For pure, ethereal beauty, there’s only one building in India to rival the Taj Mahal. The Sikhs’ holiest shrine, the ‘Golden Temple’, in the Punjabi city of Amritsar, casts an undeniably powerful spell. The combined effect of the lustrous, gilded domes, the shimmering reflections in the water and hymns emanating from the shrine are at once humbling and elevating -- as befits one of the world’s greatest living places of worship.

A guide would be an unnecessary distraction on your first visit. Just merge with the streams of bare-footed pilgrims strolling around the white marble terrace that surrounds the temple. Then follow the walkway to the sacred causeway of the golden Har Mandir itself, where the Adi Granth, the Sikhs’ holy book, is enshrined. Musician-priests keep a continuous soundtrack of kirtans, devotional songs accompanied by table and harmonium.

Another experience not to missed while in Amritsar are the free, communal meals served in the Guru-ka-Langa, next to the Golden Temple. Sharing food with all-comers, regardless of creed or status, is one of the central tenets of the Sikh faith, and there’s no more emphatic reaffirmation of the belief than this huge canteen, where everyday thousands are served simple dal and chapattis, seated at long mats on the floor.

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