After spending our first 4 days in India in New Delhi (we were basically locals at this point), we embarked on a 6 hour train ride to Amritsar, a city in the state of Punjab. Amritsar is famous for its Golden Temple, a major pilgrimage site within the Sikh religion. The city is filled with turbans (or dastars) of every color, lively statues depicting Punjabi culture, and beautiful commemorative sites dedicated to important historical events.
We spent our first day walking around the city and enjoying delicious Punjabi meals (which, fun fact, is often what we are referring to in the United States when we say “Indian food.” Although India has vastly different cuisines across each region, most American Indian restaurants serve Punjabi food.) Large television screens lined the bustling city streets to show the evening’s religious ceremonies. Although the Sikh religion is woven into everyday life in Punjab in many ways, religious pluralism and tolerance are central to Sikhism. The city’s energy seems to radiate peace and acceptance.
That evening, we made our way to the Golden Temple.
The Golden Temple looks perhaps as you’d expect; it’s plated in gold. However, whatever image of it that you have in mind, it probably doesn’t do it justice. The building itself is absolutely spectacular. Scrubbed clean every single day of the year by Sikh volunteers, the temple is pristine. Plated gold lines much of the ceiling and walls, but where it doesn’t, the space is filled with marble topped with intricate floral designs. The temple is surrounded by holy water and a larger complex, in which Sikhs are able to eat, sleep, pray, etc.
The importance of community within the Sikh religion is obvious as you explore the Golden Temple. Men and women fill the complex making bread by hand, washing dishes, and sharing meals with one another. Approximately 40,000 people are fed for free at the Golden Temple every day.
Now back in New Delhi, I already miss the Punjabi lifestyle a bit. I know, however, that if I ever decide to travel back to Amritsar, I will be welcomed with open arms.