Sunday, 25 February 2018

Travel: Amritsar and The Golden Temple

Our penultimate stop on our speedy galavant around Northern India was Amritsar (before heading back to New Delhi). Leaving Jaipur bright and early (are you sensing a theme here?) we took two internal flights and landed in a much cooler climate. I have clearly acclimatised to Dubai life as Amritsar's chilly 19 degrees had me rushing to H&M to buy a jumper when London me would have been breaking out a flimsy floral dress and sandals.

Amritsar golden temple

The jumper turned out to be a wise purchase as our first evening in the city took us to the Golden Temple to witness the Palki Sahib ceremony where the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, is carried from the temple to the religious parliament for the night. The next morning, the TV in my hotel room showed live footage of the holy book being "woken up" for the day and taken back to the temple.

Amritsar golden temple

Amritsar golden temple

Amritsar golden temple

Amritsar golden temple

We went back to the Golden Temple early the next morning to see it by day. Shoes must be removed and you have to walk through a shallow moat to get into the temple - slip on shoes and leggings which can be stylishly rolled up was my attire of choice. Men and women alike need to cover their heads within the temple and grounds as a sign of respect. The men in our group enjoyed a turban-tying session at our hotel before we left, I re-acquainted myself with my trusty sarong.

The temple in the morning was one of my favourite experiences of the entire trip - the place is truly magical. Despite being busy, it's a place of serene calm, no raised voices, no one rushing. Unlike the Taj Mahal, the temple is a living building with pilgrims visiting from all over India to pray and to bathe in the holy waters. The temple kitchens are a sight to behold - all pilgrims are fed for free and the giant kitchen spends all day cooking up generous portions of vegetarian food. The kitchens making roti smelled absolutely divine!

kuoni india amritsar

kuoni india amritsar

Shoes back on, we wandered the streets around the temple for a spot of shopping. I, to my annoyance, was not hungry enough to pop into the fully vegetarian McDonalds.  We also visited the Jalianwala Bagh, the sight of the tragic Amritsar Massacre which took place during British rule - colonialism has left a long shadow indeed.

kuoni india amritsar

kuoni india amritsar

kuoni india amritsar

The afternoon involved my most not-how-I-expected experience - the change of the guard at the Wagah Border, the only road crossing between India and Pakistan. Unlike the London "change of the guard" this is a rather raucous affair, locals and tourists alike pack the benches of a football-stadium-cum-amphitheatre while Bollywood music blares and ice cream and Coca-Cola sellers mingle among the crowds. A cat, oblivious to national borders, slunk between the India and Pakistan gates oblivious to the fuss being made on either side. The ceremony itself involved a lot of high kicks and a choreographed "dance" between guards on either side of the boarder. It's sort of light-hearted but also a little sad given the history of the partitioning. The fog / smog / pollution makes these photos look duller than the experience actually was.

So...that concludes my India postings! We did this Kuoni tour which was a thorough but fast-paced jaunt around Northern India - the perfect introduction to a country I can't wait to go back to.



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2 comments

  1. I've really enjoyed your posts about India. I really hope to visit it one day.
    I've done that border, but from Pakistan's side - it was such a fun experience!

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  2. All your photos have blown me away, there are so many beautiful buildings! The vegetarian Maccas sounds interesting too... even though I'm not vegetarian!

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