Putzing around Punjab taking pics (74 photos)

I had only a couple of places I really wanted to visit while in India.  Obviously, the Taj Mahal was one, because it’s quintessential India and it was necessary for my crowdfunding campaign.  Another was Mumbai because I was under the (incorrect) thought that it was more densely populated than Delhi and I wanted to see such madness.  The last one was the Golden Temple, because it sounded amazing and looked beautiful online.

My plan was after leaving Kashmir to head to Amritsar and see the Golden Temple before heading onward to Jaipur, Rajasthan.  I was having such a good time with my hosts in Srinagar though that I kept postponing my departure.  I had reservations in Jaipur and eventually I postponed too many times to be able to make Amritsar before Jaipur.  It would be 4 months later I’d finally make it Amritsar and the Golden Temple near the end of my Indian journey.  It was definitely worth it.

From Dharamsala, Mcleod Ganj to Amritsar, Punjab.

My bus to Amritsar

My bus to Amritsar

There are many ways to travel around India from camels to luxury trains.  Somewhere in there is the bus system.  There are a variety of buses that crisscross the Indian subcontinent and offer various levels of comfort.  These range from the more affordable “government buses” as well as more luxurious (luxury being a loosely used term) privately owned sleeper buses.  I took a sleeper bus once, and didn’t get a wink of sleep due to the ridiculous Indian roads and more ridiculous drivers.  Therefore, I’d rather save a few rupees and ride on a cheaper government bus.

amritsar-punjab-india-marijuana

Fields of weeds.

There’s nothing like staring out of the window of a moving vehicle as you watch the world whiz by in a blur of colors.  In India the colors are bountiful and come in shades my eyes had never seen before.  From the chaat stands selling their mysterious foods to the wallas of all types selling wares that some I never figured out the use for.  On this particular trip it was a shade of green that I saw from the bus in an arrangement I knew many uses for.  The photo above was one of many fields of marijuana I’d see while driving through India.  But they weren’t intentionally grown fields.  They were just weeds being weeds.  Nobody seemed to bother, and I was the only one on the bus taking photos of such a sight.

Amritsar, Punjab

amritsar-punjab-india

Amritsar, Punjab

With a population of just over 1 million people, Amritsar sits in northwest Punjab about 28km from the border with Pakistan.  Being situated on the historic Grand Trunk Road and having major railway access, Amritsar is connected to nearly every major city in India.  There is even an international airport nearby that serves over 160 domestic and international flights everyday.  The main commercial activity in this semiarid city, is tourism.  The most famous attraction being Harmandir Sahib.  

Harmandir Sahib (aka The Golden Temple)

amritsar-punjab-india-golden_temple-HDR-Harmandir_Sahib

Harmandir Sahib at Sunrise

Harmandir Sahib – or more commonly known as “The Golden Temple” – is the most auspicious Sikh gurdwara in the world.  With over 100,000 people per day coming for worship, it receives more visitors than the Taj Mahal.  After nearly 20 years of construction, the temple was finished in August of 1604 with four entrances to symbolize a place where men and women from all religions can worship God equally.  It houses the Guru Granth Sahib, the holiest text of Sikhism and is surrounded by amrit; or holy water.

Before entering The Golden Temple it is required to remove your socks and shoes (I just kept mine in my room), washing your feet, and covering your head.  While in the temple, smoking, alcohol, and meat are prohibited.

amritsar-punjab-india-golden_temple-free_food

100,000 free meals per day.

The Golden Temple operates one of the largest free kitchens in the world providing 100,000 meals per day on average to hungry pilgrims.  In the Guru Ka Langar, men and women from all religions are invited to eat as a gesture that God resides in all of us.  These meals are prepared by hundreds of volunteers as a service to mankind.  Nobody is turned away for any reason and everyone is invited to share.  This is to upload the value of the sameness of all human beings.  All meals are vegetarian to ensure nobody is rejected due to dietary restrictions.

amritsar-punjab-india-golden_temple-pilgrims

Pilgrims sleeping.

Not only are tens of thousands of people fed around the clock here, but there is also plenty of space for pilgrims to sleep.  Besides the open air accommodations, there are plenty of dorms, including the one I stayed in that was kept specifically for foreign pilgrims like myself.  Again, this is free of charge, but there are plenty of places to slip a donation into.

“A Sikh who is well to do must look to the needs of a poor neighbour. Whenever he meets a traveler or a pilgrim from foreign country, he must serve him devotedly.”

Wagah Border Ceremony

amritsar-punjab-india-pakistan-border_closing

India and Pakistan Border

The partition of British India in 1947 displaced over 12 million people and resulted in severely strained relations between the new countries of The Dominion of Pakistan and The Union of India.  There is debate even today over where the lines of control between the two countries are.  This strained relationship has resulted in 3 major wars and continued attacks to this day.  Not to mention one hell of a cricket rivalry!

amritsar-punjab-india-pakistan-wagah_border_ceremony

The world’s most choreographed “fuck you.”

Every evening a spectacle of silly hats, shiny boots, and decades of contempt is displayed here for tourists both domestic and foreign between two nuclear armed enemies.  During the 45 minute escapade there are parades of people and soldiers, dancing in the streets, and high stepping shenanigans to get the crowds roaring with nationalism on each side of the border.

amritsar-punjab-india-wagah-bsf

India’s Border Security Force

Prior to 1947 these two countries were one of the same.  The relationship today between the two is like a family feud that could end in nuclear war.  Though the people in this region share so much history and culture, they still manage to find hatred for each other.  From my experience though it’s between the people, but instead it is the people in power fighting over imaginary line in the ground.

How it ends, only time will tell…

Want to see more photos from my time in Punjab?

Check out page 2 to see all 74 photos from this leg of my 5.5 month trip in India.  And be sure to head over to see them on Facebook and share them with your friends!

Pages: 1 2

  • Doc

    As usual and as expected, another great piece! Can’t wait for the coffee table book to come out!!