Golden Temple Amritsar - A travel guide to India's sacred heart!

Golden Temple located at Amritsar is the most sacred religious center for Sikhs. Located in the Indian state of Punjab, the temple is open to people of all faiths and is also revered Hindus and Muslims. The temple gets the 'Golden' in it's name from the gold plated dome, which can be seen from a distance as you approach this iconic building.

As against the more popular name 'Golden temple', the correct name for the temple is 'Harmandir Sahib' or 'Darbar Sahib'. The conception of the temple as well as its design is credited to Guru Arjan Sahib while the foundation of the temple was laid down by a Muslim saint Hazrat Mian Mir ji of Lahore. This, however, is sometimes disputed and some scholars believe that Guru Arjan Sahib himself laid the foundation of the temple.

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Golden Temple in the morning

harmandir sahib golden temple amritsar
Golden Temple from across the pond...
harmandir sahib golden temple amritsar
An old man passes by the Golden Temple

The tank which houses the temple was constructed before the idea of the temple was even conceived. It finished in 1577 AD while the work on the temple started only in 1588 AD (and finished in 1601 AD). The tank came to be known as Amritsar (pool of nectar) and that also gave the city its name.

Some architectural aspects of this place of worship differentiate from a Hindu temple. Hindu temples are generally constructed on a higher ground, like a mountain or a hillock; Harmandir Sahib is actually constructed on a lower ground to be more accessible. Also a Hindu temple always has one single opening for entry which leads to the sanctum sanatorium, however, in same of Harmandir sahib, it is made open from all four sides and can be accessed from any direction. It was also common for Hindu temples in the past to allow only Hindus (and sometimes only upper caste Hindus) access to the God, and Harmandir decided to break the traditions and allowed people from all spheres of life (all faiths, all castes and creeds) to come here.

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Its not just sikhs, but also Hindu holy men who come here frequently to find God...
harmandir sahib golden temple amritsar
The temple is constantly cleaned through the day, here is a man doing his job...
harmandir sahib golden temple amritsar
A Khalsa man taking a holy dip...

Reconstructions at Golden Temple:

The temple has seen two major reconstructions:

18th Century: It was attacked by Ahmad Shah Abdali's army and was badly destroyed. Most of the temple was rebuilt then and it also got its current form.

20th Century: Not the temple, but the temple complex was badly damaged during Operation Blue Star in 1984 when Indian army entered the temple premises on a mission to kill Bhindarwale. The incident was also the beginning of insurgency in the state and our then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, also lost her life due to this. 

And the temple lives on with the grace of God and willpower of people who never gave up despite such difficulties.

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The gorgeous sunrise in the Golden Temple compound...

The temple complex can be divided into twenty-five different significant areas, starting from the main entrance and the clock tower, to the information office. Its quite tough to visit them all and also know about their importance, so I would suggest more than one visit to the temple. You can simply wander around and enjoy the serenity and beauty of the place on your first visit, and come back again to explore the rest. Of course, you must visit the Sanctum Sanatorium on both the trips, and also the khada prasad.

Some suggestions:

  1. The best time to visit Golden Temple is in the morning. There is a Palaki procession at around 04.30 am and you must try and attend that and then be there for the entire morning.
  2. Always keep your head covered within the complex. You do not need to buy a cover if you come without it, there are numerous head-covers just at the entrance which you can use free of cost.
  3. Do not carry backpacks with you, you will be asked to deposit them at the cloak room. Women can carry hand bags though. Cameras are allowed :)
  4. Wash your hands and feet as you enter the temple
  5. Cameras are allowed but you are not allowed to take pictures everywhere, especially not inside the Sanctum Sanatorium, unless you have already taken permission.
  6. You must try out the Langar here - the food cooked at the community kitchen and served free of cost to everyone
  7. At each corner of the complex, water is served by volunteers. If you drink too much, don't look for a toilet inside. The closest toilets are located in the dharmashalas right outside the complex. These are all free to use.

Where to stay:

You can certainly stay within the dharmashalas outside the temple complex, but these are extremely crowded and often you would not find a bed to sleep on. Alternatively, you can also stay within the city. I stayed at The Holiday Inn which is about 20 minutes drive from the temple. Its located in a quite area and offers all modern amenities, including a pool :) The breakfast spread here is good and if you not planning to eat in the old town, you must fill yourself up before heading out!

Here is the address:

District Shopping Complex, 
B - Block, Ranjit Avenue, Near MK Hotel, 
Amritsar, Punjab 143001
0183 508 8888



How to reach Golden Temple:

Amritsar is extremely well connected by both trains as well as air. Flights from Delhi start early in the morning at about 04.00 am and continue till afternoon. Train journeys are overnight.

Here is a map:


View Larger Map

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I was in Amritsar on an invitation of Punjab Tourism and Nokia/ Microsoft devices - explore Punjab using Lumia devices. This is first in the series of posts. Most pictures I clicked were using the Lumia 1020, while the rest were from my Nikon 3200 with 18-200 Sigma lens. 

Comments

  1. Hi :)
    I've always been fascinated by traveling. Even though i haven't done a lot of it as of now because i'm just 18, i still absolutely love love love it. I was going through different travel blogs lately because I've been thinking of starting mine since months now, and then I came across yours. It's just so interesting and well written. Feels like you're sitting infront of us and sharing all that with us.
    SO, I really really wanted to read the first blog ever that you wrote, please? :)

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  2. This is gorgeous! I didn't see it when I was in India. I would remember all the gold! Now it gives me a reason to go back-- so much to see and do that I missed the first time.

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  3. I love that you got a golden sunrise behind the Golden Temple! Looks like a must-see spot, and great tips about when you should arrive.

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  4. We plan to go to India next year - and I cannot wait. I keep coming across more and more beautiful and interesting things to do. Thanks for showing me more cool places in India that I must see

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  5. Such a beautiful temple. I have never heard of it before. I would love to be there at 4:30 as you suggested a d spend the whole morning there.Thank you for the useful info.

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  6. The golden temple is one of the places that's top on my list, but I have not been able to make it despite so much trips! I want to experience the visit and mostly want to check out for photography. I'll use your guide! Thanks Sid :)

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  7. I would love to visit the Golden temple, I love your photo of the old man passing by it. There is so much incredible history, religious heritage and architecture all tied together in these incredible monuments throughout India, I can't wait to visit. Thanks for the tip on visiting early morning to catch the Palaki procession :)

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  8. I love the sunrise outside the Golden Temple. This looks like a magnificent and very holy place to visit. I love your suggestion about arriving early to see the procession! That would be a great experience.

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  9. The pictures of the Golden Temple always look so beautiful! I would love to go there next time we are in India. Thanks for your advice, will pin this article for later!

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