Jane and Kev at the Golden Temple, with Kev wishing he hadn't left his sunglasses in Delhi

Jane and Kev at the Golden Temple, with Kev wishing he hadn't left his sunglasses in Delhi

This place should need little introduction, I’ll assume everyone has heard of this place but broadly it is one of the key holy places for the Sikh religion and is a centre for devotion in the same way as Mecca is to Islam, Jerusalem is to Christianity and St Mary’s is to football.

So many people had told me that a visit to the Golden Temple surpasses visiting the Taj Mahal but surely they couldn’t be right, could they? The Taj Mahal is amazing and tops my ever increasing list of places I love.

I’ve also come to realise that I don’t really get on in religious places: I hated Varanasi, I detested Pushkar, so how would I cope with Amritsar and the Golden Temple?

We first saw the Golden Temple at night at the end of our heritage walk with our guide Gurinder Garry and truly this must be the best time to see it for the first time. Arriving at the complex we had to buy bandanas to cover our heads, nice bright orange ones that clashed with my eyes, but never mind. Washing our feet before going in and there it was right in front of us. Amazing.

Down the steps and on to the parikrama – the square perimeter path surrounding the water we walked slowly clockwise around: you don’t have to walk this way around but everyone seems to. There’s people sleeping all around the edge of the parikrama, there’s people bathing and cleansing in the water but one thing that all that are awake share is a sense of amazement.

What strikes you is how calm and serene the place is. There’s singing heard all around and Gurinder tells me that it’s actually live, constant throughout the day, no pre-recordings here. I take lots of photos wondering how they’ll turn out and curse myself for not having a decent flash.

At one point Gurinder hurries up our slow pace so that we can see that them ceremony where there dress up the carriage that their holy book is just about to be carried in. We’re near at the front of the barrier but there’s Sikhs behind me wanting to get a good view so I moved to the back after ushering them forward to take my place: for me it’s just a visual thing, for them its sacred.

We leave the temple tonight and return the following morning so visit the place in detail.

I already love this place. It beats the Taj Mahal hands down and I’ll be surprised if anything man-made ever matches this.

The temple in the day time doesn’t quite seem so impressive but today is all about learning about Sikhism, visiting the temple itself and visiting the other parts of the complex.

Gurinder explains with ease, clarity and enthusiasm the key aspects of Sikhism and what’s going on

golden temple
Golden Temple

golden temple
Golden Temple

The food hall where everything is free and caters for tens of thousands of people per day.

food hall
The food hall

cooking chapattis
Volunteers cooking the chapattis

masses of okra
Massive vat of chopped okra

cooking vats
Vats used for cooking the dal

chapati convery belt
A converyor belt of chapattis