Monday, October 21, 2013

Weekend vich Amritsar di yatra

My Weekend trip to Amritsar
As the super cyclonic storm Phailin made its way to my home state Odisha, I set out on a car trip to Amritsar with my family. Even before we could reach the NH1/Grand Trunk Road, severe rain poured in and slowed us down. Google said the 470 km drive should approximately take 7 and half hours. From leaving home in Delhi to lodging in a hotel in Amritsar, it took us exactly 12 hours- 6.30 AM to 6.30 PM. Had we checked the weather prediction, we would probably have averted our trip plans. But because we didn’t, we were in for some pleasant surprises on our arrival at Amritsar.
 
The Golden Temple, Amritsar
Rain, rain, flood away
We reached Amritsar after sun down. Or probably it was the extensive cloud cover that led to the early shutting off of the natural light and darkening of the sky. Car showrooms of every brand lined up on both side of the highway as we made our way into the city. The last minute finalization of the trip had made sure that no hotel pre-bookings could be done online and we had to look for a good hotel on reaching the place. We managed to find a good hotel surprisingly soon but by this time it was certain that driving around and visiting places in our car in the flooded city would be impossible. Flooded, did I say? Well, yes! 


Two hours of rain in the afternoon had resulted in foot-high flowing water on the roads in the entire city, or at least on all the roads we took. Later our auto-wallah told us, ‘Ye to humesha hota hai. Agar kal dhoop aati hai, tabhi ye pani kam hoga’. Nonetheless we were overjoyed in moving around in this Indianised-Venice! (Tip: Avoid Amritsar in rains! Indianised Venices aren’t very pleasant or beautiful to look at!)

The ‘Hidden Secrets’ of the Golden Temple
The Golden Temple is worth-at-least-two-visits when you are at Amritsar. One during the day, when the gold is blazing in sunlight and one during the night, when the entire complex is beautifully lit with decorative lights. I visited it both times. For the night time visit, we reached the complex around 9 PM on Day 1. The entry to the main temple was to close at 9.45 PM. We barely managed to get into the queue for the darshan on time. My quest to click photos of the place from all angles, led me to getting delayed in the entry, while everyone else from my family had already entered the temple. I didn’t know that this was soon going to turn out to be a boon!

The Golden Temple, Amritsar- Panoramic View

The Golden Temple, Amritsar- Panoramic View
I was interested in the Golden Temple for more reasons than the usual prayers. I wanted to look for any marks or evidence of the 1984 Operation Blue Star (I didn’t find anything) and I wanted to touch the ‘gold’ to see why it hadn’t been stolen in a country like India (The gold part is apparently beyond touch and the ones in touchable locations, are merely gold painted!) As I entered the temple and bowed and left from the back door, I spotted two doors with stairs leading upstairs. This was surprising. I didn’t expect that one could climb up the Golden Temple!


I took one flight of stairs and found myself on the first level from where one can have a top angle view of the proceedings. My timing was perfect. This was the time when the Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy book of the Sikhs, was to be closed for the day and moved to a secure location (something similar to the evening aarti in Hindu temples after which the temples are shut for the night). I stood there watching the proceedings in utter amazement. Layer after layer of cloth was spread out and folded together synchronously by two priests as the head priest muttered religious lines, which I presume were from the Guru Granth Sahib. As the clothes were removed, I wondered what lay under the final layer. I apparently had forgotten my early general knowledge classes at school, because I was surprised to see a huge book, the Guru Granth Sahib itself, when the final cloth was removed. Slowly the head priest read from the open book and turned a page. The book was then covered in atleast 6-7 layers of cloth and moved in a procession from the temple in a palanquin. The entire ceremony took about 30 minutes and surely is something that you ought to see!
 
The procession of the Guru Granth Sahib, The Golden Temple, Amritsar

I was about to exit the temple when I noticed people climbing another set of stairs. There is a floor above this as well, I wondered. I took the stairs. And lo and behold, I was standing on top of the Golden Temple! Never expected I could get a view like this one!

A Replica?
The next morning we visited the Durgiyana Temple. The temple’s design was a big surprise for all of us. This temple is built in the exact form of the Golden Temple, although doesn’t hold as much grandeur and beauty. My young cousin was quick to remark, ‘Why can’t this Hindu Temple be as clean as the Golden Temple?’ Google told me that this temple complex holds a rich history. Specifically, the Hanuman Mandir with the many small kids dressed as langoors- An interesting site to see!

Durgiyana Temple Complex- isn't it an attempted replica of the Golden Temple?

The infamous Jallianwala Bagh
After seeing the Jallianwala Bagh scene in ‘Gandhi’, I wasn’t expecting to see what I saw when we entered the narrow alley via which General Dyer’s soldiers had entered the place back in 1919. The place has gone through a huge change over the past 100 years. From an open ground to a beautiful garden and memorial. The things that remain unchanged are probably the few bullet marks on the walls and the ‘Maut ka kuan’ that became the reason for the death of so many Indians even after they survived the bullets.
 
Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar

Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar

Bullet Marks of 13 April, 1919- Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar
Well, this wasn’t the end of my trip. Another visit to the Golden Temple was due next. And I was going to taste the ‘langar’ for the first time. I had no clue right now that this was going to be one of the most magical experiences for me.

PS: Please forgive my attempted Punjabi in the title! :D

9 comments :

  1. very true! Golden Temple is worth visiting in the night.. nice experience Antarik :)

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  2. You can write good travelogues and publish them in magazines like Outlook Traveller. Why don't you give it a try?

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  3. Amritsar is my hometown and it was very special to see it from somebody else's point of view. I mean I never knew that the things which seem very normal to me can be utterly beautiful for somebody else.
    (Y)

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  4. It was lovely reading about your weekend trip to Amritsar, the town is the nucleus of the Sikh religion and the lavish and legendary Golden Temple is Amritsar's main claim to fame. Also, check out these hotels in amritsar near golden temple offering memorable stay.

    ReplyDelete

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