The Golden Temple
Amritsar Travel Blog› entry 21 of 29 › view all entries
Tanushree and Sabita accompanied me to the airport, and we had a tearful goodbye. I flew to Delhi and met up with Anna, and on Friday morning we took the train up to Amritsar.
We arrived in Amritsar, dropped off our stuff at our hotel, and headed over to the bus station, so I could get a ticket for my trip to McLeod Ganj on Sunday. Turns out there's only one bus per day to McLeod Ganj, tickets aren't sold in advance, and although the station was actually quite nice by Indian standards, I felt the sense of confusion to which I've become accustomed in India.
We made our way over to the Golden Temple, the Sikh mecca of the world. It was quite chaotic (shocker!), but we managed to check our shoes downstairs and then make our way over to the entrance. The temple is located in the center of a huge marble square, and it's just beautiful. Unfortunately it was also wicked hot, so there were jute rugs covering the too-hot marble, and we ran from one to the next and made our way around the square. Many temples in India don't allow people of other faiths inside, but thankfully this wasn't one of them. It was beautiful inside. One of the things my photos and words can't capture is the sounds: There's someone chanting in the temple 24 hours a day, and it's broadcast on speakers throughout the temple complex, so there's no escaping it.
The next day we went back to the temple and partook in the food offered by the temple. They feed up to 40,000 people per day, and ask for no money! It was quite an operation -- cleaning trays at breakneck speed, herding people in and out of the dining hall in huge groups. The food was very simple and we sat on the floor, but it was very cool to experience it.
Next we hired a car and driver to go to the daily India/Pakistan border ceremony.
The ceremony itself consists of the border gate being opened for about 20 minutes, to symbolize the relationship (not sure what the right word to describe it is -- friendly? cordial? diplomatic?) between the two sides. Soldiers from each side march and stamp their feet, in an attempt to display aggression without using a weapon or harming each other in any way. (A friend just clued me into a documentary by Michael Palin -- of Monty Hall fame -- that includes footage of the ceremony. If you're interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeSX6AZ5xEI.) At the end, each country symbolically lowers its flag on a slanted rope, so that the flags cross one another. The crowd went mad.
We drove back to Amritsar, had dinner, and collapsed in our air-conditioned hotel room.