Friday, November 10, 2006

The Golden Temple

We gave up on the idea of going to the Golden Temple at 4 am to see the Book procession. That turned out to be fine and we got to sleep in a bit. We were at the Temple at 8:30am. You come into the complex, check in your shoes and socks, (Yeah, I got to go barefoot!) and then walk through the water pools (running water to clean your feet). Then up the stairs to this magical view of the temple shimmering in the middle of the water. I'm having trouble loading pictures onto blogger or you'd see it. We walked around the temple first, then along the causeway out to the temple. The place is full of people in all manner of beautiful and/or interesting types of clothing. Men strip down to their shorts and bathe in the pool. Women have a more private bathing area. This is the Vatican of the Sikh world. Built about 400 years ago it is a beautiful and spiritual place. The chanting inside the temple is broadcast throughout. You watch Sikhs enter and a look of joy comes over some of them as they then prostrate themselves toward the temple. We were there early enough that it wasn't too crowded going into the temple. No pictures allowed there. In here is the holy Book of the Sikh world. Beautiful carpets, the walls intricately painted, the rhythym of the chanting, pilgrims meditating. There is such a spiritual and calming sense here. Someone gives me a round sweet. Someone else mimics sticking it in my mouth. Another asks if we have gone upstairs. We follow the winding stairs to another room with a man reading a huge book. Views from between the golden 'knobs' surrounding the roof of the temple.

A really special place. Our short stay in Amritsar has been fantastic. Then after circling (squaring would be more accurate) the temple again, we eventually decided we needed to move on. We stopped in a book store and bought a couple of books and some CDs of the chanting, retrieved our shoes and wandered out into the world again. By the way, when I pulled out my map of Amritsar to ask the man at the book store directions, he said, Put away the maps. Maps are useless in India. One gains spiritual enrichment by helping others find their way.

The world. Bike rickshaws, motorcycles, horse drawn carriages, shops selling all sorts of Sikh related paraphnalia, people squeezing between the vehicles, horns honking... up the street and into another oasis - at least today. This is the Jailliawalla Bawg, were the British massacred about 1000 Indians. If you saw the movie Gandhi, you saw the Indians protesting in the park while the British came in through the only entrance and set up their guns. Today it is a lush green park full of school kids visiting the various memorials to the dead.

We stopped in a cyber cafe and got all my pictures downloaded to a CD and then into a restaurant for a delicious lunch.

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