AMRITSAR – July 16, 2012
I hooked up with two other solo travellers in Amritsar, both women, one from Copenhagen and one from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and we decided to hire a cab and go see a few of the sights in the area. The last stop was a night visit to the holiest of Sikh shrines, the Golden Temple. As we entered the enormous temple facility, our jaws dropped at the magnificence of the setting and, in the middle of it all, the extraordinary Temple itself, said to be plated with over 1600 lbs of pure gold. Here is what we saw as we walked in:
The original building was completed around 1605 and rebuilt in the mid-1700s. In 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi approved the military storming of the Temple to arrest a group of Sikh extremists holed up inside. As a result of this perceived sacrilege, she was assassinated less than six months later by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation. Here’s a brief video and a few more photos of this amazing site:
1919 British Massacre at Jallianwala Bagh - In an act Winston Churchill then called “monstrous”, the British military commander in Amritsar, wanting to punish 15,000 peaceful Indian protesters who had gathered in a large market square in violation of British orders, brought 50 British Army riflemen into Jallianwala Square and sealed off all exits. With no warning, he ordered the soldiers to start shooting and did not stop until they were nearly out of ammunition. At least 400 people died on the spot with many jumping into a large well to escape the bullets, only to be suffocated inside. More than 1100 others were wounded.
If you saw the 1984 movie Gandhi, you may recall that horrific scene which was filmed in accordance with eyewitness accounts. The entire Jallianwala market has been maintained as sacred ground ever since. Here are some photos of Jallianwala, including the “Martyrs’ Well” and bulletholes marked with white tape on the side of the only remaining original building. It was a somber visit:
The Hindu “Silver Temple” - Amritsar is the Punjabi homeland of the Sikh population in India. While the Sikhs have their Golden Temple, the Hindu minority also has a holy shrine, informally known as the “Silver Temple”.
It’s an odd place, laid out to resemble a silver-lined cave, referencing one of the tales from the Ramayana, the ancient Hindu religious epic. Hindu iconography is certainly strange to Western eyes, but wandering around inside this shimmering “cave” is quite an experience. Here are a few photos from inside the Silver Temple:
UP NEXT: THE ROAD TO FARIDKOT
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