Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Golden Temple

As our weekend trips continue and I see more of India with larger groups of interns, I realize that this country will always keep you wondering. We decided to take the lowest class of indian train on a nine hour journey towards a city called Amritsar which is close to the Pakistan border. The train ride was one of the biggest adventures I have ever been on. The windows were simply a hole in the side of the train with rusty bars to keep people in. The seats were set in a style of booths without the table in the middle and had us sore from head to toe unless we walked around. Dirt, dirt, dirt was everywhere. On the way there eight of us were squeezed into our booth. Fans were nailed to the ceiling in a pattern to act as our air conditioning. All of the doors of the train were left open and as we slowly squeaked down the railway track people would jump on and off while moving. Some people were sitting on the roof of the train just to make things more dangerous in my view. The most interesting part was the amount of people who squeezed into each corner or hung out of the doors while we moved. I guess many peolpe don't actually pay for tickets either, they just get on wherever they can. At one point on our travels an elderly woman was resting her back on my arm while another had her feet nearly on my lap. Another elderly lady sat on the floor with her head between the knees of my friends, not saying a word the entire ride. Men selling chips and drinks, chai and steaming pakora wandered through the train yelling for purchases to be made. Blind men, cross-dressers, and kids with drums had their hands out for payment every few moments. When stopped, houseless people hung their arms through the window bars to make an earning.
Our plan was to visit the temple at 3 or 4am which is supposed to be the best time to visit it's magnificience. They didn't lie to us. The temple was about half a kilometre long and one hundred metres wide. Lights were draped over it's entire surface. It's a fact that people are allowed to sleep at the temple and when entering it's gates, after being awe-struck by the structure, you realize that you have to watch where you step because people layer the marble ground or sit cross-legged to pray. The Golden Temple is actually a smaller structure in the middle of a rectangular man-made lake that people are seen bathing in the water. It's hard to imagine the amount of devotion these people have to stay here throughout the night, some awake and lively. Our lack of sleep was getting to us, but the main event consisted of a two-hour long wait in a line that led to the middle of the lake where the Golden Temple sat. The line was a struggle, just like India. Everyone is pressed against eachother and when the line lurches forwards men are pushing men, men are pushing women, elderly women are pushing us, and some of us lost the motivation to keep going. The sun began to rise while in this line. Speakers throughout the vicinity conveyed the voice of a man from inside the Golden Temple praying loudly without stopping.
Many of the people inside the walls of the Temple are followers of Sikhism. These men grow beards and long hair, then wrap their hair tightly in turbans. From what I've learnt, the religion encompasses many different threads and has many rules or guidelines to follow. The interns' close friend is a Sikh and he is a truly kind person, Ashmeet Singh, you're great! Finally arriving at the doors, you must bend down and touch the ground at each entrance, while people push and shove to get their turn. The same kind of seemingly chaotic need to reach the ground before the centre of the temple happened, and we were pushed aside. A man in the middle sat in front of the Holy Book with a choir of men to the left who seemed to be singing a chorus of prayers. The temple was small but had winding stairs throughout it leading to different levels where people sat in corners or watched the acts from above. At the top of the temple a man read from another Holy Book and people would bow in front of him as we watched them touch their foreheads or noses to the ground, some more then once.
By 6:30am we had rid ourselves of all energy. I heard one last prayer before leaving, and during this prayer half of the people sat and the other half lined themselves along the edges of the water in prayer. This sight kept me wondering. Religion may always be a mystery to me, but experiencing places such as these where a struggling country can find salvation, takes away my words. Although the city of Amritsar was covered in dust, and had us coughing at the exhaust from the cars and the pollution that created an unwelcoming smell, the temple kept their history in place. Everyday in India I learn something new, about religion, about patience, compassion, pain, sorrow, joy, and love. India, keep me wondering.

1 comment:

  1. crazy and insightful! we're all going to join in on Skype today! Oma and Mom too! See you soon! xoxo

    Love from Canada