The Golden Temple is open 24 hours of the day 365 days of the year. Life never stops at Golden temple, lives dedicated to ‘sewa’ (service). Service of the God, Guru, and of every devotee by another devotee, service of all kinds from the langar that serves free food to the devotees continuously through the day to free modern facilities like wifi, medical facilities, travel facilities like free baggage room, free trolley, free bus service, providing every comfort to the devotee is considered a ‘sewa’ for the devotees and they are being provided by volunteers or people at the trusts.
One must visit the Golden Temple several times of the day, firstly, to witness the spectacular structure in different light condition and secondly, to witness the myriad activities that take place in the temple.
The most important among them would be to witness the ceremony of Palki Sahib carrying Sri Guru Granth Sahib to The Akal Takhat Sahib. Every night around 10.30 pm the Holy Granth rides a Golden Palki to retire into a separate chamber and every morning around 4 am the Holy Granth is brought back in the Palki to Akal Takhat where devotees may take a darshan. The ceremony of the coming of the Palki is one of the most mesmerising experience one can ever have.
After the Palki the Golden Temple is washed and cleaned by devotees, rugs are spread, water is sprinkled around. At the side of the langar hall you can constantly hear sound of utensils being washed and stacked in trolleys which then bring the utensils to the hall and other trolleys carry the used utensils from the hall to the washing section and this goes on round and round continuously. Hundreds of devotees are continuously engaged in various activities at the langar, washing utensils, wiping and stacking them, cutting the vegetables, cooking, serving etc.
If you visit the Golden Temple in the dusk, when the sun is about to set, you will once again see devotees cleaning the temple floors, spreading fresh rugs. At late night, the temple become slightly quiet as the Gurbani stop and number of devotees also decreases but several still try to watch ceremony of the Palki carrying the Holy Granth to the chamber for retiring. I noticed two young men washing a large vessel sitting close to the Akal Takhat while continuously chanting prayers.
You must cover your head inside the temple. If by chance your cover falls off, somebody or the other would come and remind you to cover your head. At the point from where head should be covered they have a bucket which has hundreds of those saffron color head covers that you see men wearing in the photos of any Gurudwara.
The darshan of the Guru Granth Sahib doesn’t take much time and doesn’t involve any particular rituals. It can be done by simply standing in a que of devotees, just follow the crowd, do the darshan take Prasad and leave. You may spend rest of your day sitting at the large corridors praying or simply absorbing the peace and calm of the temple, listening to the Gurbani, singing along. I saw a group of devotees sitting under a tree and reading something from some Holy books of prayer.
The Golden Temple website also has a schedule of several other ceremonies at the Temple through the year. Check out here http://www.goldentempleamritsar.org/daily-routine-of-sri-harmandir-sahib.php
The experience of visiting Golden Temple is drastically different from any Hindu temple visit as it doesn’t have the routine filth at the entrance, no swarm of beggars and lepers, no annoying pandas to intimidate and extort money from you. I am not comparing the two religion as I feel that different people get different kind of solace from each set up. Some may find the harrowing experience of visiting a Kamakhya Temple at Assam or Jaggannath Temple at Puri or Kalighat Temple at Kolkata more divine. While I, a staunch atheist, found the ambiance of Golden Temple and the people and activities around it very divine, or say peaceful, that being another word for divinity.