Tag Archives: Amritsar

The Golden Temple Saga – Trip To Remember – Amritsar, Delhi & Agra – Part 2

Don’t be surprised for publishing the post a little earlier than usual. Also, this post is predominantly just about one place and it’s totally worth it.

A short recap from the last blog post to bring you up to the speed. Inspired by the below song, I convinced 4 of my friends to travel along with me all the way to Amritsar. On our 2nd day of the journey, we visited the most famous Attari – Wagha Border between India and Pakistan. And, it was one remarkable experience.

By now, you all might have guessed the place. It’s none other than the Sri Harmandir Sahib, famously known as the Amritsar Golden Temple. From the local sources, we got to know that the Gurdwara is less crowded during the early hours of the dawn. Kavinnila  (a.k.a Kavin) and I were super excited and planned to start as early as 4 am. On the other hand, Shashi, Remya and Shalini was super tired after a crazy day, so they decided to opt out for some more rest and join us later.

As planned, we started a little later than 4 am. As our hostel was just in walking distance from the Gurdwara, we didn’t have any trouble reaching there. It’s a hard rule that men and women who enter the temple must cover their head by wearing a scarf or a turban. On our way to the temple, there was a respectable old man who offered me a headscarf and even tied it on my head. Later, he DEMANDED DONATION for the same. It’s quite unfortunate that there are people capitalizing situation like these. If you are visiting the temple, kindly don’t entertain such people. There are tons of head scarfs placed in bins just outside the Gurudwara for free.

One could get easily awestruck by the glittering structure against the background of the dark sky. And, I am no exception. Just before the main entrance, there is a place where you can safely deposit your footwear for free. A continuous stream of water flowing through the entrance cleanses your foot before entering the temple premise. OMG, I have never been to such a peaceful and calm religious place. I felt the tranquility of the place subdue my usual excitement. And, quite short of words in precisely expressing that feeling. The main temple sits in the middle of Amrit Sarowar (Pool of Nectar), a holy tank where devotees take bathe. We went around the Parikrama (Pathway surrounding the tank) clicking some pictures before joining the queue leading to the sanctum. I am not even exaggerating, the devotees here are the most self-disciplined ones I have ever seen. Firstly, there are no separate queues except the one dedicated for elderly and physically challenged people. Irrespective of their caste, creed, gender, social and economic status, the rest of the folks share the same queue. In spite of thousands of devotees waiting in the line for hours, we didn’t find even a single person trying to push others or trying to get ahead or even speak loudly. Probably, we are the only uncouth ones in the crowd who are incapable of zipping their mouth. You would be amazed to see that there isn’t anyone except just an elderly guard near the entrance of the sanctum to control the crowd. All the time spent in the queue I enjoyed the devotional songs with marvelous deep voices played there. To my surprise, while entering the sanctum, I spotted a group of musicians performing live. That’s some incredible stamina and serious devotion performing continuously without any drop in their energies. A few moments passed entirely lost in the charm and resonating music of the place. Again, the blissful experience is hard to explain with words. It’s two storied structure with its walls & ceiling filled with pleasing decorative artworks. The devotees quietly find a spot for themselves to sit, read their holy text and meditate. Again, there is no one to control or manage them. Further, we reached the terrace just to get lost in the breathtaking view from there. We were offered Karah Prasad, a sweet made of whole wheat flour, Ghee (clarified butter) and sugar on our way out of the sanctum.

The following are a few awesome pics clicked by Kavin.

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Sri Harmandir Sahib, Golden Temple – This Beauty

The Karah Prasad didn’t completely solve our hunger problems, so we headed straight searching for the Langar Hall.

Langar is the term used in Sikhism for the community kitchen in a Gurdwara where a free meal is served to all the visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity. – Wikipedia

So, no one returns from a Gurdwara hungry. Might be the effect watching umpteen number of documentaries on the Golden Temple Langar, it became a dream to have a meal there, cos it’s no ordinary Langar. Following are the amazing facts that make it more special[Source].

