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Amritsar, The Golden Temple of India

The city of Amritsar and its famous Golden Temple is not only one of the most underrated destinations in India, but they might be the most friendly and welcoming place in the whole country.

A lot of people do compare visiting the Golden temple to visiting the Taj Mahal, and I can personally say that it’s equally spectacular, maybe even more.

The Golden Temple actually attracts more daily visitors than the Taj Mahal, but the majority of visitors here being Sikh pilgrims.

Are you planning to visit India, but not sure what to pack? Check out this post.

The Golden Temple of Amritsar and India
The Golden Temple of Amristar.

The Golden Temple in Amritsar is the holiest of all Gurdwara (Temple); it is to Sikhs what Mecca is to Muslims, Jerusalem is to Christians, and Lumbini is to Buddhists.

One is never wounded by the love one gives, only by the love one expects.
Marty Ruby.

Thanks to the new all aircon express trains, you can now easily visit Amritsar as a day trip from Delhi. 

But if you have time, it’s definitely worth spending a few days in the city exploring the temple, the busy bazaars surrounding the complex and even do an afternoon trip to the famous India–Pakistan border closing ceremony (the famous Wagah Border ceremony).

lake cleaning at golden temple amritsar india
The Golden Temple of Amristar.

The Golden Temple was completed in 1604 during the leadership of the fifth Guru Arjan, but it was not before the early nineteenth century that the Gurdwara was covered with gold which gives it its distinctive appearance and its English name, “The Golden Temple”.

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The Gurdwara is now visited by more than 100.000 worshipers daily.

dip in the holy lake around the Golden Temple in India
Two Sikhs are having a dip in the holy lake while a third one is getting ready for his dip.
a sea of turbans during the weekend on the Golden Temple
A sea of turbans during the weekend.
india,amritsar,punjab,golden temple
Sikh Two in Amritsar
Sikh Two.
Sikh Three in Amritsar
Sikh Three.

The complex is open 24/7, but the temple is closed during the night.  Note that it is worth visiting the complex at least twice: once during the day, once at night, when it’s beautifully lit up.

Golden Temple Night View in India
The Golden Temple in the evening when it’s lighted up.
india,amritsar,punjab,golden temple
Also, the locals are enjoying the view of the temple during the night.

A particular thing about the Sikhs Gurdwara is there is a “Langar”; a common kitchen where food is served to all the visitors (without distinction of religion, gender, race or social status) for free.

The idea of the Langar is believed to have been started by the first Sikh Guru.

His idea and philosophy were simple but radically different from the normal customs back in the 15th century.

According to him, a place should exist where everyone, regardless of religion or social status, could sit on the ground together as equals and eat the same food.

The “Langar” found in the Golden temple is the largest free kitchen on the planet; the kitchen serves more than 100,000 visitors on a normal day and swelling up to 150,000 visitors on weekends.

The food never runs out, and no one has ever been turned away.

A plate of the food in the Golden Temple in India
A plate of the food you get served in the Langar. Delicious.

The kitchen is run by 450 staff, helped by hundreds of volunteers. The kitchen is open 24/7, and on a normal day, they use an astonishing amount of raw food: 12,000 kilos of flour,  1,500 kilos of rice, 13,000 kilos of lentils, and up to 2,000 kilos of vegetables.

More than 200,000 roti (Indian flatbread) is made in the kitchen every single day.

Volunteers also wash the 300,000 plates, spoons, and bowls used to feed the people.
The food is all vegetarian, and the expenses are managed through donations from all over the world.

Volunteers peeling vegetables in the Golden Temple
Volunteers peeling vegetables.
Volunteers peeling vegetables in the Golden Temple in India
Volunteers peeling vegetables.
Water getting serverd at the Golden Temple
Water getting served
the people working in the kitchen at the golden temple
Pots on almost the size as the people working in the kitchen.
washing up section in the golden temple in India
The washing up section
common eating room at the Golden Temple
The common eating room
Big pots needed at the Golden Temple to feed everyone
Big pots needed
People cleaning the plates at the Golden temple in India
People cleaning the plates
the cheapest coca cola in the world, Golden Temple in India
World´s cheapest coca-cola, less than 0.010 USD for a bootle
cleaning thousands of plates at the Golden Temple in India
Always time for a rest when you are cleaning thousands of plates.

Additional Information about The Golden Temple.

Remember to stay quiet and respectful while visiting the Golden Temple, keeping in mind that this is a holy place of pilgrimage more than a tourist attraction.

Both the Complex and the temple are 100% free!

The Golden Temple is located about 2 KM from the train station, and a rickshaw should cost around 30 RS, but then again, if you’re a foreigner, expect to pay 100 Rs.

You will need to cover your head when entering the complex; everyone has to! You will be hassled by people trying to sell you Bandanas/head scarfs outside the complex, but there´s no need to buy them since scarfs are provided for free at every entrance.

You’re not allowed to wear shoes inside the complex either; there are free official stalls to leave your shoes outside.

Accommodation and hotels in Amritsar.

There´s a “free” dorm accommodation for pilgrims and tourist in the complex, but it’s VERY basic and simple. Even the dorm is “free”, are you expected to give donations for your stay there.

There are also some very good value hotels with a panoramic view of the complex, which’s a much better stay than the “free” dormitory.
My travel buddy and I had a brand new room with aircon, fridge and panoramic view of the Golden Temple from our window for about 10usd.

How to get to Amritsar.

Amritsar Junction is an important railway station and is well connected to major cities in India through daily trains. There are no more than 11 daily trains from Delhi to Amritsar a day, 3daily trains from Mumbai, four daily trains from Varanasi.

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Travel guide to the Golden temple travels Amritsar in India Punjab
The city of Amritsar and its famous Golden Temple is not only one of the most underrated destinations in India, but they might be the most friendly and welcoming place in the whole country.

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Aniñdita paul

Tuesday 26th of April 2016

Very vivid account, I visited last yr,but was left perplexed as to what to start writing from,there are so many diff aspects of this place,what appealed to me was the sense of harmony experienced at every corner of this place


Monday 25th of April 2016

It was my first time in India, when I visited Amritsar. It is a refreshing change of pace and attitude in comparison to Delhi, Agra, etc! Walking into the temple-complex and being greeted by Sikh's who didn't really care about your fath, status or money - but are just proud of their temple and customs - gives your soul the "rest" it needs after being in India for a while.

Totally agree that this is one of the most underrated places in india! The border ceremony was also an experience in itself!

My 3 recommendations for Amritsar is much the same as yours: 1. Golden temple (day/night) 2. Eat in the massive mess hall (and be amazed by how it's run !) 3. Border Ceremony (Indian side goes bananas ! so much fun !)