16 January 2016


When I first told my parents I was going to India, they were not pleased. "It's not safe," my mom told me. "I'm going to worry about you." (To be fair, she worries about me when I take the subway home from seeing her!)

But then, to show me they approved, they made me watch (again) their fave Bollywood film, Bride and Prejudice. The family lives in Amritsar, and my parents asked if I was going there. Maybe. There was The Golden Temple. And hey, it was on the way to Dharmashala. 

After struggling quite a bit with Clear Trip and India Rail, Harish booked me taktal tickets. (India Railways book up weeks in advance; however, on popular routes, the day before at 10a.m., a limited number of tickets open up called taktal. They are a bit more expensive, and it's a rush, but you can often get on a train if you need to.)

Meenal arranged a cab the night before, and the cab arrived 25 minutes early. Luckily I was ready, but this also meant I ended up spending way more time than necessary in the India train station.

At the train station, I hopped in a tuktuk to my hostel. It was my first shared room of the trip; likely my last. I'm kind of sick of shared rooms and really like my own space. I am 36, after all. (The hostel was also a bit of a disappointment in other ways, but they did have FREE UNLIMITED CHAI!)

Shortly after arriving, I arranged my things a bit, and chatted with a guy from my hostel, Chris. We decided to explore for food, and as we were wandering, I remembered that The Golden Temple supposedly had wonderful food. "Food?" Chris looked bewildered. "Yes, and it's free. A few of my friends told me." He had already been to the Temple but was okay with returning.

We checked our shoes and walked in. I was in awe. I didn't know very much about Sikhism but wow. You could just feel the incredible energy from the place. It overwhelmed me. I wanted to stay there.

We walked around, took some photos. You have to have your head covered, and I forgot my scarf, so I put my hoodie up. I was wearing a hot pink hoodie. This attracted the attention of many, many Indians, who wanted to take photos with me. Okaaaaay. After a while, I insisted that I also take photos with them. Ha!

We found the food finally. It was all 100% free and no one pushed for donations. You walked in an orderly fashion and you got a small bowl, plate, and spoon. Then you sat down in lines and they came up and down, putting food onto plates and filling your bowl with water. (I didn't drink because everyone says don't drink the water in India. I did have a bottle with me, luckily.) They moved so fast, it was impressive. They gave us chapati, red lentil dish, veggie stew, and coconut rice pudding. They even gave seconds, or thirds. They kept filling your plate until you left or said no.

After we finished, thanking everyone, bowing with our hands at our chest, we saw the insane washing area and vegetable prep area. Anyone can go and volunteer, and I kind of wish I had done that.
sitting in rows eating

We walked around everywhere, taking everything in. Basically, it's a massive temple with a floating lake and buildings around it, and there is a golden building (aka the golden temple) in the middle. You can go in it and see people praying. There are tons of Sikh religious men (priests?) praying and reading and tons of people praying. It was a pretty amazing gorgeous place and the energy was outstanding. I was nearly in tears and overwhelmed at several points.

After a while, the sun started going down and Chris was bored. We went back to the hostel, tried to use the pathetic internet, I tried to do laundry (massive disaster), and then....I went back to the temple! It was really amazing at night, and I got to see the ceremony where they move the massive book. I took some photos, talked to people, and just kind of meditated and hung out.

After a while, my foot ached, so I walked back to the hostel with a German girl who moved to Indian when she fell in love with a guy in Punjab.

In the morning, I got up early. I went first to The Golden Temple, because I couldn't keep away. It was foggy and gorgeous, but no sunrise. They insisted I take chai and chapati with spinach and lentils, and I wandered around taking photos.

Then I headed over to Durgiana Temple, The Silver Temple, a Hindu temple. They also have a sunrise ceremony, and it was still going on. Lots of singing and movement and just gorgeous. They gave me cup after cup of their milk tea; tasted like mainly sweet cardamom. Lovely. They gave me the sweet communion, smiled at me, and I walked around. There were several temple buildings, and a little lake with a gorgeous silver building. Lots of offering. Hindu temples have such amazing colors, offerings. So gorgeous. 

I wanted to stay forever.

After my 5th cup of chai, I left to hop on a Rickshaw and get on a bus to Dharamshala.

1 comment:

V said...

I recently saw a documentary on the Sikh religion and it was fascinating. One of our docs is a Sikh. The aspect about it that impresses me the most is their belief that everyone is equal. So a man is no better than a woman; a doctor is no better than a cab driver. We need more of this!