Our expectations were very high and as we all know, such are usually not met. But Amritsar proved this theory wrong. The Golden Temple, and the entire complex surrounding it, is breathtakingly beautiful. But what makes the visit so very unforgettable and enjoyable is the relaxed atmosphere. Many of the pilgrims come from villages or cities where foreigners are hardly ever seen and they loved having photos taken with us or simply dared a quick hello. None of the consistent stares like in Ajmer at the Dargah Sharif Tomb, or the no-photo paranoia of Pushkar (the holy Hindi City). Very rarely have we immediately felt so comfortable and relaxed at a holy place.
The Golden Temple sits in the middle of a lake and is accessed by a shaded walkway. Bleach-white buildings of the most refined architecture surround the lake – the perfect frame for such beauty. Arcades provide the much-needed shelter from the heat and are used to doze off after or before lining up to get inside the very temple.
But the thing to do is to circle the lake on the wide promenade of marble stone. Thoughtfully covered with carpets, otherwise the many feet would fry on the solar-heated stones. The only tribute to modernity is a huge screen that transcribes the prayers that are constantly read like a mantra over powerful speakers. One would think these constant sonic waves are annoying? Not at all – it is rather soothing.
Both men and women must cover their heads when entering the temple complex. For those arriving without the proper headdress: help yourself from the buckets full with orange scarves right at the entrance. Upon leaving you return them into the bucket. This kind of recycling goes too far for you? Wait! All visitors stomp through tiny swallow water basins at the gate, devote pilgrims splashing the lukewarm water on their heads and faces and we have seen some of them sipping it. We skipped that last ritual…