Wagah Border Ceremony & the Golden Temple
Trip Start Nov 02, 2011
133Trip End Ongoing
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On arrival at Haridwar although I’m shattered I decide to keep going and head for the overnight train from Haridwar to Amritsar, thankfully I manage to get a ticket although I don’t have a seat, I’m just in some random class which all the locals are squashed into, it’s the journey from hell. The bench seats are meant to hold five people, ours end up with 8 either side plus around 4 dangling above us, it’s noisy and a bit fraught the whole way, I don’t think anyone manages much sleep. People are continusly pushing for their wee bit of space and you just do as the locals do and create your own wee bit of comfort if you can! Anyone who knows me knows I got my own bit of space and I did actually sleep at some point but I think that was just sheer exhaustion.
At Amritsar I walked out onto the main road and asked at the tourist info directions towards my hotel but at this stage I ended up jumping a tuktuk to take me along and I’m glad I did because it’s further than I was expecting
Thankfully I awoke refreshed and in good humour and got settled into a lovely room before heading out to explore, I have arranged to go to the Wagha Border ceremony tonight with others from the hotel which means I can just share the tuktuk price so it’s pretty cheap. I don’t wander too far this afternoon, just a venture down to see where the post office is as I am going to send stuff home from here, on the way there are lots of fruit stalls on the side of the road with traffic and passers by alike stopping to buy from them, it’s a really colourful display.
I meet up as arranged with the guest house and head out to the Border Ceremony, I’m a a tuktuk with two Israeli guys, one seems ok, the other appears rude and moody! We’re no sooner away when the tuktuk driver pulls in and heads over to a stall for food, as I’ve not had anything since breakfast I join him asking what I should get… it ends up the tastiest food with a meat curry in a wee bag with some chapati’s and salad, delicious
The following day I make my way to the Golden Temple where I’ve been told there’s pilgrims accommodation, I get a rickshaw to take me with my luggage and find the tourist dorms. There’s 3 rooms with 3 beds and a full dormitory and thankfully I’m in one of the small rooms. I pretty much dump my stuff to head out exploring when I’m approached by a Russian artist who asks if he can draw me, I would quite like that so I agree and we head out to gardens at the side of the temple where I sit for around an hour and a half. He sits me down on a bench and starts, but before I know it there’s a large crowd of Indian men all standing and sitting behind him making all sorts of nodding gestures. They’re looking at which ever part he’s of drawing of me on the paper, to me, and back to the paper and back, assessing his accuracy, it takes me all my time just to keep a straight face because I find it really funny.
After a while he’s done his rough draft which to me looks finished but he’s more work to do on it and asks if I can spare more time tomorrow which I agree, so far it looks great I’m already delighted
When I go through the archway I’m instantly in awe at the temple which is in the middle of water and surrounded by grand white buildings, I stand to take a photo when I arrive and I’m suddenly bombarded with requests (mainly from children) to have their picture taken with me. I end up passing my camera over too, to do the same. I end up standing for around half an hour before I finally get the chance to move on but not too far before a young couple ask me to take their picture, then a group of around ten women and kids behind me all want a picture and I find it really weird, I’ve never experienced this so much.
The young couple although Indian, are living in London and I end up joining them on the way to the temple, they keep me right on purchasing an offering to give when entering the temple which is some sort of Indian sweet which I buy before joining the queue etc
When I reach the temple I give my offering and you are given some back which you eat after you’ve been inside, the whole time I am there they are reading from their holy book which is broadcast throughout the entire temple complex, it’s also on a couple of big sceens which include the English translation which is helpful as I feel I can take part in their prayers. For some reason when I came into the complex, I didn’t realise that the prayers were coming from inside the Temple, I don’t know where I thought they were coming from… honestly what am I like! If I had been up before sunrise I would have witnessed them in a ceremony which involves bringing their holy book into the temple but I never managed to be up early enough.
Anyway the temple is a facinating place and is made from solid gold, it highly decorated with intricate designs and I sit for a while just listening and taking it all in, before I go outside and join everyone eating the offered sweet, which is very good although very sweet
Dinner is an experience, you are given your stainless steel thali dish and cutlery on the way upstairs to the dinning hall, once the hall is ready you go in and sit on a mat cross legged and you are served your food. We are sitting in long lines and it’s buckets they come round with, firstly throwing you a couple of chapati’s so I just follow suit and hold my hands out like every one else, then they add dhal, curry, rice, whatever has been made for that day and everyone tucks in, no one hangs about too long. Once everyone is finished, we all filter out passing your plates and cutlery on the way out which are separated by volunteers into huge containers to be washed. I head into the dish wash area and lend a hand for a few hours, I join a long line of ladies washing up and I am welcomed in. They have everything so well set up that the dishes are done in no time, and the whole cycle just keeps gong 24 hours a day, it’s an amazing operation the way it’s all organised and an experience taking part. I stayed at the temple another day, starting my day once again by sitting for my portrait before heading into the temple, and I loved every minute.