When you’re planning to visit Amritsar, you need to visit the soul of the city, the Golden Temple, in order to understand the spiritual peacefulness surrounding the area.
Built on a rectangular raised platform, it is encircled by a pond of water called the Amrit Sarovar, which gave the city its name. Famed for being the holiest shrine in the Sikh religion, it is a small part of the huge gurudwara compound known as Sri Harimandir Sahib and/or Darbar Sahib by the local people.
It is the most sacred shrine of the Sikh people because it holds the Adi Granth, Holy Scriptures of the Sikh religion in it. The Adi Granth or Guru Granth Sahib is installed every morning in the temple, and returned to the Akal Takht at night.
The Akal Takht is the earthly seat of the Khalsa brotherhood. The temple is decorated with 750 kilos of pure gold and intricate marble work, done by the help of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Hukam Singh Chimni.
People from all over the world fly in to see this beautiful architectural marvel and walk around in the serene atmosphere of the temple. Around 100,000 visitors arrive each day to pay a visit to the temple. So, when you arrive there, you can expect large crowds waiting in line to see the incredibly stunning temple.
If you’re planning on paying a visit, read on to find out what you should and shouldn’t do while you’re there.
The Golden Temple is known for its tranquil environment, despite having large amounts of visitors each day. You can choose to walk around, sit and feed the colorful fishes and watch the pilgrims having a bath in Amrit Sarovar.
If you choose to stroll around the complex, do be aware that the marble floors are boiling hot in the summer and you have to walk barefoot.
Choose to walk on the mats rolled on the floor by the temple. They wet it in the summer season so they’re easier to walk on. Also, be careful of the marble floors as they wash it frequently, which makes it very slippery.
As I mentioned before, the temple gets around 100,000 visitors every day. So people queue up to visit the inside of the temple. However, even if you arrive early, expect to wait anything from 3 to 4 hours in the queue.
You always need to remember to cover your head entirely with a cloth, regardless of your gender, before entering the temple. If you don’t have a cloth to cover your head with, the temple will provide them for free. If you don’t want to wear those, you can buy scarves outside the temple for Rs. 10 or so.
There are shoe counters outside the temple, so take off your shoes and submit them there before you enter the temple. You will receive a token in return. Do NOT lose that. Once you’re barefoot, there will be a small place to wash your feet in just before you enter. Dip your feet in the cold clean water before going inside.
Since there are large crowds in this pilgrimage site, people are advised to carry less belongings and to take care of them carefully.
Langar is a feast held by the community everyday at the temple to feed everyone equally for free, whether they are rich or poor. Enjoy the local delicacies cooked fresh each day after sitting on the mats in a line.
Remember that if you’re asking for a second helping, fold both your hands and ask for them as if you’re asking for alms or you will not get anything else. It’s the local etiquette of asking for more of the God’s offerings.
This is a tip for the ladies; do keep in mind that it is a place of worship so dress conservatively. No revealing clothes, shorts or uncovered heads are allowed inside.
While it’s busier at night, it is also prettier and cooler to walk around. And don’t swim or put your feet in the waters if you’re a woman and/ or not on a pilgrimage. There will be Sikh guardians manning the area and will rebuke you if you exceed the mark.