- Location: Amritsar city in the state of Punjab, India
- Architect: Guru Arjan Dev
- Time to visit: Between October and March
- Opening hours: 7 a.m.-8 p.m. in Summer and 7 a.m.-7 p.m. in Winter
- How to reach: The city of Amritsar is well-connected to all the major cities of northern India like Chandigarh, Dehradun, Delhi, Jammu, Kullu, Manali, Rishikesh and Shimla by rail, road and air. Local transport includes cars, taxis, local buses, auto-rickshaws and cycle rickshaws, which will easily transport you from the airport or the railway station to the site.
Amritsar is particularly well connected to British destinations like London and Birmingham. However, there are direct international flights from Istanbul, Moscow, Frankfurt, Ashgabat, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Islamabad, Kabul, Herat and quite a few other international destinations to Amritsar.
- Nearest railway station: Amritsar Railway Station
- Nearest international airport: The Rajasansi Airport
Nowhere else have fundamental man’s spiritual values been better connected to his temporal duties and social responsibilities! It does not matter where you come from, it does not matter what nationality, race, color or sex you belong to; you are bound by a universality of compassion once inside the premises of the Golden Temple at Amritsar. And what better way to spread this message of universality than by providing the most basic service to humanity — providing succor in the form of food.
Guru Ram Das Langar, the grand kitchen of the Golden Temple serves free breakfast, lunch and dinner to all devotees who visit the temple all round the clock. You have to see the kitchen, the quiet dedication with which the devotees go about their duties to believe it. It is incomparable to anything else in the world. When you visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar, make it a point to visit the kitchen, and lend a hand to this noble and monumental endeavor that has been going on ceaselessly for centuries.
Initially built during 1574 A.D., the holy site of the temple was enclosed by a small lake in a forest. Emperor Akbar, who visited the 3rd Sikh Guru, Guru Amar Das at the neighboring town of Goindval, was so impressed by the way of life in the town that he gave a ‘jagir’ to his daughter Bhani as a gift on her marriage to Bhai Jetha, who later became the 4th Sikh Guru, Guru Ram Das.
Guru Ram Das expanded the lake and built a small township which was named after him as “Guru Ka Chak”, “Chak Ram Das” or “Ram Das Pura”. It was under the guidance of Guru Arjan Dev, the 5th Guru; that full-fledged work started on the construction of the temple, which was completed in 1604.
The Harmandir Sahib is considered the most holy site by Sikhs because it is the eternal Guru of Sikhism and according to their belief, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is always present inside in it and its construction was mainly planned to build a place of worship for people from all walks of life and all religion to come and worship God equally.
Beautiful artwork and gorgeous sculptures
The most sacred part of the Golden Temple complex is the Hari Mandir or Darbar Sahib, the exquisite golden structure at the center of a large body of water. The golden plates which cover the external outer walls of the upper floor and domes, as well as the exquisite marble work, were done under the patronage of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the leader of the Sikh Empire of Punjab. The Arch of the Darshani Deorhi which leads to the Harmandir Sahib and Hukam Singh Chimni also contributed to the magnificent ornamentation at the Harmandir Sahib.
The water that encircles the Hari Mandir is a sanctified pool, known as the “Pool of Nectar”. A marble walkway, called the Guru’s Bridge, signifying the journey of the soul after death, provides access to the pavilion on which the temple stands. The Darshani Deorhi, the doorway to the bridge, has wonderful silver doors. Another major feature of the Golden Temple complex is the Guru-ka-Langar, a dining hall where nearly 35,000 devotees a day are fed for free by the temple volunteers.
Celebrations at Harmandir Sahib
One of the most celebrated festivals is Vaisakhi, held in the 2nd week of April (13th usually). Sikhs commemorate the founding of the Khalsa on this day and it is celebrated with lot of dedication and eagerness in the Harmandir Sahib. Other notable Sikh religious days such as the martyrdom day of Guru Teg Bahadur, the birthday of Guru Nanak are also commemorated with religious piety. The Harmandir Sahib is gorgeously illumined with Divas (lamps), lights and fireworks in Diwali.
If you want to buy something, you will find numerous shops, neighboring the Golden Temple. They offer various things like phulkari (embroidered materials), woodcarvings, woolen garments, shoes and a range of food items.
The tourists, coming to the Golden Temple, visit other attractions such as Akal Takhat, Baba Atal, Guru ka Langar, Sri Guru Ram Das Niwas, Guru Nanak Niwas, Akal Rest House, Guru Hargobind Niwas, Guru Arjan Dev Niwas, Central Sikh Museum; located in the vicinity of the temple.
Nearby accommodation and other facilities
The city of Amritsar offers a number of mid-range and luxury accommodations. Apart from them, there are smaller guesthouses and a youth hostel for budget-oriented travelers.
All across Amritsar are numerous dining outlets and eateries galore, where apart from the local delicacies; you can also savor international cuisine. If you are visiting the temple, you must go to the ‘langar’ for a taste of traditional Sikh hospitality.
The Golden Temple, Amritsar, with its sheer beauty and magnificence, represents the perfection of the architectural richness of the country.
Related Links :
http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=XfRSEet7XqE: Find out great views of the Golden Temple in this slideshow! You also get a chance to see the expansive kitchen of the temple, a rare view. I am not sure if you will find the U2 track, though great in itself, appropriate for this clip!