  • It’s the world’s largest community kitchen.
  • On an average, 1,00,000 meals are served every day, absolutely free of cost.
  • More than 90% of the workforce involved in preparing and serving the Langar are volunteers.
  • On an average, The kitchen consumes around 1800 kgs of pulses, 5000 kgs of wheat flour, 1400 kgs of rice and 700 liters of milk daily.

Just at the entrance of the hall, the volunteers handed us a plate, a spoon, and a bowl. After waiting amongst 1000s of devotees, we were allowed into a large dining hall with carpets laid in parallel rows to sit down and eat. With not much difficulty, we found ourselves a spot amidst a large crowd. Then, they served us, Roti (flat bread), Daal (lentils), Sabzi (vegetables) and Kheer (dessert). OMG, the food was not only yummy but felt soulful and wholesome. Once done eating, we handed our plates and cutleries to another set of volunteers stationed at the exit of the hall. It’s quite amazing that the Langar is run entirely out of donation from the Sikh community across the globe. Their philanthropical mindset and natural willingness to serve people is highly commendable. I came out of the Gurudwara with both my soul and stomach filled. I am never a religious person, but the vibes this place gave me is beyond any typical place of devotion. It was a long dream come true for me and definitely, a moment to remember for the rest of the lifetime. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.

A few meters walk from the Golden Temple took us to yet another significant landmark, not only in Amritsar but also in India’s struggle for independence. It’s Jallianwala Bagh where the sorrowful Amritsar massacre took place. On 13th April 1919, Reginald Dyer a British army Colonel ordered open fire at unarmed innocent civilians who gathered to celebrate the festival of Baisakhi which resulted in the infamous Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. Around 1000 died and 1500 injured in this Mishap. One could still see the bullet marks on the wall and the Martyrs’ Well where many jumped to save themselves from the shooting. The place also houses a small museum to provide more detailed info on the incident. This place reminded me of the sacrifice made by many that lead us to the path of freedom that we enjoy today.

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The Memorial

It was already past 1 pm when we got united with the rest of the gang after visiting the Jallianwala Bagh. We all were hungry by that time and unanimously decided to have lunch at a nearby Dhaba. There is no way we would miss the famous Amritsari Kulcha while being in Amritsar. The Dhaba served a yummy Kulcha with some Chickpea Curry and a sour chutney which I loved. From there we reached our hostel, freshened up, packed our bags and headed straight to the railway station to catch Amritsar – New Delhi Shatabdi Express that’s destined for Delhi.

Wait, the day didn’t end here. A couple of interesting things did happen. The first one was a sheer coincidence. We again shared the compartment with the same family that traveled with us from Delhi to Amritsar. The next one was a pleasant surprise. A Postcrossing friend Mr.Piyush came all the way to Ludhiana railway station to handover me some awesome postcards when our train halted there. The best part was, my phone was in silent mode and didn’t hear the ring when he called. The train just started moving when I returned his call. As the train was already in motion, he came running and handed me the envelope. That’s an extraordinary gesture to show towards a person whom he oddly knows. Thanks, Piyush. It means a lot to me.

Phew, That’s how yet another incredible day came to an end.

The next day had some serious twist and turns for us. But you got to wait until the next blog post in the series.

To Be Continued …

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Trip To Remember – Amritsar, Delhi & Agra – Part 1

If you are curious about the reason, me penning down this post about a trip that I took nearly 6 months ago? No worries, I can completely answer it all in a couple of points.

  1. I am a master procrastinator.
  2. I love to get nostalgic.

There had been several inspirations behind my trips such as Friends, Food, Nature and Adventure. But, what if the main inspiration for this trip is a song from a movie that got released way back in 2006.

Yes, ever since I saw the movie Rang De Basanti, visiting Amritsar has become a dream. Unfortunately, my multiple plans to visit Amritsar never realized until this trip. Initially, I intended to travel solo. But, later chose to go with a bunch of friends. Isn’t more the merrier Firstly, let me introduce you the gang. Shashi, Remya, Kavinnila, Shalini and yours truly.

