After visiting Taj Mahal and Agra Fort the previous weekend, I took another opportunity to travel to a destination in North India which is not typically part of the Golden Triangle route (Delhi-Jaipur-Agra). I went to Amritsar in Punjab state, the spiritual and cultural centre for the Sikh religion.
It was a very short visit to Amritsar over a weekend, thus I only covered the main highlights of this city which were the Golden Temple and Wagah border.
Lush green fields of Punjab, just after the monsoon:
The best time to visit the Golden Temple is early morning to catch the first rays of sunlight shining over the golden domes and reflecting in the sacred pool. As I entered the temple, I was blown away by the richly gilded Harmandir rising from the sacred pool, and the polished white marble of the Parikrama surrounding the pool. There was no frenzy and disorder but a soothing and peaceful place to be. Perhaps it was the spiritual music and readings from the Adi Granth all relayed by loudspeakers around the complex, or the almost military efficiency this temple is run.
Another interesting thing about Amritsar is its proximity to Pakistan with Lahore only thirty kilometres away. At the border of India-Pakistan lies a village called Wagah and at sundown every day, there is a rousing border ceremony where the tallest soldiers from each country perform Monty Python-esque marches and walks with fake menace and aggressiveness. The crowd on both sides of the border would be cheering and shouting patriotic slogans – quite theatrical actually. The ceremony concludes in the lowering of the national flags and the banging shut of the border gates. It’s like, OK folks, show is over!
A patriotic little Indian boy ready for his photo to be taken but strangely he was looking glum! In the background, you can see the border gate and on the other side of the gate is Pakistan (their green & white flag).
This is where the local men and women sit to watch the ceremony which is quite a distance from the border gate. I was travelling with friends from Delhi, therefore I was one of the “local women” and had to sit here. Foreigners who travel in a tour group or who have obtained special passes get the chance to sit closer to the border gate.
The Wagah Border ceremony in action: exaggerated marching moves and fake aggression.
After staying one night in Amritsar, it was time for me to head back to Delhi by train.
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