The mornings so far in India have been pretty quiet so even though we missed dawn by a couple of hours we were still pretty sure that we would be able to enjoy our first sight of the Golden Temple in relative quiet at 7:30 am. Well we were pretty surprised when we started upon the streets and joined a throng of people all heading towards the temple. The roads around the temple are all pedestrianised (this being India it wasn’t 100% enforced) and it was nice walking along with everyone else. While there were plenty of Sikhs there were a lot of other religions present but everyone was buying head scarves to cover their heads which the touts were selling for just 10 rupees!
It was a surprisingly efficient set up outside the temple and in no time we had handed in our shoes and were entering the gate and gazing in wonder at the magnificent Golden Temple. The morning sunlight was glistening off of the gold and with the bright white buildings surrounding the tank we were very impressed. We walked around taking photos trying to take it all in whilst others stripped to their underwear in order to bathe in the water. There was a procession of people walking slowly around the outside of the tank and with some music constantly playing in the background the place felt very spiritual.
We completed our circuit of the temple and headed off to the Silver Temple, the Hindu equivalent. On the way there we hired a rickshaw and asked him to take us to the bus stand (to look for onwards travel options) before then taking us on to the temple. We had agreed 50 for one trip and he wanted 100 for the second and tired of arguing we agreed (10 and 20 should have been the price). When we arrived at the Silver Temple there was a policeman who greeted us as we got out of the rickshaw. He was all smiles as he shook our hands and asked us where we were from but he was a bit concerned when I handed over 100 rupees to the rickshaw man. What happened next was hilarious. The policeman proceeded to give our rickshaw driver (and the others who had gathered around) a lecture. It didn’t need translating to understand that they were being told off for conning tourists and in the end the rickshaw driver had to give me money back!!
We giggled our way around the Silver Temple which really wasn’t a patch on its bigger and more famous brother down the road but it was nice to walk around in the quiet. We wandered our way home through the packed bazaar streets where hawkers were selling shawls and we got invited into a shop to drink tea whilst Sarah bought some shawls.
Just outside the Temple complex was a memorial to the thousands of Sikhs who were massacred by the British. They were demonstrating peacefully against the British occupation in an enclosed area when the British commander ordered for the troops to open fire. Not only were thousands killed by the bullets but over a hundred died when they tried to escape by jumping into a well.
It has to be said that Amritsar as a city is obviously making a huge effort to clean its centre up as we were amazed as to how well kept the streets around the temple were. There was very little rubbish and the whole place was clean! I have to admit I am getting a little tired of Indians complaining that our countries are cleaner than theirs. Maybe if they stopped just casually throwing rubbish everywhere there wouldn’t be rubbish everywhere? It seems as though there is a long long way to go towards educating people and it’s frightening to realise that people we have met have said that the situation has improved! Either way though top marks to Amritsar centre for being the cleanest place in India by far.
The other rarity in Amritsar was that we didn’t have to pay to get into any of the sights we visited! I have no idea where all the money is coming from for all this work and cleanliness, maybe the taxes we are paying on top of our room rates are actually being used?!
The Golden Temple is not only a place to come and worship but everyday thousands of people are fed there for free! It is an incredible system run by volunteers who provide a feed for hose in need which is paid for by donations. Having seen so many people desperately hungry here in India we decided not to take our food there and instead went and supported one of the local restaurants. We were very lucky to be staying next to two of the best restaurants in town and enjoyed some fantastic Kulcha (stuffed naan).
We returned to the Golden Temple once it was dark and it was just as impressive under lights. The other incredible thing was that there were hundreds and hundreds of people visiting the temple from dawn until dusk. Every time we walked down the street toward the temple the streets were filled with others doing the same. I can see why as it was a truly amazing place to visit! The Sikhs are very friendly and welcoming and it was a real relief to be back enjoying the true hospitality of India. T
Our first view of the golden temple was pretty awe inspiring.
We visited the temple at various points throughout the day and the queue to get in was long every time.
The local guards just looking fantastic.
Bathing in the tank.
The marble buildings surrounding the tank all had these wonderful inlaid designs.
Our rickshaw driver and his mates getting a telling off!
The Hindu “Silver Temple”
The ramshackle streets of the local bazaar.
We had some fun negotiating with these guys.
The amazing thing about this shot is the paved street and how clean everything was!
The local people doing the rounds of the tank.
Still bathing come dusk.
We couldn’t help but smile hanging around this place and these wonderful people.
If possible it was even more beautiful at night.