The Golden Temple of Amritsar – India at its best

What makes our visit to Amritsar the highlight of India for me? Is it the striking golden structure perched as though floating on a serenely peaceful lake? Is it the sight of so many devoted pilgrims quietly absorbing the surroundings at the holiest site for the Sikh religion? Or even the lively hustle and bustle outside the temple of a big city that is less used to visitors than its counterparts further south, and more appealing for it?

For me, the truly unforgettable element of the Golden Temple experience was the pure and unconditional warmth and hospitality we received throughout our time there. From our entry to the complex we were greeted by so many people, who just wanted to give us their greetings. I didn’t see another western face while we were there, so I clearly stood out. Families asked us for photos, old men smiled and asked us where we were from, and all smiled and made us feel so welcome. Many pilgrims invited us to share food with them in the large food hall, an important part of the complex and an area where tens of thousands of people can be fed in a day. No-one was after our money in here – nothing was being sold. Only the wish to have us partake in the full experience of being a visitor to the centre of the Sikh faith.

There is a real peace and tranquility about the place, despite the mass of visitors passing through the site. Although not on the traditional “A list” of places to visit in India, if you do venture north to Amritsar, your efforts will be warmly rewarded.

(Jan 2008)

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Freelance travel writer

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