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Where to stay near Golden Temple

Exploring Amritsar’s Golden Temple

The spectacularly beautiful Golden Temple is the heart and soul of the Sikh religion, and is set backing a huge man-made lake in Punjab State’s Amritsar city. As the religion’s cultural and spiritual hub, the magnificent complex attracts over 100,000 visitors every weekday and more on weekends. Known as Sri Harmandir Sahib (the Abode of God), the temple was constructed in the 16th century by Sikh Guru Arjan Dev as the resting place for the holy scriptures of the religion. The main temple, the Gurdwara, was gilded in the 19th century, giving the complex its unofficial English-language name.

Sikhism instructs that the Golden Temple is a place for all peoples of the earth, whatever their sex, race or religion, to come together and worship God in equality. The vast city of Amritsar grew around the edifice and its Pool of the Nectar of Immortality, and is now a modern metropolis with a vast selection of hotels from the luxury Hotel CJ International and Hotel Raj Darbar to mid-range and budget accommodation. The many important Sikh festivals celebrated on the complex bring visitors from all over the world, with April’s Vaisakhi celebrations the favourite.

Sights nearby

The Golden Temple’s sheer vastness and the glory of its architecture and ornamentation make for an unforgettable experience enjoyed by all visitors, whatever their spiritual beliefs, as does the warm welcome and friendliness offered by the volunteer workers on the complex.

The Gurdwara
The Gurdwara is the heart of the complex, glittering by day and glowingly illuminated by night. Completed in 1604 and with the Sikh Holy Book installed, it immediately became a point of pilgrimage for all who followed the religion. Afghan forces attacked in 1750, partially destroying the structure, although its rebuilding was completed within only 10 years following the defeat of the Afghans by Sikh forces. Its interior contains monumental sculptures of Sikh saints, decorative marble work and yet more gilding. The fabulous structure seems to be floating on still waters of the Amrit Sarovar (Pool of the Nectar of Immortality).

Amrit Sarovar
This beautiful, man-made lake fronts the Gurdwara, and is crossed by a causeway giving access to the main temple. Sections of the waters are roped off to allow pilgrims to bathe in the holy waters, and all visitors and pilgrims wash their feet in shallow pools at the main gate out of respect for the holy place and, more practically, in order to keep the temple floors clean.

Central Sikh Museum
Set on the second floor of the main temple, the Central Sikh Museum displays a large gallery of items belonging to various gurus and paintings depicting the gruesome martyrdom of many of the Sikh saints. Close by is the Akal Takht, the place where the holy scriptures are stored and where the highest Sikh council members meet to deliberate.

Eating and drinking and shopping nearby

Inside the complex is perhaps the world’s largest restaurant, where free meals are served to every single hungry visitor every day of the year. Giant vats of dhal curry, chapattis and rice are prepared by Sikh and other volunteers, with more volunteers dishing out the food to the long lines of seated pilgrims and tourists. When you’ve cleared your plate, it should be taken outside to yet another crowd of volunteers to be washed up. If you feel tempted to volunteer, that’s fine, or there is a donation box at the exit. Popular souvenirs sold around the Golden Temple include Sikh symbols and daggers, while Punjabi music and shoes (juttis) are also widely sold.

Public transport

Although a good number of hotels, including Clarks Inn, Amritsar, are located within walking distance of the Golden Temple, if you’re staying further away you’ll need to take a bus, auto-rickshaw or cycle-rickshaw. Car hire with a driver is easily arranged, but can be a stressful experience even if you’re only the passenger, due to the crowds of vehicles, pedestrians and sacred cows on the streets.