagine an intricately designed jewel piece, made out of clear white stones. Making it even more priceless is an exquisite golden gem embedded as the centrepiece. This is what Amritsar would look like if I had to describe it. Marble white structures, a beautiful lake and right at its heart the Sri Harmandir Sahib, or more famously known as the Golden Temple.
It’s one of those humble abodes that you could walk into, to clear your head or just to peacefully be in the moment.
Located in the old part of Amritsar, it’s a classic marvel that holds the old charm of this city. Designed by Guru Arjan Dev, it was built within a period of eight years and stands as a homage to Sikhism.
The structure that was initially built out of marble, was later on layered with pure 24 Carat Gold. Layers and layers were added and above 500 kg of gold was used, and it sure stands with all that glory even today.
The number of people who make visits just to witness this is countless. I had gone during one of the times when there wasn’t a peak crowd around here, so I could properly observe and have an experience of visiting the Gurudwara.
How to reach
Located at a distance of 13 km from the Airport is the main city of Amritsar. The Sri Guru Ram Das Jee Airport has many frequent domestic and international flights. So you can conveniently take a flight, be it from Delhi, Chandigarh, Mumbai or London, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur.
The Amritsar railway station at a distance of barely 2 km from the temple, is well connected to major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chandigarh and so on. In fact, there’s also a connecting railhead from Pakistan.
The journey holds many picturesque sights en route, and it’s sure to leave you mesmerised. In a number of few hours you’d reach Amritsar, so you need not worry about the tiredness that’ll accompany in the usually long train journeys.
Both the airport and railway stations have frequent cab and bus services.
If you choose to leave for Amritsar by road, it’s a convenient route via National Highway 1. There are several private and state-run buses from Ambala, Patiala, Delhi, Chandigarh and Jammu.
Distance from Dalhousie – 197 km (5 hour drive)
Distance from Dharamshala – 200 km ( 4 hour 40 minute drive)
Distance from Jammu – 208 km (4 hour drive)
Distance from Ambala – 245 km (4 hour drive)
Distance from Shimla – 300 km (7 hour drive)
Distance from Delhi – 465 km ( 8 and half hour drive)
There are frequent free shuttle services from the railway station arranged by the gurudwara’s management committee. Even though it sounds like a nice and convenient idea, during peak seasons you might not be able to watch even a needle drop on the floor of the bus. That’s just how packed it gets.
Best time to visit
Amritsar experiences round the clock weather with summers being really hot and winters being very chilly.
Based on your preference you can drop by the temple which is open 24-hours a day for everyone. The period around October-November and February-March is recommended as it observes a moderate climate. Perfect for exploring around the temple as well as other places in and around Amritsar.
Whichever month you go to the Temple, make sure to visit at two different timings. The morning hours where the golden temple is complemented by the golden sunrays. And the night time when the entire place is illuminated and the Adi Granth is put to bed.
Prepare to be left awestruck
The Golden temple was created with a sense of religious harmony treasured in their minds. The domes and relief works were a mix of Muslim and Hindu architecture, and it really makes the temple stand out because of this fact.
It looks jaw-dropping beautiful with the golden domes reflecting it shades on the lake around it. I couldn’t help but think “How’s this not one among the wonders?”
Before entering the temple you could dip your feet in the holy lake. The waters resonate with the calm atmosphere around here, and you’d not feel like disturbing that serenity. Cocooning the summer heat above and the chilling waters of the lake below, it sure has got the aura of a place where you could redeem yourself.
The Golden Temple opens in all directions with a gate at every four sides of it. An indication of the fact that the doors of the gurudwara remain open to anyone and everyone.
Now if that doesn’t make your heart melt, I don’t know what would.
From every door, a pathway to the ‘Har ki Paure’ (steps of God) is set. You can hear the Guru Granth Sahib is read religiously as you keep climbing the stairs. Even though I couldn’t pick most words, the rhythmic chanting was just so meditational.
For me particularly, it’s not always just my travel bag that accompanies me, but also heavy baggage of stress and never-ending thoughts.
Sitting cross feet in the carpeted hall of the temple made me forget all of it for a while. It’s almost impossible to think of anything here but the exact moment that you’re in..
Walking around the prayer hall you would also find several stories regarding the 10 Sikh Guru’s, and their brave contributions to Sikhism. The Golden temple keeps the stories of great men alive by exhibiting a walk-through their legacies in Sikhism.
No worries on where to eat from!
Did I also tell you that you’re never leaving the Gurudwara with an empty stomach?
The Langar provided here is considered to be among the largest free community kitchens. Run both, for and by the community.
The number of people who swarm in here to volunteer during the Langar left me feeling humbled and just so heartened. On one side I could see volunteers offering plates and glasses of water to the people. Meanwhile, on the other, there was a rhythmic pattern in preparing the food for each and every one.
The Temple feeds above 1,00,000 people every day and the food preparations keep going around the clock.
Anyday you give me the Chawal, Kadhi, and Sabzi from the Langar, I would happily gobble it up. Hands down one of the healthiest and fulfilling meals I have had in years.
Here ideas of humility and self-sufficiency are imparted to every visitor. From walking barefoot in the temple grounds to washing your own Langar plates.
The utensils here are sterilised and washed by dipping it in almost four counters of soap water and warm water. You can always walk in here to volunteer in washing the utensils, as a cook, or simply even providing the plates to those who come to the Langar hall.
Time passes here like seconds
A day at the Golden temple felt like it had passed with a blink of my eye. The rituals, Langar, prayers and volunteering occupied most of my time.
After sunset, the Gurudwara transforms into a magical sight. The lake reflects the golden dome and the crimson skies. It’d look like someone accidentally spilt glitter all over the lake, and ended up making one of the most beautiful masterpieces.
You could sit by the lake and not know about the time passing by what so ever!
Later at night, I had witnessed the beautiful ritual of taking the Adi Granth and putting it away to sleep till the next day.
The ritual marks the completion of a day at the temple. After staying at the temple is also a facility that can be availed after the necessary procedures.
- Wear light clothes, and make sure to avoid shorts and clothes that don’t cover your shoulders.
- All the people entering the Temple have to do so barefoot and wearing a scarf over their head.
- Wash your feet by the pool before going inside the temple.
- The holy book is chanted by three Gurus throughout the day and is played over loudspeakers for everyone to hear it.
- There are two large screens within the temple as well, which translates the chants in various languages including English.
- Carry lots of water with you, it can get really hot around Amritsar and you may need to stay hydrated to go around.
- During the Langar, take food in amounts that’d suffice you. Be considerate about not wasting food from here.
- The temple is plastic-free since 2018, try doing your bit by being eco-friendly while you’re here.