Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pray with your bare feet and pomp and circumstance at the border

The Golden Temple in the city of Amritsara well as the Wagah Border were our destinations this Sunday.  Shruti and Jaspreet our local contacts helped us arrange a very large and comfortable tour bus and our wonderful hotel arranged breakfast boxes for us to take along.  Jaspreet, our local consultant, met us at the hotel at 7am with the bus and he also brought us a bunch of road snacks!!

We reached Amritsar at 10:30am, the bus was so large it could not fit anywhere near the temple so we rode on a horse pulled carriages the rest of the way to the temple.  Kazu and I were in the front of our horse carriage and we each were able to drive!  Here is a short video of us on our horse pulled carriage driving through town!!
We were dropped off a kilometer or so from the temple and started our journey to pray and explore the Golden Temple (The Harmandir Sahib) a prominent Sikh Gurdwara.
The view from the start of our walk.                                                          A beautiful balcony
The guys new headcovering

To enter the temple, you must remove your shoes, cover your head and then wash your hands and feet.  We left our shoes with an attendant, and with our heads covered washed our hands in the sink.  To wash your feet, you walk through a communal trough in the floor that has water running through it.

Our bare feet
Washing our feet....

Now we can enter the temple compound:
The first glimpse
Bathing in the nectars (water) cleanses your soul of sins
The taller flag represents religion, the shorter is politics and the cross that connects them shows how they are intertwined.

The sights and sounds at the temple

We then made our way around the complex to the golden temple itself.  The line was quite intense - it was so crowded and there were women (Alessandra, Anneliese and I were in the women only line) pushing from the front and back!!

These pictures are to show you how many people are surrounding me in line.

When we finally made it through the crowd/line and entered the actual temple, we were able to see the prayers and music being played inside.  No photos were allowed in this section, but I did capture a few snaps from the top:

We were so exhausted by the end of this holy experience that we had worked up an appetite and so we took part in the langar (free food provided at the temple, prepared and served by the many volunteers):

What an amazing system!  These are all volunteers doing everything at the temple. After eating there is a crew that take your spoon then these guys here are taking your plate...the dip it in water to rinse it and then they are tossing the dishes like frisbee's into the next bin which they take away to be cleaned properly when it is full as it possibly can be.  It is a sight to see!
Here you can see the volunteers chopping the potatoes for the langar.
 After langar we ran back to our bus to go to the Wagah Border ceremony before sundown.  This ceremony is so full of pomp and is unlike anything I have seen before (wait, haven't I said this about almost everything I have experienced here so far?!)  The Wagah border is one of the borders with Pakistan and it is the only border with such a fanciful ceremony.  It was wild to be so close to Pakistan, in fact waving to people on the other side of the border while we watched the show.  The music was blaring so loud on each side, one to drown out the noise of the other....Indian girls were dancing and men and women were running with the flag from the center of the viewing area to the border gate and back again.  It was just amazing, here are some photos of the border guards and the military snipers.

The border patrol had the fancy uniforms - on the Pakistan side it was almost identical in form, but in blue and black vs. green and red.

Preparing for the show, one of their performances is to kick very high as a sign of fierceness against Pakistan
Ghandi and the snipers

Pakistan Border Patrol
People of Pakistan

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