Amritsar and The Golden Temple

Keen to escape Delhi, I ventured north into the Punjab, to the city of Amritsar, the centre of Sikhism, of which I was curious to learn more. Amritsar is important in Indian modern history as it is the site of a notorious massacre by the British that ended up galvanising support for the independence movement. However the main draw is the magnificent Golden Temple

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I arrived early in the morning in Amritsar after taking a shared sleeper bus from Delhi (yes that is sharing an incredibly small bed with another dude, but actually slept reasonably well). Managed to check into the hostel at 7am and even had a bed for some extra zzz. First thing on waking up I was asked if I wanted to join a walking food tour, so I did!
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So much food and so much fun on this tour. It was especially nice to see into the kitchens of one of the places. I would like to describe in detail with photos and names of the dishes but honestly I simply ate them and then promptly forgot everything
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A quick visit to a Hindu Temple was intriguing
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Ganesh looking resplendent
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Every time I think I might one day get a handle on Hinduism something like this pops up and baffles me completely…
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The afternoon involved going to the border with Pakistan to see the daily flag ceremony. It’s a big deal attracting thousands of spectators on each side. We waited here before cutting the queue because we were foreigners and have some special seating area
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The atmosphere is jubliant
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Thousands of spectators are whipped into a frenzy by a compere chanting and singing (the music was incredibly loud) in an all-out paroxsym of national pride
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Honestly it’s very ridiculous. Soldiers from each side march up to a white line signifying the border, high kicking as they go and then goading their counterparts. It might be funny except for the fact that these are two nuclear nations that hate each other
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Afterwards it’s time to meet and take selfies with the high-kicking, fan-hatted soldiers. I must say I’m turned off by such jingoism
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Sri Harmandir Sahib, commonly known as The Golden Temple, is the most holy place for Sikhs
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The temple, covered with 700 kg of gold (that’s the lowest of many figures I read), is surrounded by the Amrit Sarovar, The Pool of Nectar that gives the city its name. The pool is believed by Sikhs to have healing properties and so you can observe many people taking a dunk (reverently though)
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Guardians walk around with their spears
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This lady absolutely insisted that I take a picture of her and her daughter
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It’s very pleasant to walk around the pool and listen to the constant holy music. Of course you must be barefoot (cold in the early morning) and wear a head cover
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Hi mum
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The early morning made for an atmospheric haziness and stillness
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The temple is really stunning but even more so at night

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I was invited to a wedding!
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In fact everyone staying at the hostel was invited. Such hospitality
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Such a colourful event
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Everyone wanted their photo taken or to take selfies with the white people
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The dancing, oh the dancing. So energetic
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Returned to The Golden Temple at night. Spectacular

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Each Sikh gurdwara (temple) must also provide langar, which is a community kitchen run by volunteers. Everyone must at some point help out and is a lesson on equality. First you pick up your metal tray, bowl and spoon
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You then sit, cross-legged and barefoot on the ground and wait to be served without regard to status, gender, religion or anything else. Whilst learning about Sikhism I was impressed by the fact that they do not claim to have a monopoly on truth which I imagine makes it one of the more open and tolerant major world religions
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Up to 100,000 meals are served each day
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You can pass over the causeway across the Pool of Nectar and enter into The Golden Temple itself. Inside you can see the Guru Granth Sahib, which is the Sikh holy book and actually the 11th Guru. The first was Guru Nanak who founded Sikhism in the 15th century, so quite young as religion goes, and was followed sequentially by 9 other Gurus. I learnt a lot more but you’ll have to do that part for yourself (i.e. reading the Wikipedia article)

Next up: Dharamsala to Jaipur via disappointment

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