Golden Ticket

28 April, 2018: We’re packing in some “Big Ticket” items in our final days in India and today was no exception. Having arrived in Amritsar on an overnight train from Delhi, we hot footed it to the Golden Temple. I can’t really find appropriate words to describe this except to say it was simply stunning. And such a colourful setting with the Sikh men wearing brightly coloured turbans and the stunning colours of the ladies’ sarees set against the backdrop of the white buildings surrounding the lake.

In the baking sun in the middle of the day, it was a little hot underfoot (shoes off outside and you have to bathe your feet on entry). As always, the locals have a far higher tolerance to the scorching earth below them than we do, but with a few hops and the odd trotting manoeuvre, we usually manage ok.

Slightly surprisingly given its troubled past including the paramilitary attack on it in 1984, security at the Temple was pretty nominal and in fact the resplendent guards seemed more interested in policing the rules about not dangling your feet in the Holy Lake (aka Pool of Immortality-giving Nectar) than checking the contents of bags etc.

In the middle of the Holy Lake is the glittering temple itself. The Golden Temple. Stunning by daylight and even more magical and more golden (if that is possible) when lit up at night.

When we visited again in the evening, we joined the hoards of people in the community canteen and took our supper there. You grab a plate, bowl and spoon and sit cross legged on the floor and are then served chapatis, dall and some sort of sweet rice dish. And that was it: simple but relatively tasty and payment was by donation only.

We also visited the brand new and excellent Partition Museum in Amritsar (although were unfortunately a little pressed for time here). While fascinating, this was a little emotionally draining (a bit like visiting a Holocaust Museum). Already not feeling particularly proud of the “Britishers”, we compounded this feeling by also visiting the Jallianwalla Bagh Memorial park, the site of the 1919 massacre when General Dyer ordered his troops to fire on unarmed protestors. Death toll unknown.

Although it’s had a troubled and very bloody past (post Independence too), today Amritsar has a good vibe to it. It seemed friendly and was particularly clean around the Golden temple area despite the vast numbers of visitors. The temple is open 24/7 and is an important place of pilgrimage for Sikhs.

With the excellent museum and other well maintained monuments in the city centre, it felt to me that while the anguish of the past is being preserved and not being allowed to be forgotten, this is not however at the expense of the development of a modern and vibrant city. My only regret was that our visit here was a little too short.

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