Ding, ding, ding… The Golden Temple (Amritsar): Round 2

After lunch and a rest I was ready to brave the streets to see the temple during sunset and evening the light. I took a bicycle rickshaw earlier in the day and decided since I had nothing but time I would see Amritsar by foot; I laced up my walkin’ shoes, set out into the streets and started my journey. What I quickly realized was that there aren’t really sidewalks, streetlights, crosswalks and best of all the town also seemed to lack any traffic rules.  I looked both ways and tried to gauge the traffic several times yet I found myself feeling like I was in a human game of frogger. I was not ready to admit defeat as I watched the natives scoot across the street with ease through the invisible cracks in the traffic while every time I stuck my foot out to test the water my leg suddenly had a mind of it’s own and coiled back to safety. So, how did the chicken cross the road you ask? This chicken followed closely, very closely, as a local woman approached and without hesitation stepped out into the mayhem. I made sure she was uphill to the frenzy of traffic and blazed across the street at her side while holding my breath and praying to the local gods. I was psyched and then instantly deflated when it occurred to me how many more locals I would have to find in order to actually make it to my destination and wondered if hailing a rickshaw so early would be considered a KO (knock out). I found a girl who took me under her wing and dropped me off, practically unscathed, at the front door of the temple. The only beating I received was when she realized I was much older than 20, unwed, and gasp didn’t have ANY babies!

I already knew the drill with the shoes and washing so I cruised right into the temple just in time for the sunset. Not only was I seeing the temple literally in a different light but I was seeing the people and rituals differently. I sat and watched as some of the Sikhs immediately dropped to their knees and bowed to the Temple while others only bowed slightly with their hands in the prayer position. 

I observed how some followers were sitting alone deep in concentration while the temple reflection bounced silently on the holy water.

I sat watching the glittering temple as day turned to dusk, the colors became muted and the water slowly slowly lost it’s mirror like qualities.

I checked out the inside of the temple when the line died down and stupidly realized that the music I had been hearing all afternoon was live from inside the temple. Worshipers threw coins, bills of money, flowers and sweets and the priest used a large broom to sweep the offerenings towards the choir.

For dinner I joined the other thousands of pilgrims at the free kitchen, Harmandar Sahib. The kitchen is open 24 hours a day and serves roughly 40 to 50,000 people any given day. I was handed a metal tray, bowl, spoon and ushered into the large mess hall.

A traffic director motioned me to a spot on the floor on a tattered runner; I barely had time to look around when another man came around with a large bucket and dropped some yellow bean stuff into one of the compartments on my tray. Another man gave me some brown stuff, another a chapatti (a pita like bread), another sweet rice and another filled my bowl with water. I realized that people were being sat in an orderly fashion, from the back of the room to front in long rows. When I was finished I stood up, dropped my tray for washing and practically tripped over a man slicing potatoes.

When I stopped to take a picture of the mass preparation area a friendly Sikh with a bushy beard, almond shaped eyes and blue turban tapped on my leg and motioned me to have a seat and help the cause.

I was immediately handed a dull knife, a log stump cutting board and a stack of potatoes; after a while we were out of potatoes, but not out of a job. We slid over to the garlic department and I peeled garlic until my legs started to tingle and I began to understand the term “sitting Indian style”. After an hour of garlic peeling my new Sikh friends bought me a delicious cup of Nescafé, made sure I found my shoes and a hailed a tuk tuk since there was no way I was going to brave the streets back to my hotel!

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4 Responses to Ding, ding, ding… The Golden Temple (Amritsar): Round 2

  1. Auntie A says:

    Your photos are amazing!
    Sending warm thoughts to you,
    Auntie A

  2. Sarah B says:

    The pictures are beautiful! So many great colors.

  3. Glad to see you had a great time!

    By the way, you said,
    “For dinner I joined the other thousands of pilgrims at the free kitchen, Harmandar Sahib”
    I would like to mention that Harmandar Sahib is actually another name for the Golden Temple. Harmandar basically means “Mandar of Hari” or “temple of Hari”. Anyway, you joined the other thousands of pilgrims in the free kitchen called a “langar” – which is available in any of the thousands of such temples around the world.

    A person from this city.

  4. Miguel Q says:

    Loved that second round, and the pictures are great. Makes me want to pack and go

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