Monday, November 21, 2011

{ AMRITSAR - I went to Pakistan! }

Northern India.
State of Punjab.
The cultural and spiritual capital of the Sikh religion.
An Indian city just 30 km from the Indian-Pakistani border. 
Sarah was sick last week with an ear infection so Katie and I went without her.
We were so excited because this is the trip that our organization sponsors for the interns.
We were really looking forward to it!
Unfortunately, things weren't arranged in advance, even though we had our train tickets for a month and a half, so it was a little haphazard but Katie and I enjoyed ourselves. 

The New Delhi Train Station - typical India. Lots of people and very dirty.
Ready to go!
 When we arrived in Amritsar, we dropped off our stuff at a guesthouse and headed to the Wagha Border ceremony on the Indian-Pakistani border! It is a very fancy ceremony with lots of marching and loud shouting. People, I was in Pakistan for about .347893483048 minutes. That's probably the closest I will ever come to that country in my lifetime...

Lots of people, especially women, anticipating the ceremony! 
I love guard clothing! 

This is the Indian border side. 
And the ceremony begins...marching of soldiers back and forth in front of the gate.
Indian Side.
Look how cool the hats are on those soldiers! Hard to see, I know. Sorry! I was supposed to be sitting in VIP but our tickets weren't arranged :(

The border! 

Go India!
Katie and I booked it out of there because we were the only white people and we had wayyyy too many picture requests!

I love this picture of Katie and I!!! We were happy.

My sweet Indian shoes and salwar pants and very Indian anklet :) 
Hanging out on the border!
Next stop, the GOLDEN TEMPLE (aka Harminder Sahib) to view it at nighttime. Let me tell you a little more about the temple and the Sikh religion first!

Yes, it is covered in Pure Gold :) It's beautiful!
The name "Harminder Sahib" means "Temple of Gods." It is open to all people - regardless of religion, gender, age, etc. The temple was built in 1764. The interior is decorated with marble, rubies, and lots of beautiful frescoes. 
The word Sikh means "disciple, student, instruction" in Sanskrit. A Sikh is a disciple of the Guru. 
It originated in 1469 by the Gurus, or spiritual leaders. It was founded by the first guru, Guru Nanak, with 10 other gurus. A Sikh is defined as "any human being who faithfully believes in One Immortal Being; the ten Gurus and the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru; and who does not owe allegiance to any other religion."
They believe in the equality of humankind, the concept of universal brotherhood of man, and One Supreme God (Ik Onkar). 
The basis of the religion is union of the soul with God. 
Devout Sikhs say 5 prayers a day. 
They are committed to toleration and fight against discrimination. 
They don't try to spread their religion as many other religions do.
Sikhism is more universal than other religions in that they believe the nature and attributes of God to be:

"There is one supreme eternal reality; the truth; immanent in all things; creator of all things; immanent in creation. Without fear and without hatred; not subject to time; beyond birth and death; self-revealing. Known by the Guru’s grace." 

They are recognized by their distinctively wrapped turban, uncut hair (Kesh), beard and mustache, and they're supposed to wear an iron/steel bracelet (called a Kara). 

So, the Golden Temple - the highlight of our trip!

I loved these women sitting by the holy water starring at the temple.

The next morning, we headed back to see it in bright light!

This is our "When in Rome" photo! ( hint: you have to do the hand!)
This is INDIA. I love this photo - it fits the country perfectly.
We saw dead, hanging chickens on the street! 

A beautiful statue in the center of town that says "Service to humanity is true service to God."
The road that leads to the Golden Temple.
Bike rickshaw driver...we used many more than I would have liked to in Amritsar...

On our way back to the temple, we ran into this marvelous memorial. As we entered, it gave a detailed list of rules to be observed in the memorial (no washing clothes, no destroying any structure or flora/fauna, no fires, etc.). We were constantly reminded of how sacred this place was to the people. 

On the Punjabi New Year of 1919, April 13, 1919, about protesters were killed 379 while wounding 1,100 more. However, that statistic was created by the Biritsh Raj and it is believed to be much higher than that. Ghandi launched a Satyagraha campaign to encourage nonviolent resistance against a recently passed act that further tightened the chains on the Indian people. On this day, a group of British soldiers opened fire on a group of 20,000. This is a memorial to those that lost their lives that day fighting for Indian Independence...

It was very powerful.

Don't stand on sacred ground. 
I don't know why I'm smiling - bullet marks on a building from the open fire.

The actual standing memorial
The Martyr's well where some bodies were thrown during the conflict. 
Then, the Golden Temple!

A group of Sikh men watching the holy waters outside the temple..


I loved wearing the headdresses!

Touching the holy water.


I feel like Audrey Hepburn...but not even half as pretty haha

Lectures on Sikhism and "The Way"

Then, we headed to Guru Ka Langar, the Sikh Community Kitchen, which was started by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. He wanted an institution where people could sit together, as equals, and eat the same, simple food. They feed an average of 50,000 people daily. They provide meals twice a day, everyday of the year. Noone is turned away. 

It was the most incredible operation I have ever seen! It was so organized. We were ushered in and handed plates and then spoons on our way up the stairs. We were sat down in long rows down the dining hall and then HOT food came by and was slopped onto our trays from a bucket. Lentils, chapatti, paneer, amazing rice pudding (that doesn't give it enough was the best I have ever tasted!), and some water. And I ate it all. It was SO yummy! Some of the best Indian food I have had. Many tourists go there and seeing the facilities, it was very clean. Then I think, "How many times are you going to eat in this kitchen in Amritsar?" and the response goes..."When in Rome!" So I ate it all...and I'm proud to declare I didn't get sick :) I can't wait to return someday! 

I am so impressed by the Sikh religion!

The Lord Himself is the Farm, Himself is the Farmer. Himself he grows and grinds the corn...and so the sayings continue on the walls through the entrance...

Eating next to the most adorable little Sikh boys!

Everyone an equal...eating the same, simple (amazing) food!

The most incredible production! We walked out and they quickly pulled out our spoons and took our tray.  
Selling velvet illustrations of the Golden Temple. 

We got some Domino's for a late lunch before our long train ride back to Delhi!

Isn't she gorgeous!

Our guesthouse. 

I love the turbans.
 We didn't know but because we were riding a nice Shatabdi train (takes less time and moves faster)...we got a full feast on the train! Seriously, we were fed the whole time! Plates of snacks, mango juice, dinner (dal, chapatti, paneer, etc.), and even yummy ice cream!

The best roll!
It was a fun trip - I would definitely recommend a quick visit to Amritsar! 


  1. although i live in the same city but i loved every single word that i read on this blog

  2. I was on Amritsar tour again all I can say after reading this well written post. Thanks for writing and sharing photos.