Day 1: 27th Mar 2018

As planned, all of us assembled in Chennai Airport to board our flight. As we were all a bit early, it was perfect to catch up over some food and coffee. Around 8 pm, we boarded the Indigo destined for Delhi. The flight wasn’t a long one, so we reached our destination Delhi by 12 am. We had to spend our night at the airport as our train to the next stop was scheduled to depart the next day morning. We killed most of the time conversing diverse topics over Momos, Tea and some occasional walk around the Airport. Finally, I felt a lot of excitement burst into me when the dawn broke.

 

Day 2: 28th Mar 2018

Early in the morning, we took a metro to the New Delhi Railway Station. From there, we boarded SWARNA SHATABDI around 7.30 am, our train to Amritsar. To my relief, they served us Tea and Breakfast on the train. We were expected to reach Amritsar by 1.40 pm, but the train got delayed and arrived around 3 pm only. That almost put us on the verge of spoiling the entire plan for the rest of our day.

You can call it all luck, and there is always someone for the rescue when in trouble. This time it’s an auto driver whom we hired to drop us at the hostel from the railway station. My bad, I even forgot his name. After hearing me stressed up and discussing options to reach our next destination on time, he came forward and offered to take us to Attari – Wagah Border and back at quite a nominal price. That’s so kind of him.

Yeah, you read it right. How come I come all the way to Amritsar and miss the beating retreat ceremony at Wagah border. Even watching it on TV or YouTube would give me goosebumps. Our initial plan was to go to the hostel, drop our bags and immediately start to Wagah. But, few of us prioritized taking a shower and getting freshened up. That pissed me off as we had a short window of time. Considering the usual crowd there, we had a high probability of denying entry.

Our Auto Anna drove awesome that day. He was swift on the road overtaking other vehicles. It was such a nail-biting moment. Finally, we reached the border entry almost on time. Shashi chose to stay back as he had a business call to take care. We ran to the security check area so that we could secure a spot. As the ques are different for men and the woman, I lost track of my friends. All my efforts to search and reach them went in vain. Even the calls didn’t connect due to no cellular network. Just hoping that they were safe, I continued to the stands to witness the ceremony. The following is the excerpt from Wikipedia about the ceremony.

The ceremony starts with a blustering parade by the soldiers from both sides and ends up in the perfectly coordinated lowering of the two nations’ flags. As the sun sets, the iron gates at the border are opened and the two flags are lowered simultaneously. The flags are folded and the ceremony ends with a retreat that involves a brusque handshake between soldiers from either side, followed by the closing of the gates again.

Amidst a large crowd, I somehow secured a spot at the bottom-most level of the stand. Continuous slogans such as “Jai Hind” & “Vande Mataram” and playing of patriotic songs made my blood rise and beam with patriotism and pride. One must be there to experience the intense energy around. Then started the actual ceremony and our Border Security Force put out a spectacular show. They marched with Pride, Patriotism, and Aggression. India would easily outrun Pakistan when it comes to cheering for their soldiers at the ceremony. While trying to click some pics, I got stamped in the crowd. Luckily a woman BFS officer came to my rescue and lifted me up. My sincere thanks to her. It was such an electrifying atmosphere. I am currently in the deficit of words in expressing the same. Finally, the ceremony got over with the flags lowered on both the sides and it’s unquestionably one of the experiences of the lifetime.

Then again I resumed my search for my friends. I had to move away from the border gates to gain some signal and contact my friends. Finally, after a few calls and text messages, we got united. Phew, what a relief to know that they were all safe. We were all super hungry as we skipped our lunch in a rush to get here on time. So we temporarily filled our stomach with some Aalo Tikki and Pani Poories.

Our Auto Anna was awesome. He stopped by a lush wheat field to click some pics. He even took us to a nice Dhaba that served yummy Rottis, Naans and Butter Chicken for dinner.

Post dinner, we were finally back to our hostel. All we wanted was to rest after quite a long day. As always life had a twist for us, but there was both good and bad in it. The bad part is, the dorms got double booked due to some software glitch and got allocated to the other foreign guests. Now the good part, We were provided dorms at a hostel quite near to the Golden Temple and got transported there free of cost too.

That’s how an awesome day came to an end.

I am concluding here, as our next place deserves a dedicated blog post.

To Be Continued …