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Published: August 2nd 2017
We started our day with a trip to the Jawlianwalla Bagh Massacre Memorial garden. situated outside the Golden Temple. The gardens were the site of an atrocity carried out by the British troops in 1919. Under the leadership of General R Dyer, the British troops opened fire on a group of unarmed peaceful demonstrators, killing over 350 men women and children and injurying many hundreds of others leaving them with life changing disability. The gardens are sombre, and dominated with the eternal flame monuments to those who lost their lives. There is also a martyr's well which is preserved as the site where many lost their lives trying to escape from the bullets. The garden also pays homage to national hero Udnam Singh, who avenged the murder of thee innocent people by the assassination of Dyer in Caxton Hall London.
Our visit to the gardens caused quite a stir. Our guide explained that many of the visitors to the gardens were pilgrims coming to the temple from remote villages and had not seen Europeans before. We were aware of people looking at us and laughing, or pointing to us.We were constantly asked to be photographed and a number of parents
wanted to take our pictures with their children. It was like being a celebrity. I haven't had so many photographs taken of me since my Wedding Day !
We moved on to the spectacular Golden Temple, the centre of the Sikh faith. Sikhs are required to visit it at least once in their lifetime, to visit the holy book and bathe in the holy waters. All are welcome inside, but both men and women must have their hair fully covered and must enter bare foot. There are four entrances to the lake in which the Golden Temple sits. Entering through the white gateway was amazing, the site of the temple is totally breath taking. Their was an air of great excitement and it is obviously a deeply moving spiritual experience for many. As we walked around the lake we, listen to the Holy book being read and beautiful music being played. Many pilgrims were bathing in the holy water, daggers attached to the top of their turbans to protect them. Despite the throngs of people it felt very serene. We continued to be objects of great attention and I didn't see another European during my visit.
part of the visit to the Golden Temple is to share a meal in the Guru-Ka Langar - a huge kitchen said to be the largest in the world. Sharing food with strangers is a central tenet of the Sikh faith and all visitors a given a free meal. Visitors are handed cutlery and plates as they line up and then ushered into a huge hall. We were all invited to sit crossed legged on mats on the floor and then volunteers moved swiftly down the line distributing delicious dhal, aloo, rice and freshly baked chapatti. It was really tasty and dished out with great efficiency. The rules are, you have to finish what you are given otherwise it is very disrespectful. When the meal is finished, you hand in your cutlery and head down the stairs while the volunteers sweep the floor ready for the next guests. The kitchen is open 24 hours a day.
We were lucky enough to be given a tour of the kitchens to see how teams of volunteers cook huge vats of food over the open fire. Charlie gave a hand to stir some dhal and Molly and I rolled a few chapatti.
Visitors can donate their time to help cook or join the small army who wash up.
We finished our trip with more wandering around the temple complex. We decided not to join the long queues to see the Akhal Takht , the most Holy shrine in the temple. The queues were very long and looked a tight crush and we thought best left to the Sikh pilgrims. It was a fabulous trip and quite unlike anywhere I have been before.
We stopped off for a visit to a tailor on our way back and this was great fun. Molly, Esme and I had decided to embrace Punjabi fashion and get kitted out with shalwar kameez. Our guide took us to a store where we sat on mats while reams of fabric were brought for our inspection. The choice was overwhelming and the process a bit boring for Charlie! After some haggling on price and declining offers of shawls, pashminas and shirts for the men, we selected fabric and had our measurements taken. The tailors then set to work and unbelievably our hand crafted, made-to-measure clothes were delivered to the hotel later that evening. Wagha Border Ceremony
The final excursion of the day was to witness the Wagha Border ceremony, which was great fun and totally bonkers! The ceremony, which is free of charge and carried out daily, celebrates the daily closing of the border between India and Pakistan. We joined a hugely over-excited crowd of thousands, sitting in a hot and humid stadium. Over the border, we could see a much smaller crowd from Pakistan doing much the same. The atmosphere was electric, with much flag waving and cheering. A master of ceremonies got the crowd cheering and clapping ,and events kicked off with a team of women and children running up and down the auditorium waving the Indian national flag. There was then some very energetic dancing with which we all joined in.
This was followed by a parade of the border security control soldiers wearing the most amazing headdresses and marching in a style that looked very much like it had come from the ministry of silly walks! There much shouting and cheering while the gates of each border were opened and a march-off carried out between the two sides. The spectacle ended with flags being taken down to great excitement. It was
incredibly exciting (despite the fact that not a great deal happened!) and is certainly worth a visit.
We finished the day by sampling local dishes in the hotel restaurant. I had Amritsar fish, beautifully fresh and succulent, cooked in a cardamom spiced batter. Nige amd Molly had a vegetable platter and Charlie recommended the chicken tikka.
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