Welcome to Shri Guru Ramdas Niwas: aka, the Free Pilgrims’ Inn at the Golden Temple in Amritsar
Imagine a dorm room filled with wall-to-wall beds.
Above them, lines hang with drying clothes and towels, which double as the only form of privacy.
A narrow walkway provides the only thoroughfare across the room, though it is currently filled with sleeping travelers.
Oh well, I guess this is where Carrie, Lauren, Tara and I are spending the night.
What’s that? A private room in the back just opened up?
OK, I guess we’ll sleep there.
But First, We Gotta Get There
If you could choose between checking smelly shoes or leading four Westerners all around the Golden Temple grounds in search of free lodging, which would you choose?
The answer was simple for the friendly elderly Sikh man who helped us find our way to the Shri Guru Ramdas Niwas pilgrim’s lodge. For nearly 30 minutes, he paraded us from office to reception desk to inquiry booth, looking for the best place for us to sleep.
Finally, we arrived back at the very first place he took us: that communal dorm room filled with Western travelers. I guess a spot opened up while we were gone?
Shri Guru Ramdas Niwas Pilgrim’s Lodge @ the Golden Temple
Located just outside a main entrance to the Golden Temple, Shri Guru Ramdas Niwas provides free and affordable lodging for pilgrims and travelers from all over the world. The building itself is massive, with multiple floors of dorms wrapping around a large open center courtyard.
By day, the courtyard serves as the main thoroughfare between the various parts of the building, including the massive restroom facilities that offer free toilets, sinks and showers. By night, the ground becomes a patchwork of pilgrim’s bags, blankets, clothes and bodies as hundreds of people sleep together under the stars.
So Where Did We Sleep?
Off to the side of the courtyard and behind a creaky door.
In the back of the foreigner’s dorm (the one with wall-to-wall beds), a “private” little room provided us with just enough comfort to spend the night.
Our accommodations were limited to three cot-sized beds (one of which Carrie and I shared), paper-thin mattresses, no sheets, a fan and a light bulb. Good thing we were getting up early to catch the sunrise.
Our group awoke at 5am to a bustling Shri Guru Ramdas Niwas. I guess we weren’t the only ones with the plan of seeing the Golden Temple bathed in the day’s first light.
One sunrise and free kitchen breakfast later, we checked out of Shri Guru Ramdas Niwas, gave a donation for our stay and headed to the Amritsar bus station to head to our current location: McLeod Ganj, Dharamasala.
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