Sunday, July 3

The Golden City

Amritsar: to go, or not to go? We came and we loved. Colorful turbans. Punjabi sweets. Holy pilgrims. Elaborate border ceremonies. Ladies' dance party. Chicken curries. And, of course, the Golden Temple.

The Golden Temple is architecturally impressive, like many religious meccas, but it is also functional AND free. At any Sikh temple they offer free food to pilgrims and other visitors indiscriminately. Here they serve tasty Indian thalis to 60000-80000 people daily using a chapatti machine and unlimited volunteers.

They also offer free accommodation and free shuttle buses to/from the train and bus stations to aid the many people traveling long distances to visit the most holy Sikh site. For westerners, this meant a row of beds in an large room with India's most affordable air conditioning (0 rupees). The AC was a welcome escape from the blistering damp sun that made even shade-seekers feel as though they were in a sauna.

On top of the free transit, room and board (hundreds of free toilets and showers included), tourist info was helpful and informed. They gave out free maps, which we didn't even need, because helpful volunteers inside directed lost visitors between sites. One young man even guided us for an hour through to the temple centre. The only place I was not assisted was bathing in the holy water.

In an area subtley walled off from the rest of the water that fills the temple lake, there is a space for women to bathe. At dawn, I removed my clothes and took a dip with 7 other woman. Holding onto chains, we gently bobbed in the refreshing water. That was before the warm sun made it's first appearances, rising hellishly between the white towers of the temple walls. 

1 comment:

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