When one plans for a weekend getaway, spirituality may be the last thing on mind. A visit to a temple about 450 km away does not in anyway converge with the idea of holidaying. But what if that temple is located in a place that has memories of an infamous bloodbath, a door dividing two lands that were once one and yet is as tranquil as it could get?
Amritsar, merely 50 km east of Lahore, Pakistan, may not be a destination for unwinding after a long tiring week but it nonetheless deserves a trip to imbibe spiritualism with a touch of culture and history.
The pious journey is bound to start with the Harimandir Sahab better known as the Golden Temple. Pre-dawn is the best time to pay a visit to the shrine when the peaceful breeze gives you the feeling of being one with God as you hear the words ‘ik onkaar...’ (meaning God is one). Basking in the golden glory, the temple is aesthetic and a marvel in architecture.
Its four gates appear to welcome people from all sides at the same time representing the liberal character of Sikhism. The large lake of water, the Sarovar, surrounding it is said to be consisting of amrit, which means holy nectar.
This explains the city’s name. One is bound to get attracted to the splendor surrounding the fishes that swim in the holy water. After you have finished one round of the entire temple you are sure to ask for more. The best thing to do then is to travel around the city and come back at night to witness the grandeur when it is beautifully lit up.
A short walk from the Golden Temple leads you to the site that is reminiscent of the monstrous massacre, Jallianwala Bagh. The ground where thousand innocent lives were lost is now changed into a park. The narrow path between the houses may not give a hint of the legacy stored inside.
There is a well, called the Martyrs’ Well, where visitors can’t help but stop and have a dekko of the place where several people jumped in while trying to escape from bullets. Also, there are remnants of walls preserved to show the bullet holes.
It is advisable to save some time and a lot of energy for a trip to the action-packed Wagah Border, the only road border between India and Pakistan. It’s best to take a taxi from the backside of the Golden Temple, which would take you about 45-minutes to reach.
Wagah is a village that was one before partition. Today, for Indians the eastern part is theirs while the other half belongs to Pakistan. There is an eerie feeling you get standing in Atari, the ‘last village in India,’ that is if the borders bother you. This border, however, is a stage of an entertaining flag lowering ceremony at both ends every evening.
An energetic parade by Indian soldiers and a slight glimpse of the same by Pakistan ranger soldiers does bring in pride for the country and perhaps, somewhere, a curiosity to see the one on the other side of giant gates.
The ceremony proceeds, flags are brought down, ‘nationalistic’ fervour rises and lights are switched off marking the end of the day. The sun sets on both sides equally and winged creatures fly back unaware of the borders, gates and any ceremonies...