We were back India after a month away touring Sri Lanka. We didn't waste any time as it was at the top of our list to visit Punjab and witness the Golden Temple of Amritsar.
Golden Temple of Amritsar
Dave had only one place on his list of must sees in India, and the Golden Temple of Amritsar was the spot.
The Golden Temple Lives up to the Hype.
The Golden Temple is Sikhism’s Holiest site and this temple welcomes everyone to enjoy its beauty and spirituality.
It doesn't matter your race, faith or culture. Everyone is welcome at the Golden Temple.
We woke early after arriving in Amritsar late at night on the sleeper train from Delhi.
Our hotel was only a 5 minute walk from the temple.
We donned our headscarves and checked our shoes we knew that we were about to enter something special.
Men and Women must cover their heads out of respect before entering the Golden Temple. An like so many other Holy places shoes are not allowed.
But this temple has a little twist to walking barefoot.
Before entering you walk through a foot bath to ensure your feet are clean.
And then the Golden Temple of Amritsar hit us.
As we cross the foot bath, the shining temple appeared before us.
Dave and I aren't normally excited over temples, but the Golden Temple is incredibly impressive and beautiful.
It is not a large temple, but it is stunning.
Built in 1577, the temple's dome is gilded with 750 kg of pure gold.
The Golden Temple Complex
The complex adds to the Golden Temple's beauty.
A marble walkway surrounds the temple with milky white buildings protecting it on all four sides.
It is located in the centre of a moat, or the Holy Tank as it is known.
Men and women bow in prayer towards its glory.
We had never felt so welcomed anywhere.
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Many people were happy to have us visit their shrine and to experience their way of life.
They stopped to take photos with us.
They stopped to talk to us and to tell us the history of The Golden Temple.
Punjab is filled with some of India’s wealthiest people and when they heard that we were from Canada they knew our country well.
Many people we met actually lived in Canada and were back in India visiting relatives.
Others told us how they told were going to Canada to study or how they have relatives in Canada and had been to visit.
Different conversations at the Golden Temple than Other Places in India
The conversations were not the usual “where are you from?” “what is your name?” exchanges we normally have in India.
In Amritsar we engaged in full discussions about Sikhism, India and Canada.
In my humble opinion, I think the Sikh Religion is probably one of the least understood religions on the planet.
But we learned quite a bit during our time at the Golden Temple. And we'd like to share what we learned about Sikhism there.
About the Golden Temple and Sikhism
Founded in the 15th century by Guru Nanak’s frustration with the caste system and rituals of other religions, Sikhism was formed to be all inclusive.
Much of the religion is based on science. As people explained Sikhism to us, we began to understand its meaning.
Women have complete equality and can even be the head of the religion.
Unlike the Pope of Catholicism or Dalai Lama of Buddhism, a woman can lead the Sikhs. That is if she is elected.
The Sikh religion is a democracy and anyone can rule it.
You don’t have to be born or ordained as the head of the religion, you are elected to a committee.
If people are not happy with your work, you can be replaced in the next election.
The Sikhs are all-inclusive and that is evident at The Golden Temple.
Eat At the Golden Temple
There is no charge to enter the temple and they will even feed you for your efforts of coming to visit.
The Golden Temple feeds up to 100,000 people a day from the free kitchen run by volunteers.
It's an amazing feat in its own right, but what is even more amazing is that this has been going for 450 years without missing one single day.
No matter what your position in life, everyone eats together on the floor.
You may find yourself sitting beside a celebrity, royalty or the president.
It doesn't matter who you are, you will all be treated exactly the same.
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The food is clean and delicious and the 450 years of practice is evident as they feed thousands of people at once in a matter of 10 minutes.
Dahl, chapati, ghee and aloo gobi are on the menu and cooked to perfection.
Once you are finished, you scoop up your stainless steel tray and take it to the wash station as the next wave of pilgrims file in.
It is a fascinating experience and one not to be missed.
It is easy to spend hours at the Golden Temple.
Located in the centre of the city of Amritsar, the complex is large and can be seen from everywhere.
As you walk around the marble walkway, the soothing song of the musicians and priests singing from the holy book play from the loudspeakers.
Don’t worry, Sikhs don’t believe in noise pollution, so the speakers are set at a comfortable volume and they are respectful of not having the sound travel far from the complex walls.
Navigating Through the Huge Crowd
After a few hours, we finally made our way to the causeway that leads to the entrance of the Golden Temple. The crowd was thick, but orderly.
That is until we finally made it to the entrance. It was pushing and shoving from everywhere to get inside.
We couldn’t understand the hurry since you are allowed to spend as much time as you like.
The main level has musicians with holy men sitting in the middle.
They are in a constant state of playing and singing from sun up to sun down.
They take turns reciting in two-hour intervals.
The book is on display under a white cloth and people throw money into the centre as if their life depended on it.
We walked up to the other two levels and spent time enjoying the view while others around us prayed and listened to the words.
The Golden Temple was peaceful and beautiful.
We made sure to revisit the temple at different times of the day to enjoy its beauty and different energies at different times of the day.
The Golden Temple at Night
Night time is not to be missed. The temple glistens under the lights and the mood is calm and quiet.
It is a sanctuary in this hectic land known as India and certainly our favorite destination of the country so far. If you are going to make the long trip to India, make sure to add The Golden Temple of Amritsar to your itinerary. We loved it more than the Taj Mahal. It was a more genuine experience, more of a pilgrimage site than a tourist destination.
In our opinion, it is the number one must see temple in India.