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  • Day50

    Amritsar

    January 23, 2019 in India ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    We flew to Amritsar. In Amritsar there's really only one place to visit, and that's the Hamandir Sahib or Golden Temple. It is the holy and cultural center of Sikhism and a profoundly beautiful place. Tranquility in architectural form. Entry is through four opposing gates representing a welcome to all people of faith from all directions.

    We first extended our knowledge of Sikhism in Gent when we visited a Gurdwara and met with a British expat who had lived for 6 years at the Golden Temple. A Gurdwara is any place where the Guru Granth Sahib or holy book is kept. Sikh's believe that the way to follow a good life is to:

    keep God in heart and mind at all times

    live honestly and work hard

    treat everyone equally

    be generous to the less fortunate

    and
    to serve others

    The temple history museum was another learning experience. Depictions of early and later martyrs. It also noted the attack on innocents by the British Raj Commander Dyer that led to the fall of British rule. It also depicted the storming of the temple by Indian troops in that killed over a thousand Sikhs, men, women, and children among them. A wall of names has been put up that one passes through when exiting the museum.

    In Amritsar we spent several nights in a really nice hotel and with really good breakfast and felt renewed. Granted, heading out into Amritsar still brought the intensity of India right back, but the hotel and our visits to the temple soothed.

    We realized why walking is such an impacting event here. The broken infrastructure, lack of sidewalks, use of property right up to the edge of the road, and tons of people, cows, dogs, and pigs make things difficult. There's also the constant blaring of horns and pounding of various metals. Plus, women in particular, don't walk if they can ride. It's just not done. We've received plenty of concerned (judgemental?) stares as we've visited cities in the north. Amritsar is particularly odd for us because looking cross or deeply serious is the natural way to be here. It's only after starting a chat that the smiles and glint of the eyes appears. Certainly not while walking through their day to day.

    Nancy though continues to astound. She headed out solo a few times to visit the temple while I was in respiratory recuperation from the Varanasi air. What a trooper.

    My highlight at the temple was joining the Langar, a simple vegetarian offering of a communal to 100,000 people every day. We sat with people with whom we shared no common language and still managed to have a pleasant and friendly dinner conversation. The best!

    As we left the temple that night we chanced upon some workers doing decorative inlay on marble. They were working by streetlight on pieces destined for repairing sites on the temple grounds. It was captivating watching them work and talking with them about the craft. They said that they were all from Agra had come to Amritsar for the work.

    Oh, and one more thing. We went to the border crossing between India and Pakistan to see the closing of the gates. But that's an entry on its own.
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