Amritsar and the Golden TempleMarch 9 in India ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C
Here we are after two and half glorious weeks in India at our final port of call, Amritsar. Our day started early, yet again, and we caught the 5.30 am train from Chandigarh to Amritsar, which is a 4 hr journey. Drinks and snacks are constantly offered, from tea and coffee, cold omelettes, vegetable patties, biscuits and crisps. Note that British Rail cannot manage a drinks trolly! I have to say I avoided everything bar the crisps, as they were outside my ‘safe’ category, but they were available. We alighted on to a heaving platform at Amritsar and slowly made our way out of the station accompanied by a couple of cows strolling along amidst the crowd. No one took a blind bit of notice, even when one of them anointed the platform in their honour!
The evening saw us depart for the evening ceremony at the Golden Temple. Amritsar is the centre of The Sikh religion which is approximately 500 years old and believes in equality between genders, kindness and charity to all and welcomes everyone, regardless of religion, to their holy temple. We travelled as far as possible by coach and then by mad rickshaw, to within walking distance. The streets are dark and thronged with people, particularly bearing in mind it is the Holi Festival tomorrow, so all Sikhs that can, wish to worship at the temple. It is unsurprisingly an enormous complex and you enter the inner sanctum through a arched gateway, barefoot and modestly covered, including the head for both men and women, via a shallow foot bath.The archway is deep and stepped and when you arrive at the top of the steps there before you glitters the 24 carat golden temple in its sacred pool. It is a quite unbelievable sight, especially lit up at night. ‘Jessie’ our guide (name too long and complicated to pronounce!) explained all that was going to happen and some of us stood in the holy water, whilst taking in the sight of the faithful at worship, some prostrate, others immersing themselves in the pool. There were beautifully decorated prayer rooms all around the waters edge, where elders were reading aloud from the holy scripture and the white marble that is everywhere underfoot is cool to the feet. On Jessies’s instruction we headed to the temple itself, to witness the parade of the original holy scripture (Sri-Gur Granth Sahib) to its place of rest for the night, (it is a four poster bed!) amidst much chanting and veneration. The temple itself is even more beautiful in reality than from photographs, the interior heavily decorated with gold and painted surfaces, golden doors, jewel coloured carpets and stunning chandeliers, over two floors. Again, to our surprise, we were allowed full access. The Sikh religion is certainly inclusive. To our amazement, once the Holy Book was put to bed for the night, out came the Brasso! I should explain that there are brass vessels, railings and handrails everywhere and volunteers set to with a will to clean any brass in sight. This is apparently a nightly task, as is the brushing and beating of the carpets. By the time we came to exit the temple complex and reclaim our shoes, pilgrims were bedding down for the night, in alcoves and anywhere they could find, directly on to the marble floor with a thin blanket covering. This is perfectly acceptable and they must be a hardy breed, as it cannot be comfortable. We returned to our hotel elated at having witnessed such a ceremony and with the prospect of more to come tomorrow.
Today was Lesley’s birthday and it was certainly a day with a difference. We had a glass of something sparkling ( not the best in truth) and had our photograph taken to mark the occasion
(again not the best, but at our age when is it !?).Read more