“There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…”
– John Lennon
We all have that one or two or maybe everytime-wala episode(s) when we deliberately plan a trip to some exotic destination, but could never make it. I guess you can feel me, folks! My plight is not different from this. It took me a year and a half and a ton of excuses to postpone the trip until this January when I finally made it happen; another destination off my list!
Disclaimer: I will not go into the detailed significance and history of the places. I leave it on the reader’s part.
How to reach: The connectivity to Amritsar from all the major cities of India by train, bus and flight is very good. You can book any of the modes as per your convenience. We took the roads (by car) starting our journey from Chandigarh through lush paddy fields, roadside dhabas and some major cities (Jalandhar). Thanks to my friend Raman for his car and hours of focused driving.
Where to stay: It is advised to stay near Golden temple so that you don’t have to waste unnecessary time in transit during your trip. There are lots of hotels (budget, economy and luxury) near the Golden Temple.
There are a few ‘Niwas Ashthans’ maintained by the Golden Temple authorities where free accommodations (Dorms) is provided to the pilgrims. They also provide rooms at a minimal cost. You’ll be provided with mattress and blankets for the night. The Niwas Ashthans are very clean and the authorities maintain strict hygiene there.
Best time to visit: The north Indian weather is extreme in both summers (temperature reaches as high as 45 degrees) and winters (temperature dips as low as 4 degrees). Therefore it will be better if you visit there in the months of September and October or February to April. If you wish to visit there during special occasions like a new year or festivals like Lohri(January ), you have to book your tickets early cause it will be very crowded then.
Places to visit:
1. The Golden Temple: The Golden Temple, also called as Sri Harmandir Sahib, is the holiest place of pilgrimage for Sikhism. As you walk through the premises and see the holy sanctum plated with gold foil, surrounded by the still water, you will stay awestruck for a moment or perhaps more than a moment. But trust me, hold your breath cause there’s much more to see!
Things to do:
- You need to cover your head while entering the temple premises. You can keep a scarf of your own or find a bucket full of saffron scarf in front of the main entrance, kept solely for the pilgrims.
- You need to keep your shoes and bags in the cloakrooms provided there.
- In order to visit the holy sanctum, reach as early as possible. You will be lucky to face a long queue rather than a loooooong one otherwise.
- The holy Guru Granth Sahib is taken out of the sanctum every night at around 9:30 or 10pm as part of the rituals performed at the golden temple. If possible, plan your visit in a way such that you can witness this event.
6. Perform Seva. It is a selfless service that the pilgrims offer without any desire for reward, appreciation or Pat on their backs. The Sevadars (the one who performs Seva) are tasked either to serve water or to wipe the floor or to wash dishes in the Langar. To know more about it, visit my Instagram page or click here. (Seva at Golden Temple)
7. Have a meal at the Langar. Langar offers free meal to everyone who cares to drop by its door. It is so huge that it can feed 5000 devotees at a time. Don’t worry!! you don’t have to wait in a queue to get your turn, everything is organised in a very disciplined manner with no hue and cry.
Not to mention the fact that the temple authorities maintain very strict hygiene there!
Things not to do:
- Do not make unnecessary noise and laughter inside the temple.
- Do not feed the fishes in the lake.
- Hygiene is strictly maintained in the temple and hence be careful to not litter the premises.
Note: This is to all photo-enthusiasts that I have a piece of bad news for you. Right after a day of our visit, the golden temple authorities have banned photography inside the temple premises. Sigh! But guess who got lucky!? *Wink*
Your Amritsar trip would be incomplete if you don’t visit Golden Temple during the night, cause the whole ambience in and around the temple complex transform into something so beautiful and serene that no words can describe it best. Spend some quality time sitting by the lake and enjoy the breeze touching your bare skin. It’s so soothing!
2. Jallianwala Bagh: It is situated just near the golden temple complex within a walking a distance. As you walk past the martyr’s well, the bullet-marks on the wall, and a memorial in the memory of the departed souls, you could feel a sensation of sympathy for the unfortunate and of rage against the barbarity of the British forces.
Note: There are no entry fees there. You can take your bags with you as well.
3. Wagah border: I believe the is the only place where one can actually feel how it is like to be an Indian. When you see people from Pakistan waving their hands and flag from their pavilion and then look around you to ensure if we are able to keep up to them or not, your Indian blood will gush through your veins, explode out of sheer patriotism and you will cry out loud, ‘Bharat Mata ki jaiiiiii!!’
- The timing of the parade is 4 pm in winters and 5 pm in summers. It takes 40-45 minutes in traffic to reach Atari (Alternately used for Wagah border) from Golden Temple.
- There are no entry fees. Camera and other stuff are allowed but a tight security check is performed at the gates.
- Careful!! There will be people waiting to paint tri-colour on your face or hands and charge money afterwards. If you wish to get inked, you’re welcome, but make the money matter pretty clear beforehand.
Things you should not miss:
- The market of Golden temple: Since I am not a shopping person, you might want to have the least advice from me. The streets, street lights and the buildings by the road give the visitors a completely different feel, even a walk through the market would be worth more than anything.
- Amritsari Kulcha: It is one of the famous dishes in Amritsar as the name itself is quite descriptive of the fact. Although it is available in all the menus across Amritsar, I would suggest you try it in the restaurants of the Golden temple market.
Peace is not an act of surrounding yourself with good and positive stuff or of escaping from the reality that causes you unrest, it is a state of mind of how well you can interpret your life events and make the most out of it.
To be honest, I feel very difficult while penning down this blog, as I have to be very objective and informative keeping in mind the enquiries of what-, how-, when- of a reader and the worth of time they can afford for this piece. But this place is not just any other tourist spots I have ever been, it is an emotion, a journey within a journey, a blend of peace and tranquillity, a limbo in the passage of time that enables you to escape the reality and dwell in ‘space and time’. I know, this concise piece of writing has not been able to bring justice to my emotions and deliver the best to the readers, hence my sincerest apologies in this regard.
(If you wish to know the emotions and insights that I have gathered in this trip, please leave a comment below. I’ll get back to you.)