Blimey, What a bloody effort to get here but boy was it worth it. In short, the journey went like this - 3 hours at station, 18 hours on train (sharing a single bunk), 20 mins walking from train station along tunnels to the Metro. 1 hour on the Delhi Metro (very clean and lovely), 20 mins in a Tuk Tuk, 20 mins on a shuttle bus, 4 hours in an airport, 1.5 hours on a little twin prop plane and 30 mins in a cab. Ah the joy of travelling. You know what though? Rachel and I have got so used to India time we were really chilled and cool the whole way.
Oh just so you know that Rachel is not the only one to do something stupid. I left the Ipad on the little provisions stall we had shopped at. About 100 yards up the road a little man started calling us, he was being called by another man ( a little bigger though) who in turn was being called by the medium sized shop keeper where I had left it. Ganesh or Shiva or whoever is certainly looking out for us!
Anyway. The Golden Temple in Amritsar is why we are here and both of us are thrilled we made the journey. On entering the grounds we leave our shoes in a huge storage area. From there on and for the next 3 hours or so we wander around barefoot. The Temple sits in the middle of a man-made “Nectar” lake about 300 metres square that is surrounded by beautiful period buildings. The faithful can strip off and bathe in these holy waters and many do so giving glimpses of buttocks and cocks to anyone who might be looking. The temple is indeed golden and quite stunning with the sun reflecting the gold onto the surrounding waters. It is reached by a walkway which is also adorned with gold and crowded with those who wish to see the gurus, holy books and the inside of this beautiful structure. We join the throng and feel priviledged to see this holy place and those paying homage inside it. Whilst inside there is a call to prayer and everything stops for 5 minutes of devotion. There is a tangible feeling in the air that is part excitement and part reverence and we both sense it as we walk with the people. As quite often happens we are the only whites and therefore a must have acquisition for any Indian photo library. In one instance (see below) about 40 people wanted to be in a picture with Rachel – most bizarre!
After the tour of the Temple we avail ourselves of the ‘meal of inclusion’ that is offered and accepted by virtually every visitor to the temple. To do this the Temple management have organised something both efficient and slightly wonderful as it is largely performed by volunteers. To give an idea of the scale of the operation the temple kitchens are open from 6.00am to 9.00pm and have 4 sittings an hour. At our sitting there were about 600 people who were herded in and sat on mats in rows with metal compartmented trays into which was put dahl, rice pudding, 2 chapattis and a bowl of water. The food was distributed by men carrying buckets and large kettles and had been cooked in huge cauldrons over wood fires. As our 15 minute slot came to an end water wash splashed on the floor, huge squeegees pushed up and down the roads, people shoo’ed out and the next setting began. A we walk along we hand utensils and trays to helpers who chuck them into large baskets in which they are whisked away to be washed by a noisy clanking army of waher uppers. It was an amazing thing to do.
Finally today we went to the site of the1919 massacre of innocent Indians by English Troops in Jallainwala Bagh (As seen in the film Ganghi – sorry to trivialise) It was very moving and we felt a little awkward being British. However (and I apologise for this) we were amused to find topiary wire shapes of British soldiers shooting rifles and Indian arms coming out of the ground. Someone thought this was a good idea (we didn’t)
That’s it for Amritsar tomorrow a new adventure starts in the mountains in McLeod Ganj.