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Journey to the Golden Temple (Nov 2011)

There are very few places in this world that offer the combination of majestic grandeur and intimacy. And, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India is one of them. We left Delhi by car, wound our way in and out of the chaotic, urban traffic of the city of 11 million, and found ourselves in the beautiful countryside of Punjab. A place where villages are many and some of the so-called modernities – and accompanying stresses – of city life are few. A place where the homes have massive soccer balls perched atop the roofs. A place where G’s family is from. And, how very proud they are. There’s a certain spirit, a certain liveliness, a certain passion that seems to exude from the region. Possibly because it’s a place where people love to eat, drink, and dance…all with an insane amount of gusto and energy. True, the poverty is often unmatched, as it is most everywhere in India. But, the utter pride and cultural loyalty practically unknown to those of us who grew up in a seemingly “culture-less” country seem to overpower what could easily become a very sad and overwhelming reality.

Although there are many cities in the state of Punjab, we chose to visit two. The first “planned” city in India, Chandigarh is beautiful and quaint. It’s known for its gardens, its university, and its architecture. The pollution is comparatively limited, while the hustle and bustle still define the inner core. A much more organized chaos, if you will. Amritsar is quite different, known primarily for being home to the Golden Temple and for being near the famed India-Pakistan border. A border perpetually charged with territorial and political issues so deeply engrained in the people and the region, but one that also allows for a certain amount of procedural camaraderie as the formal changing of the guard happens.

When we arrived at the Golden Temple (more formally referred to as Harmandir Sahib), evening was fast approaching, which made the gold glisten from within as if it were newly shined. Though a religious shrine for Sikhs, people of all faiths and backgrounds made their way through the complex, in awe of its magnificence. While some chose to bathe in the water surrounding the Gurdwara (there are claims the water has healing powers), others took in its potent serenity from afar, choosing to sweetly bow their heads in respect and humility. There’s so much history to tell; in fact, so much so, a blog post wouldn’t do it justice. But, I will say this. It’s worth reading about…from the 10 Gurus to some of the more recent political and religious events that have taken place. We were able to go inside where daily readings of their scriptures – Guru Granth Sahib – take place. We were also able to eat at the langar, a canteen of sorts where visitors can dine for free. It was truly exemplary of any highly efficient process-driven operation, primarily because of a constant flow of eager volunteers who cooked and served the food, then collected, organized, and washed the dishes.

So, yes, that is our 3-day journey. One that took us through picturesque fields of corn and wheat, bustling cities engaged in unprecedented levels of industrial expansion, and to one of the most hauntingly stunning places I’ve every been. Below are some photos. Enjoy!

Samosas – a wonderfully fried and delicious staple at every roadside dhaba. =)

On the road – quite standard, actually.

Also quite typical of India, they seem to have packed about 30 people into this truck. And, they seem perfectly content…and comfortable.

Amritsar, on our way to the Golden Temple.

The Golden Temple…and those who care for it.

The Golden Temple

And, one more, showing off its brilliance.

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