Dallying in dial-up Dalhousie; Amazing Amritsar

Amritsar Travel Blog

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Aroma'n'Claire - decorative feature

Dallying in dial-up Dalhousie

8th September. It is rather like Sidmouth, in the hills - only more sedate. No young travellers, rather retired brigadiers. No broadband, only dial -up, hence this entry comes from Amritsar. It is beautifully situated, 6000ft up, and retains some Raj era qualities. Pre -war hotels, like ours, Aroma n' Claire (!!!), genteelly shabby, but with fantastic views, friendly staff, and crested dinner plates. The hotel decoration was very varied, and included a "Treasures of Lancashire" teatowel. A pedestrian mall links the two parts of the town. There are upmarket boarding schools. Dalhousie Hill Top aspires to"Unity and Discipline" and "Leaders in the Making.

Near Dalhousie
" Dalhousie Public School (DPS to those in the know, and more prestigious) is "In Pursuit of Excellence". It advertises the Indian equivalent of the CCF, and provides the local road safety reminders. The Sacred Heart Catholic Church is at one end of town (Mass 10.00am every Sunday) and the Anglican (well, Church of North India) St Andrew's at the other. Sunday morning service, 9.30. The English cemetery is overgrown and in the middle. The army cantonment proclaims it was founded in 1867.

We went for some drives through stunning hill country, with distant views of snowy mountains. The Pir Pinjal and Mount Kailash. The latter has a September pilgrimage including a 35km trek from the roadhead. We saw many barefoot sadhus making their way there, and young men on motor bikes with yellow flags, signifying pilgrimage, returning already.

Golden Temple
There are villages on every hillside, growing maize at the higher levels and rice lower down. Clearly some villages are several hours walk from a road.

We drove to the remote town of Chamba with its ancient temples. We went to Kalatop Nature Reserve, where our 3km walk through the woods failed to give us glimpses of black bear or barking deer - the park's signature animals. But we did find 6 cows.

So Dalhousie was a delightful place to rest up before the rigours of busy, hot Amritsar. Just as well, as the taxi journey to Amritsar involved two near misses and one VERY near miss - and ours was a good driver.

Amazing Amritsar

We celebrated Mike's birthday on the 9th, with 2 bottles of beer at dinner.

Golden Temple
First beer for 3 weeks - amazing!!

Then on 10th, we set out after breakfast for the Golden Temple. We braved a cycle rickshaw through the extremely busy city. We're frighteningly close to the traffic, vulnerable on this little bench seat. Mixed feelings as this guy toiled along with us behind, but it's a common form of transport here, and he gets a good tip from us...

The Golden Temple is in a maze of streets in the old city. We deposit our shoes, cover our heads, wash our feet, and walk in barefooted with hundreds of worshippers. Words are not enough. This golden edifice, the Harmandir, shimmers in the middle of the sacred lake, the Amrit Sarvar - Pool of immortality-giving nectar. The lake is surrounded by a huge marble walkway and colonnade. Men bathe in the pool, the sacred book is continually chanted and relayed over (Bose) loudspeakers.

Putting the Golden Book to bed
We queued on the causeway to enter the Harmandir. Despite the crowds, it was serene inside, as the sikh pilgrims bowed and prostrated before the Adi Granth, the original holy book. We found the stairs that led to the roof and surveyed the throngs. Many families, many young men in groups, many portly men, a sort of joyful reverence around. A few men in deep blue robes and saffron turbans - Nihangs - devotees of the 10th Guru, Gobind Singh, walked around. The Museum recounted the bloody history of the siks, under the Moghuls, the British and Indira Gandhi.

We left after about 3 hours, retrieved our shoes (very efficiently) and had a drink and went to Jallianwalla Bagh, site of the infamous 1919 Amritsar Massacre. It's now a memorial park with the dreadful event pointed up to support the narrative of the Indian independence struggle.

Waggah Border

In the evening we returned to the Golden Temple. A storm had cleared the air, and it was fresh and pleasant. Again throngs headed in the same direction to be there at the time the holy book was "put to bed." Hundreds, if not thousands, were ready to sleep on mats in the colonnades, or even at the pool side. The Harmandir glistened and sparkled under the lights. The huge kitchen was still feeding hundeds of pilgrims with dal soup and chapattis. Around 10.15 they prepared the gold palanquin and took it over the causeway to collect the book. A loud large curved horn announced its arrival back on dry land, and the book was carried up to its nightly resting place. Once again, despite the crowds, there was a feeling of serenity, calm, reverence and belief.

We drove home through streets lined with sleeping people.

Happy days at Waggah

 

11 August. In the morning, we wandered through Ram Bagh, to a museum the summer palace of Ranjit Singh, the "One eyed lion of the Punjab" and the last ruler before the Brits took over in the mid 19th century. He had the Koh-i-nor before we took it for Queen Vic. Huge bats hung from the trees, and a group of girls came to do family washing in the dribbly fountain.

Then in the afternoon, off in a shared jeep to Wagah, the border with Pakistan for the Closing of the Gates ceremony. We had seen it on UK television (Michael Palin??). Nevertheless, in the flesh, what a spectacle! Thousands of Indians in stands this side of the border, being led by a cheerleader in nationalist chants. A 100 yds away, seemingly slightly fewer Pakistanis responded in kind. Zindabad Hindustan...Zindabad Pakistan..

Imperious soldiers on both sides, given added height by huge cockades, several times quick marched to the gates, stomped at each other, and then appeared to do a Cleese silly walk before quick marching back again. At precisely 6.30 the 2 countries flags were lowered in unison, and the border gated clanged shut. We all stood and cheered. The soldiers were incredibly smart and were carefully orchestrated. But overall, it was a carnival. Women and men - separately - had danced in the road. Youngsters had run up to the gate with Indian flags. the crowd had chanted and raised arms to the cheerleader's calls. Good naturedly the crowd dispersed through touts selling postcards and dvds, to buses, autorickshaws, taxis and cars for the dash back to Amritsar.

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AromanClaire - decorative feature
Aroma'n'Claire - decorative feature
Near Dalhousie
Near Dalhousie
Golden Temple
Golden Temple
Golden Temple
Golden Temple
Putting the Golden Book to bed
Putting the Golden Book to bed
Waggah Border
Waggah Border
Happy days at Waggah
Happy days at Waggah
Amritsar
photo by: frankcanfly