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Published: November 8th 2011
We arrived in Amritsar in the evening after a long travel day that was spent in jeeps followed by a train. Once checked into our hotel, we boarded cycle rickshaws and made our way to the Golden Temple, the holiest place of worship for Sikhs. It's an impressive place and is beautifully illuminated at night. We arrived in time to witness the daily ceremony where the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy book) is transported from the temple to the Akal Takhat for the evening. We also experienced the "free kitchen" a communal dining area where anyone regardless of race or religion can eat for free 24 hours a day. It's an incredible operation where they are constantly serving food and clearing plates.
The next morning we returned to the temple for sunrise, although we miscalculated and arrived a couple hours too early. It was actually busier at this time than it was in the evening and was packed with worshipers. At one point while we were sitting at the edge of the sacred pool we looked around and noticed that everyone was standing facing the temple while chanting resounded over the loudspeaker. It's just an amazing place and it's
difficult to describe the atmosphere.
That evening we headed out to the India-Pakistan border to witness the infamous border closing ceremony. I think it's safe to say that this is the first time we have ever gone to a border crossing without any intention of crossing. Not only that, we also brought along our cameras and biggest telephoto lens to document the occasion. Try that at any other border in the World; let alone a border between two nuclear powers that don't like each other very much. The daily Wagah border closing ceremony is very much a patriotically charged spectator sport that draws some 20,000 people a day on the Indian side. The Pakistan side is nowhere near as well attended nor as rowdy as the Indian side. One can draw any number of conclusions from this observation but we'll leave it at that.
As we approached the border we experienced what some accurately describe as a "full body massage" as the throngs of spectators are squeezed through multiple security bottle-necks. Men and women are separated and the check-points have very little to do with security and are more about getting people worked up into a frenzy. At
last, we finally made it through to the VIP section for foreigners just before the ceremony started. It was certainly an experience and when it was over we even had the opportunity to pose with one of the guards. These guys are super tall!
So after our very brief and eventful visit to Amritsar, it was back to Delhi on the overnight train.
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