Fills your eyes – Amritsar

Our trip on Sunday commences at 11.00am. Bunty has suggested that if we go any earlier it will be standing room only at the Golden Temple. Again we drive to within about one kilometer of our destination. As we alight the car I am quickly adorned with a ‘Golden Temple’ bandana, which also costs me ten rupees. We know heads must be covered here, and Kerry comes prepared, and even tho’ she is wearing a headscarf she still has the bandana tied to her head, and another ten rupees paid.

The temple comes into view along the walk, and like so many monuments in India, it is very impressive. Not far from the complex entrance we remove shoes and socks to be collected later. The road between here and the entrance has coconut matting to spare soft feet. Before entering the complex we must wash our hands, and as we enter we walk though a shallow trough to wash our feet. There are different types of matting on the marble floor to absorb the water and minimize slippage.

The temple itself is situated in the middle of the pool of nectar, which has some very large goldfish in it, as well as a couple of other species we cannot identify. People also bathe in the water, and there is one particularly auspicious spot where in story at least, a leper has been cured.

The temple complex has a permanent soundtrack of readings from the Sikh holy book, and it seems as if readings occur in a number of places in the building which make up the perimeter.

We have a quick look through the kitchen which operates the 24 hours the temple is open. Anyone who wants to be fed, or a cup of tea is guaranteed service here. As we come back into the courtyard around the temple, we are part-way through the midday prayer, and all but a handful of people are completely still.

Soon comes our time to enter the temple itself. Bunty’s queue shortening skills which were so helpful yesterday, again come into play. Rather than joining the masses shuffling along the bridge to the temple we take up position near an exit point. Bunty talks to the official and it takes some time, and quite a few others move through before us, but eventually we too go in the out door. There is no photography past this point. We have joined a shortened queue near the front ‘door’ to the temple, when an official calls me and asks / tells me to go another way. I manage to attract Bunty’s attention “Is this okay?”. Yes he says, let’s go. We are at a a side entrance, which is not the traditional way in, but we take it. Inside, there is a square of wooden railing, inside the square two ‘priests’ are reading from the holy book for a live national radio broadcast, there is perhaps another volume of the book in a place of honour, and cash donations litter the floor. For a larger donation adherents receive a sugary confection wrapped in a saffron coloured cloth. Bunty says we should keep this in our house where we pray. I’m unsure if he means the sugar, or the cloth. I’m planning to eat the sugar at some stage.

Having walked around the square we exit the temple, to move to another entrance with steps to a mezzanine level. Kerry declines the steps. Upstairs people are seated on the floor, either praying, meditating, or reading the holy book, from the small library which is upstairs. The colours here are rich and deep, mainly reds and yellows; it’s beautiful.

We walk some more to complete the circuit of the temple complex, and reverse our entrance procedure to leave.

Our next stop is Jallinwalla Bagh, a memorial park for a large number of Indians killed on the order of some idiot British general in 1919. We move on to a Hindu temple dedicated to Durga. This appears, from the outside, to a miniature version of the Golden Temple. A gold domed temple surrounded by a holy water pool.

Finally we are taken for another shopping opportunity at India House Gallery, and if we had a shipping container we could easily buy many things. However, we don’t so we don’t. This business needs a wholesaler and a distributor, not low value retail customers like us.

We drive down Amritsar’s two best streets, and even allowing for the fact it is Sunday, I think there is room for improvement. We drive to the Crystal Room, one of Amritsar’s best restaurants for a mid-afternoon lunch, where we say goodbye to Bunty. He has adopted Kerry as his Australian mother.

A word about our guides, they’ve all been very good, and generally highly educated. For example, Bunty’s goal in life is to teach computing at Oxford, and to do something good for his parents.

After lunch we return to the hotel and ready ourselves to leave. Our flight was changed just before we left Australia, so we have paid for a hotel night we won’t be using, and instead opt for another night in the Delhi transit hotel. We are now old hands at the security and identity checks at Indian domestic airports. This time Kerry’s suitcase is selected for further investigation. They have Kerry open the case and promptly spoil our best packing efforts. They examine our electric toothbrush, and a couple of other items. Curiously the security guard is looking for an umbrella which Kerry doesn’t have, but which is in Ian’s suitcase.

An unremarkable flight to Delhi is followed by another remarkable display of security and identity overkill at the transit hotel, and an even more remarkable increase in price from Tuesday night.

Tomorrow we fly to Dhaka in Bangladesh to catch up with friends Lea and Neville. It is Neville’s posting to Dhaka one year ago which is the impetus for IndianInterlude’s journey.

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