I visited the Amritsar Golden Temple multiple times over the course of my weekend in Amritsar. The first time was at sunrise, because we were hoping it would be cooler and less crowded than later in the day. It was definitely cooler, but it turns out that the Golden Temple is busier in the morning before people need to go to work! There really is no best time to visit the Golden Temple as it always looks and feels different depending on the lighting.
It was an amazing experience to watch all of the pilgrims walk silently along the pathway that surrounds the Golden Temple. It is customary for men to bathe in the Golden Temple “nectar” (water), so there were many men stripping down to their skivvies for a quick dip. There were also many mothers dipping infant baby boys in the water as well.
I also returned to see the temple at 4:00 in the afternoon, when it was much quieter. It was fun to see how the light had changed since my last visit. The line to see inside the temple was also much shorter, so I took the time to do that. No photos are allowed inside the temple but inside Ragis (musicians) and a guru sit and provide the music that is broadcast throughout the temple – and also on TV!
Because it is a holy place, both men and women are required to remove their shoes and cover their heads. For people who forget a head covering, there are souvenir bandanas sold outside the temple for 10 rupees ($0.20).
At first when I saw this man set out in his boat, I thought I was going to witness a ceremony. It turns out though, that he the temple janitor and was using the boat to fish out some litter from a careless visitor.
The Golden Temple offers free meals and lodging to visitors and can often feed up to 40,000 people in one day. I tried Karah Prashad, the sacred pudding served at the Golden Temple. You make a donation of 10, 20, 50, or 100 rupees and then receive your pudding served on a bowl made from dried leaves. It was pretty greasy, so I wasn’t able to eat more than a few bites. I just looked up the recipe for Karah Prashad online and it is an equal parts mixture of flour, sugar and butter. No wonder!
See my other photos and stories from Amritsar here!