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Amritsar, India

The Golden Temple

sunny 87 °F

It was dark when we carefully walked through the quiet streets of Mcleod Ganj. Packs of wild dogs rule the streets here and at 3:00am we were the only ones up to catch the local bus out of town. We stood in the dark for a good 30 minutes fending off barks and rattling in the bushes (think: White Fang fire scene) and wondering if a bus was really going to come. Shortly after 4am we were on the bus and relived that we weren’t going to miss our connection… a few minutes later and we pulled over for both the driver and fare collector to get out and slowly brush their teeth and shower alongside the road… this left us all alone in the dark wondering once again if we were going to make that connection.

With only a few minutes to spare, we boarded our bus to Amritsar and began our windy decent from the mountains. Amritsar was not on our original itinerary, but after talking to some folks in Nepal who had already traveled in India, we determined that the Golden Temple and the border crossing would be interesting sites to see, plus, Amritsar has an airport that provided us an easy escape route from India to Dubai.

We heard about the Golden Temple’s free accommodation and were looking forward to sleeping on the floor next to 100s of pilgrims. Unfortunately, this was not exactly the case. We were ushered into a small secluded place for foreigners that wasn’t too different from a hostel, only here there were no assigned beds so you constantly had to reclaim your space (we ended up moving into a hotel and using this as a home base for leaving our shoes and filling up water). The good news is that the accommodation is literally 30 seconds from the entrance into the temple and most importantly the dining hall.

The Golden Temple is a mecca for the Sikh religion. It offers free accommodation and food for pilgrim and travelers alike. The hospitality here is amazing and inspiring! Based on our rough calculations, the kitchen serves about 2,000 people every 20-30 minutes and for being fully volunteer supported it’s surprisingly well organized. Although the food is simple and very similar in each meal, it is a quick, hot, nutritious meal and the chia (milk tea) is amazing. Everyone sits in rows so that volunteers come down the aisles splashing ladles of dal, curry, rice onto your stainless steel plate. Then someone comes along and places toasted warm chapatis into your open plalms.

What is really impressive, is watching how the food is made on such a grand scale (in the order of 100s of gallons at a time), and how the dishes are hand washed in a very organized assembly line that creates endless sounds of banging dishes.
<video dish washing>

As we were wondering around the temple, we met Rajan and Jess, who offered to give us a tour of the ground. We ended up hanging out for about 4-hours and had a great time. We learned about the five Sikh symbols (uncut hair, comb, bangle, knife, underwear) and what the temple and religion means to the local Sikhs. We also explored several places that were not on the beaten path, including going underground to see the roots of a sacred tree, and visiting a nearby temple that was almost completely empty. We heard stories of how the Sikhs are the kindest and friendliest people are grateful to have experience it firsthand!

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 06:48 Archived in India

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I am glad you were not alone waiting for the bus at 4am! Stay safe and keep smiling :)

by Megan D

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