Amritsar – the holy city for the followers of Sikhism – a place very different from all that we have visited in India so far. Sikhs are people pious, kind and helpful. The main principle of the religion adopted by them, is a service of the common good, in Amritsar the tradition of creating a community, a place for all people is being continued. The central point of the city is the Golden Temple, rising on a nectar lake (amrit sar). Life goes on here 24 hours a day: people pray, talk, eat, sit, lie – or just be – all the time. Undeniably it is well worth visiting Amritsar just to experience the atmosphere of that place, but there is much more to see in the city!
Sikhism and his followers
The religion is quite young, it exists for “only” about 500 years. Its founder was educated buyer, who after learning Hinduism, decided to continue to look for a path of his faith. In order to gain wisdom he began to travel the world.
He was a tolerant person, one of the few who believed in the equality of all religions in the days of strong caste divisions in India, for the most people it was unheard of. In the final stage of his life this merchant settled and founded the social community. He created a place where was a free kitchen and always a place to sleep for everyone. That was the basic idea of the new religion. This cult was later guided by nine successors – the guru. These wise men had written in the pages of the holy book the truths of faith. Currently, according to the will of the last Sikh guru, Granth Sahib – the Sikh Holy Book took a leadership role
and is to this day considered to due honors – lying on cushions under a canopy in the Golden Temple
If you want to learn more, head to wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikhism.
Where to sleep?
The town has a few obscure and several upscale hotels. However, most tourists choose to stay at the dormitories
, in a building opposite the main entrance to the temple, where there is a separate and guarded by Sikhs sleeping area for foreign tourists. In the dormitory, you can safely leave your belongings (in the rooms there are large lockers, but you have to have your own lock), and free use of the washing machine! The beds bugs are living for years in the beds there
and can bite severely (unfortunately, we were not spared from this adventure), so better be careful! In the temple you can stay for up to 3 days – theoretically for free, but the truth is that Sikhs are asking the tourists for donation when they leave.
Where to eat?
On the temple grounds (you can only enter without shoes and with your head covered) is a huge kitchen
(they are preparing about 10,000 meals a day). In the cafeteria, which is open non-stop, you can get free food
, rice and lentils), and in the morning you can even get a chai
. The atmosphere of this place is phenomenal, so be sure to come at least once ot the collective meal. There are no restaurants or tourist pubs in the surroundings, only street dhabas
and stalls (fast food) where you can buy veg burger
for 30 INR or chowmen
(fried noodles) for 60 INR. Near the temple there is a domios pizza
and Indian high street cafe Coffee Day
(the tax will be added to your total order, and the coffee itself isn’t so fantastic, but for there is air-conditioning) – in short, that’s it.
What to see?
Besides the Golden Temple
, you can visit the Silver Temple
(Hindu copy of the Sikh temple, on a smaller scale and much poorer), and Mata Temple with a fairly original “obstacle course”
leading to the chambers of the deities worshiped in the temple.
Apart from that, you can not miss the closing ceremony of the border with Pakistan in Attari – Wagah. From Amritsar many shared taxis daily departure to the border (about 30 km) at approximately 3.00 PM (cost of return journey in 2013 is 100 INR per person). The ceremony itself begins promptly at 18:00, accompanied by music and dance. Volunteers can also run or march with the Indian flag to the border and back. Indians and Pakistanis are falling over, chanting patriotic slogans, and border guards in plumed hats are marching to the gate by doing specific steps and salutes (a bit like Weird Steps Ministry from Monty Python). There is a special tribune for foreigners at the ceremony right next to the VIP lodge, from where the view is pretty good. The whole ceremony is quite long and terribly tacky, but you should definitely appear there – it’s better than a match at our national stadium! :p