While the Taj Mahal may be India’s most famous monument, Amritsar’s Golden Temple is equally as beautiful; though harder to reach.
The last time my wife Carrie and I were in India, it was too cold to visit the Golden Temple.
This time, the weather was right and only an overnight train ride from Rishikesh separated us from Amritsar.
We arrived at the crack of dawn, found lodging, enjoyed a hearty and free pilgrim’s breakfast and finally, three years later, began our short walk into the Golden Temple.
shoes; not possible…
“You can not take your shoes in. Not even in your bag! Leave them here,” barked the angry and large Sikh security man.
15 minutes later we finally entered; with our shoes safely in our room.
Finally…the Golden Temple!
After walking through a trough of dirty running water meant to clean the feet, we finally descended upon the Golden Temple complex and its shining centerpiece.
“This thing is WAY smaller than I imagined,” was my first thought.
The Golden Temple itself sits on an island in the middle of a manmade pool called the Amrit Sarovar (Pool of Nectar), which is also where the city of Amritsar got its name.
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Surrounding the Golden Temple
The Pool of Nectar is surrounded by a square marble walkway (parkarma) and a huge building complex.
The complex’s hundreds of open rooms house an array of temples, museums, memorials and gurus reading scripture from the Sikh holy book and chanting in Gurmukhi all day.
During our first visit, we only wandered the parkarma perimeter, as the line to get into the actual Golden Temple was hours long and the sun was quite hot.
Lights @ Night and Birthday Fireworks
I returned to the Golden Temple just after sunset and found the entire complex covered in lights and surrounded by candles.
Thousands of pilgrims stood still, chanting and praying. It was a very moving scene, although the photographer in me just wanted to be taking photos.
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Carrie, Lauren and I sat there for quite a while, taking it all in.
Then, just before we stood up to leave, a fireworks display began just over the Golden Temple. Apparently, it was Guru #9’s birthday and this was the celebration.
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Sunrise over the Golden Temple of Amritsar
The next day, we awoke at the crack of dawn, headed down to the Golden Temple and were treated to a majestic sunrise of oranges, pinks, purples and blues.
I could have sat by the Amrit Sarovar holy pool for hours, but the line for the actual Golden Temple was short and we had a train to catch.
Inside the Golden Temple
Inside the Golden Temple, walls are painted with delicate marble and gold-laden artwork depicting religious stories.
In the center, several holy men sit reading scripture and leading chants that are broadcast throughout the Golden Temple complex on loudspeakers.
No Photography; Just Prayer
Golden Temple visitors either can take a pre-determined path through the temple or sit down and pray or meditate along with the other pilgrims.
We did both, as we gazed in awe at the intricate carvings and artwork throughout while stopping to listen to prayers. At one point, Carrie and I joined the masses and sat for an especially-holy prayer.
I found myself having a tough time being “forced” into sitting for religion.
Carrie, on the other hand, didn’t have that problem and sat there enjoying the beauty of the melody and the power of so many people chanting in unison.
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Finally, we said goodbye to the Golden Temple and Amritsar, headed to the bus station and set forth to McLeod Ganj: the home of the Dali Lama.
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