The Golden Temple
on Jane in India (India), 25/Dec/2011 12:31, 34 days ago
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the shimmering Golden Temple at sunsetAfter the silent meditation retreat my next stop was Amritsar, the home of the Golden Temple - known as the most sacred Sikh temple in the world. After a week of pure serenity and meditation, Amritsar city was a bit of a shock to the system - choc-a-bloc with people, rickshaws and noise...back to India! I headed straight for the Golden Temple and dropped my bags at the dorm accommodation attached to the temple. The Sikh religion has some really nice elements - like at theGurdwara(place of worship) they provide food and acommodation to their pilgrims; they welcome all visitors irrespective of religion, nationality, race etc (unlike many Hindu temples); they promote a community spirit whereworshipersget involved withseva(voluntary service).Beside the Golden Temple there is a huge building with rooms and dorms for pilgrims, provided on a donation basis. I knew it would be very basic but I was intrigued to check it out. The building was overspilling with hundreds of Sikh pilgrims, with families crowded the floor of the courtyard. There was one dormitory reserved for foreigners and I was shown to a bed in a small dank room. As soon as I sat down on the bed my neighbour warned me that the Japanese guy that had slept in my bed the night before was up all night catching bed bugs.....I jumped up and decided that I'd leave my bag in the locker and check out some alternative accommodation (I have already become acquainted with bed bugs in Bolivia and Argentina and didn't fancy reliving that...). I went out and asked around at some hotels and came back to collect my backpack from the dorm. But while I was there I got chatting to lots of travellers and decided that I really liked the buzz and atmosphere of the place. I found a different bed where the guy leaving assured me he didn't find bed bugs, so I decided to stay.Close quarters in the 'foreigner's' dorm. My bed was in the middle (pink sheet) squeezed in between various other backpackers from around the world!our dorm was luxurious compared to this courtyard filled with the sleeping bodies of pilgrims who travel from all over to visit their holy shrineI met up with my fellow VSO volunteer Olive that day and went to her fancy hotel to avail of her facilities! We took a trip to the India-Pakistan border closing ceremony. Every evening when it's time to lower the flags and close the India/Pakistan border, there is a big theatrical spectacle with the guards marching on either side of the border, putting on a show of good-natured rivalry. Hundreds of spectators come along to show their patriotism and cheer on their country. The whole event took about 2 hours. I just couldn't get my head around the fact that it happensevery single day, that people come to view it every day and that it must take up a big part of the working day of the guards and soldiers! And considering the serious hostility that exists between both countries, it just seems odd - but the whole event is peaceful and the crowd seem to get a great kick out of it. Very bizarre, yet entertaining!Indian patriots at the India/Pakistan borderI spent the rest of my time in Amritsar at the stunning Golden Temple. I couldn't get enough of it and went at sunrise, midday, sunset and again after dark. It's such a beautiful temple, calm and peaceful, I spent hours walking the circuit around the temple, sitting and watching the people bathe and pray at their sacred place of worship. And there is a great atmosphere on the grounds - at the communal accommodation and kitchen buzzing with people, volunteers helping to keep the place running very efficiently. The toilets and showers in the acommodation were brand new, without doubt the best public toilets I've seen in India! The kitchen serves food round the clock (on a donation basis too). I had yummy chai and food there which was a really nice experience. You take your place in the queue, get your plate and cup, then join the stampede to find a spot on the ground in the huge dining hall. Volunteers come around with buckets of dal and rice pudding and drop chapatis into your hands. The food was simple but very delicious!The Golden Temple - a definite highlight on my India trip so far.Sikh guard and the Temple at dusk