Two of the things that Amritsar is famous for is The Golden Temple and the nearby border post with Pakistan at Wagah. During our short stay here, we are visiting both of these but we are with a Rotary Group and therefore it never proceeds exactly as planned because it is assumed that we will always want to see Rotary activities in the area.
So during breakfast we find out that we are visiting a school that morning which has been supported by Rotary in the past. But before the school, we are going to the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum and Panorama.
The Maharaja was a local ruler who was also responsible for the gilding of the Golden Temple.
Although many of the paintings are hung too high for easy viewing, they give an impression of India
during his reign. In this picture, he is riding an elephant through the streets of Lahore. Two boys threw a stone at a tree with sweet fruits hanging on it, but hit the Maharaja. He forgave them and gave them gold coins.
This picture shows the “Beautification of the Jwalamukhi Temple” which is said to show his willingness to support other (hindu) religions. And finally,
his acquisition of the Koh-I-Nor Diamond which eventually came into British hands.
There are numerous panoramas in the museums
this one shows him supervising the gilding of the temple,
and this one, the Fall of Multan in 1818.
Sri Guru Harkrishan Senior Public School
In the past Rotary have contributed equipment to the school and therefore we were invited to the school not only to see the equipment, but also because it was the last day of term and the graduating students had arranged a performance.
Although called a senior school, it had a junior wing.
One characteristic of Indian schools seems to be a love of "bon mots” - hence there were numerous such around the school including
The pupils were very well behaved and by UK standards one would say that the resources were sparse and old.
The graduating students danced, sang
and were presented with certificates for numerous interesting attributes such as Mr Handsome, Ms Forever Happy…...
The Golden Temple
The historical relationship between the UK, the Golden Temple and Amritsar is not one of which the UK can be proud. However we were welcomed wherever we went, albeit with some curiosity because there were few other western tourists there.
The Golden Temple is regarded as the seat of the Sikh religion, it was built in the late 1500s and was not always gold. A synopsis of its history can be found here and here (this site offers a downloadable guide book). Turning the temple into the Golden Temple was done by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and it looks very impressive.
We went thereto the Night Ceremony to see the Sikh holy book (Guru Granth Sahib) carried to its night time store and then the following day to see around the temple and its kitchens. The pictures are therefore a mix of day and night.
Going into the temple requires you to remove your shoes,
wear a headscarf
and wash your feet by walking through a pool of water
and then through the pilgrims entrance into the temple.
Once inside, it is truly magnificent. At night the Golden Temple looks magnificant
as does the Temple Pool. Chantings from the Guru Granth Sahib continue on a 24 hour basis
at more than one point in the temple
and the current words being chanted appear on large video screens.
At a particular time every evening, the Guru Granth Sahib is carried
across a marble causeway (Guru’s Bridge)
and out through the Darshani Deorhi - a magnificent gateway building / door
By day, one gets a better feel for the size of the temple
the beauty of the buildings
the ornateness of the architecture
and their decorations
Pilgrims are expected to bathe in the pool
and many do, some more than others
and a separate enclosed area is provided for females.
The temple is also famous for its kitchens and the fact that they serve over 20,000 people every day free of charge. It is industrial catering on an enormous scale and all of the labour used is voluntary.
cups of rather sweet tea are available to all
Chapattis are made in 1000’s per hour
they are sorted and checked by a team
and some quality control is personal.
When they have passed, they get trundled off to the dining hall.
Whole families volunteer to peel garlic,
or clean plates
or hand out clean plates and cutlery
or dole out food
to anyone who sits down.
It is an impressive and a superb example of religion relating to its community and of voluntary involvement.