Amritsar - Sacred Ground

Photo of Amritsar - Sacred Ground 1/14 by Pushpa Kurup

For years I had dreamed of visiting the Golden Temple at Amritsar. But somehow it just never happened until mid July this year. From the moment my flight touched down at the airport I felt a strange sense of dejavu. This was sacred ground whichever way you chose to look at it. Here on 13th April 1919 the British Indian Army under General Dyer had gunned down multitudes, leaving no room for escape. So many innocents had perished, so many had jumped into the well from where 120 bodies were later fished out. This was the single most gruesome story in India’s long struggle for independence. This was where I headed first.

Photo of Amritsar - Sacred Ground 2/14 by Pushpa Kurup
Photo of Amritsar - Sacred Ground 3/14 by Pushpa Kurup

My heart was heavy as I walked through the park, stood by the memorial structure, peeped into the martyrs’ well and scanned the exhibits in the museum. I wondered how some of the tourists could laugh and rejoice here. (I mean Indian tourists.)

Photo of Amritsar - Sacred Ground 4/14 by Pushpa Kurup
Photo of Amritsar - Sacred Ground 5/14 by Pushpa Kurup

The pictures of some of the martyrs are exhibited on the premises. Of particular interest is the picture of Shaheed Udham Singh, who 21 years later in London shot and killed Michael O Dwyer, who had been Lieutenant Governor of Punjab at the time of the massacre. At his trial he announced, “He deserved it. He was the real culprit. He wanted to crush the spirit of my people, so I have crushed him.”

Photo of Amritsar - Sacred Ground 6/14 by Pushpa Kurup
Shaheed Udham Singh

The streets were crowded and dirty and too narrow for cars. The Golden Temple is just a stone’s throw away from Jallianwala Bagh. I wore the mandatory head scarf and found a wheel-chair for my mother. Everyone helped.

Photo of Amritsar - Sacred Ground 7/14 by Pushpa Kurup
Photo of Amritsar - Sacred Ground 8/14 by Pushpa Kurup

The sound of the kirtans was soothing. The ambience was profoundly spiritual. I washed my feet and hands in the pool and felt good. The goldfish swam free. It was Sunday and the temple was teeming with devotees. Getting to the Harmandar Sahib was a real challenge. The presence of my elderly mom helped me to skip the regular queue.

Photo of Amritsar - Sacred Ground 9/14 by Pushpa Kurup
Photo of Amritsar - Sacred Ground 10/14 by Pushpa Kurup

On the whole it was mind-blowing experience. Built by Guru Arjan Singh, gold-embellished by Maharaja Ranjit Singh this place of worship is unique in all respects. The splendour of the buildings, the vastness of the pool of nectar (after which the city takes its name), the perfect discipline and organization, the courtesy shown by the people, everything combines to win even the hardest of hearts.

Photo of Amritsar - Sacred Ground 11/14 by Pushpa Kurup
Photo of Amritsar - Sacred Ground 12/14 by Pushpa Kurup

The Durgiana temple was next on my list. It is an imitation of the Golden Temple but one must admit it is far behind (though it really is unfair to compare any two places of worship). I also visited the Lal Mata Mandir which I found highly interesting. Children would love it. There are so many teeny-weeny alcoves with deities, statues, gods, demons, snakes, et al. You climb up, you climb down, you squeeze through narrow passages. And there are mirrors everywhere. Wow! What a temple!

Photo of Amritsar - Sacred Ground 13/14 by Pushpa Kurup
Photo of Amritsar - Sacred Ground 14/14 by Pushpa Kurup

We stayed at the Holiday Inn, an altogether pleasant stay. I got a decent rate on Make My Trip and the beautiful young lady at the check-in counter unexpectedly gave me a room upgrade. I guess it was because I had my 81 year mom in tow. Or maybe she just liked my face! The hotel was conveniently located, the room was excellent and the service was super. Just outside the hotel on the left side are a number of eateries with innumerable delicious delights. I gorged on kulchas and sweet lassi and paneer pakoras.

Last but not least I watched the sunset ceremony at the Attari- Wagah Border and felt unusually patriotic at the end of it all. But I must admit it was the Golden Temple that brought me here in the first place.