The Golden Temple at Amritsar
Best time to go: October through to January are good times to go, when the temperatures are cooler and more comfortable
Although this is the chief house of worship for Sikhs, and their most important pilgrimage site, you donít have to be of the Sikh religion to be moved by the splendour of Amritsarís Golden Temple, also known as Sri Hari Mandir Sahib or Sri Darbar Sahib.
Under instructions from Guru Amar Das Sahib, this city was founded by Guru Ram Das Sahib in 1574. The temple itself was begun in 1604 by Guru Arjun, then destroyed by Afghan invaders on more than one occasiona and rebuilt in marble and copper in the nineteenth century.
The temple is located on a small island in the centre of a pool called the amrit-sar (‘pool of nectar’) and is connected to land by a marble causeway.
The golden colour comes from the overlay of gold foil, hence the name.
Unfortunately the temple sustained further damage in 1984 at the hand of Indian troops, when Sikh extremists were using it as a refuge.
Patrolling guards are there to ensure that visitors respect the basic rules when visiting the temple. Shoes must not be worn, and heads must be covered. Tobacco and drugs are strictly forbidden, and photography is not permitted inside any of the shrines.
However, as long as the rules are respected, visitors of all religions are given a warm welcome.
Symbolically, it has entrances on all four sides to show that it is open to worshippers of all castes and creeds, and visitors are welcome to bathe in the purifying waters, listen to readings or simply admire the sunlight gleaming on the magnificent golden domes.
Did you know?
- Apparently, gold leaf can be up to 500 times thinner than human hair
- pure gold is so soft it can be moulded by hand
- Amritsar is the largest city in Punjab