The above photos are of the amazing Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh temple. Here is their official site. It is in Amritsar, which is in the state of Punjab, near the Pakistan border.
They city itself is broken into two main sections, the old city and the newer section. We stayed in the old city at a place called Hotel CJ INternational. It was a great location, but it was only so-so in terms of its amenities. It’s touted Golden Temple view was from a shared hallway balcony. (I guess I’ll save my review for TripAdvisor.)
Anyway, it was one of the most peaceful places I have been. We first went in the evening, and that was when it was particularly peaceful. I don’t mean that there were few people. On the contrary, there were a lot of people (though more and more the two subsequent times I went in), but the whole Temple complex is filled with the music of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book. In the inner sanctum of the temple, two priests sing from the book twenty-four hours a day. There is light drumming and other accompaniment that makes for a somewhat hypnotic soundtrack as one walks around the temple complex. The temple is surrounded by a pool of sacred water, and pilgrims come to bathe their, a religious ritual. As we walked around the temple (throngs walk around it in a clockwise direction), I said to Lesa that this place makes me want to be Sikh. Then of course I also saw the gender disparity, as with most religions. Women cannot bathe in the pool of sacred water. Instead they may only drink from it and put some on their faces. Men go in and submerge themselves. Women cannot be priests, etc.
Aside from the extremely common form of inequality, the Sikhs seem to be very much about equality. They have a communal kitchen at the Golden Temple that operates twenty-four hours a day and is run solely by volunteers. In fact, all operations are run solely by volunteers, and it is a huge operation. They feed thousands and thousands of people everyday, a simple meal of chapati, dal, and sweet rice. See the pictures above. They cook the dal in giant vats, also pictured above. There is no charge, though donations are accepted. Many people are from Amritsar, and go there often to eat. The two boys in black t-shirts ate next to us, and they were alone, local boys — and very sweet boys.
There were very few white people in Amritsar, so all sorts of people wanted to come up to us, to touch us, to have their picture taken with us. I don’t normally get fawned over like that, so I ate it up. 😉
Simply to sit next to the pool of water and listen to the prayer was heavenly. Amritsar is insanely hot this time of year, but if you can go there some time, I highly recommend it!
BTW, I think my sister wears a dupetta very well (as in the above photo in the communal kitchen), and I think she looks a little like Benazir Bhutto when she wears it on her head.