Thursday, February 11, 2010

Amritsar and the Golden Temple

On February 11th we set out semi-bright-and-early (eg 11:00am) for Amritsar from Jagroan. Pavan, Pavan's mother, Cha Cha (see previous post), Rod, and the driver formed our posse.

After an uneventful and drive through relatively sane traffic we arrived in Amritsar and found a parking space in a parking garage.

On exiting the parking lot we found that the way to the Golden Temple was helpfully marked.

The head should be covered when visiting the golden temple. Innumerable vendors of head-covers are very anxious to inform you of this. Luckily Cha Cha was on it and hooked Rod up with a suitable bandanna.

To enter the temple, one must de-shoe and wash your feet. Pavan was slightly squeamish about washing her feet in the communal pond. A passer-by noticed, remarked the water was good enough to drink in a disgusted tone, and then proceeded to scoop up some water and drink it. Despite the heat of the day and the lack of immediate catastrophic health impacts we decided to wade through without quenching our thirst.

To the surprise and delight of Pavan's mother, Pavan agreed to wear traditional attire. The evidence is preserved on a flash drive securely locked away so she can never deny it!

Some people may have been surprised (and/or horrified and appalled) to see Rod and Pavan together. The lady in red on the right looks happy for us, right?

The Golden Temple is as golden as advertised.

To bathe in the waters of the temple is considered a pretty serious blessing. Four of a possible five Standard Blessing Units!

Around the temple complex is a pedestrian walkway and some fairly nice entrances to the complex.

Just after the gate above a leper crossed our path. We know its curable and minimally contagious but its still disconcerting when a pallid chap strolls barefoot in front of you and you can see unhealed open gashes in his legs.

To get out to the temple you have to walk down a causeway. The causeway is moderately crowded.

Luckily for us Pavan's mother requested VIP access on medical grounds and we got to walk up the side right away!

The gold up close:

Moments before a declaration of 'no photo'.

Pavan demands that mom smile!

All around the Golden Temple are bits that are in disrepair, such as this part at the entrance to the causeway to the temple itself. This is from Indira Gandhi's attempt to bulldoze the place in Operation Blue Star shortly before her assassination at the hands of two Sikh bodyguards.

On our way out we stopped to admire a house of turbans. For no particularly great reason we both think this sign is great!

And what would any trip be without a stop to admire the local Lays flavors?

After the Golden Temple Pavan's mother suggested that we might go see another temple along the way home, the temple of her favorite guru, one Guru Nanak. We agreed and set off on the slightly circuitous way home via the gurdwara in question. At this point it bears mentioning that every town in India has at least one gurdwara so finding a specific one is not quite as simple as it sounds.

After a short time we pulled into this gurdwara. It was quite nice; we sat for a bit of prayer, gave a bit of money, and then discovered that this wasn't the gurdwara we wanted. Lol.

Our driver inquired and we eventually determined that the gurdwara we actually wanted was literally half a block down on the other side of the street! This gurdwara even had a little blurb about Nanak so we felt fairly confident it was the one we wanted.

Gurdwara Sri Hatt Sahib Ji
At this place, Guru Nanak
Dev Ji used to work at the
Modikhana and distributed
ladfuls of provisions amount the
needy, uttering "Terah Terah"
(literally meaning "thirteen"
while actually meaning
"yours, o god") those sacred 
weights are still preserved here

One of the stories we were told about Guru Nanak was that he was in charge of supplies and was audited at one point. The amount of supplies he had was discovered to actually be more than expected. For this he was rewarded, and he advised the reward be given to the poor. The weights he used when working seemed to be a semi-holy artifact. We were allowed (even encouraged) to photograph them.

After this gurdwara we felt on a roll so we agreed to Pavan's mothers suggestion of one more! We drove a few minutes down the road, passed half a dozen other gurdwara, and stopped. As always the feet were washed on entry.

This gurdwara was essentially a courtyard surrounded by dorm style rooms. People, including westerners, come to stay, work, and pray for a time. The touching of this stone was significant. Unfortunately why was rather lost on us.

By this time we were about gurdwara'd out so we headed for home. On arrival at the family home in Jagroan Rod was offered a Punjab-only beer! This had a rather vague alcohol specification of 5.25% to 9.25% or something of that nature.

The beer was rather good! Once again food was provided by the chef. Indian food in a traditional Indian home cooked by a woman who has probably decades of practice ... easy to get used to!

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