Visiting The Golden Temple of Amritsar – A Highlight
In my opinion, this temple easily rivals and, dare I say, surpasses the world-famous Taj Mahal. Less visited by tourists, the Golden Temple is absolutely immaculate. It sits in the most beautiful of settings with marble inlay walkways and a sacred water tank for devotees (and non-devotees) to immerse in.
The temple itself isn’t very large but its call to glory comes from the dome gilded in 750kg of pure gold. Formally known as Harmandir Sahib, this complex is the holiest (and largest) Sikh gurdwara located in the northern state of Punjab.
Sikhism is an independent religion (no relation to Hinduism or Islam) fundamentally based on the belief of unity and equality of all humankind. In Sikhism, both men and women are of equal standing in every way and both have the same rights. It’s one of the most accepting and peaceful religions that exists. In case you’re wondering, Sikh men are the ones who wear turbans to cover their hair (which they NEVER cut). I just love how stylish these guys wore their turbans each with a different color!
Interesting fact: Sikh men are expected to wear at all times what is known as the 5 K’s consisting of the following:
- Kesh (uncut hair hence the turban)
- Kangha (a small wooden brush)
- Kara (a metal bracelet)
- Kachera (an undergarment)
- Kirpan (a dagger)
As in most temples, shoes were not allowed but there were counters just outside the complex where visitors’ shoes were kept in exchange for a coupon – this service was also free. Most temples don’t allow pictures but no such restrictions apply at Harmandir Sahib except when entering the Golden Temple itself where ceremonies are given (and even televised) all day long. Something else that differed from most temples was that both men and women needed to cover their heads.
On the day we went to the temple, temperatures dropped to one-digit and the air was thick with fog. I wasn’t too keen on removing my shoes but Sikhs are the best – there were several hot water walkways throughout the temple complex for visitors’ to soak their feet – what a treat! The first such walkway was at the entrance of the complex so visitors can respectfully rinse their feet clean before entering the holy site.
We were impressed with how well-organized everything was making our visit very enjoyable and carefree. Everyone walked in an orderly manner in the same direction – a rarity in chaotic India. The entrance is free and people of all faiths and backgrounds are welcome to visit the temple. All visitors are also welcome to have a sit down meal offered gratuitously from morning to night. Hundreds of volunteers cook, serve and wash dishes for up to 100,000 visitors per day.
The Golden Temple was such a magical place – much less commercialized and much more genuine than the Taj Mahal. In a time of religious confusion and lack of acceptance in the world, it was touching to be so kindly welcomed not only as non-Sikhs but as foreigners as well.
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Have you been to the Golden Temple in Amritsar? Share your thoughts in the comments below!