The India Diaries: Amritsar

Amritsar

Amritsar, the capital city of the Punjab state, is famous for three things: The Golden Temple, the ceremony at the Pakistan border and food.

The food absolutely lives up to its reputation. Everything has butter and/or ghee (clarified butter) in it — even the lassi (yoghurt drink, like a milkshake but with yoghurt). Probably not the healthiest food around, but damn if it isn’t good.

The Golden Temple

P1030668

Golden temple from the outside

 

Inside the courtyard: the pool of nectar (what amritsar is named for) and the temple made of gold

 

Learning how to make chapati at the Golden Temple

Learning how to make chapati at the Golden Temple

Giant vat of chai

Giant vats of chai

The Golden Temple feeds around 80,000 people a day, for free.

The Golden Temple feeds around 80,000 people a day, for free.

Each dish, from all 80,000 diners each day, is washed 6 times. All the workers are volunteers -- building up their karma

Each dish, from all 80,000 diners each day, is washed 6 times. All the workers are volunteers — building up their karma

Dining Hall -- everyone eats together, sitting on the floor to symbolize equality.

Dining Hall — everyone eats together, sitting on the floor to symbolize equality.

Ceremony to put the Sikh holy book to bed. A palanquin is loaded up with pillows and garlands of flowers and perfume, into which the book is places and carried into its bedroom, while everyone sings, beats drums and plays the trumpet.

Ceremony to put the Sikh holy book to bed. A palanquin is loaded up with pillows and garlands of flowers and perfume, into which the book is placed and carried into its bedroom, while everyone sings, beats drums and plays the trumpet.

The Border Ceremony

Every day at 4:30 pm, the security forces at each side of the Pakistan- India border engage in a fun, extremely loud lowering of the flag ceremony. Each side plays music as loud as they possibly can as the crowd gathers into the stands to watch the antics. An MC riles the crowd up, a group of women dances on the tarmac. It reminds me a lot of the pep rallies you see in American movies about high school and football. The guards take turns yelling into the microphone — each side tries to outdo the other in volume and duration. And then the guards from both sides do an exaggerated march towards the gate and gesticulate at each other. The guards on the India side were kicking their legs up so high during the march that they kicked themselves in the head. It’s like watching a Marx Brothers sketch.

It baffles me that just three days ago, further north along the border, in Kashmir, there was a fatal attack on the Indian side by Pakistani militants.

But that’s India for you.

First line of the defence: a killer drum solo

First line of the defence: a killer drum solo

P1030672

P1030675

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s