Undoubtedly the most authentic places to stay in Amritsar are the five niwas or pilgrim hostels run by the Golden Temple management committee. Intended for Sikh pilgrims, these charitable institutions also open their doors to foreign tourists. Charges are nominal (by donation, which is at your discretion), but stays are limited to a maximum of three nights.

The first building as you approach on the east side of the temple is the Guru Arjan Dev Niwas, which has the check-in counter for Indian citizens. Foreigners have their own dedicated room at the Sri Guru Ramdas Ji Niwas, which is the next one along. The Sri Guru Nanak Niwas was where Bhindranwale and his men holed up prior to the Golden Temple siege in 1984.

The downside of staying at these niwas is that facilities can be basic (charpoy beds and communal wash-basins in the central courtyard are the norm) and security can be a problem, although lockers are available in the foreigners’ section. Alternatively, private rooms are available by the eastern entrance to the temple itself. It is advisable to book in advance (0183 255 3957, goldentempleamritsar.org) as rooms and beds are almost always at a premium.

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