Amritsar; the name conjures up images of the dazzling golden temple constructed in the middle of a tank of Amrit, or the pool of Nectar. The temple is indeed golden and it is dazzling enough to charm your senses. The Golden Temple at Amritsar is the holiest place of the Sikhs with the shrine of the Harmandir Sahib and like all Gurudwaras, houses their holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib. The Golden Temple is an impressive structure built in the mid 16th century as advised by the 3rd Sikh Guru. The Golden Temple at Amritsar attracts more tourists, (Indians, foreigners and sikhs) than the Taj Mahal which speaks volumes in itself.
I was not visiting Amritsar for the first time. I was not visiting it for the second time either. I always go back to a place for the sheer fondness of that place. However, Amritsar was not exactly the same thing. I was doing Amritsar for several reasons… Amritsar has been an attractive destination ever since I visited it’s haloed premises when I was 12. I cannot describe how or why. It had remained etched in my memory. Maybe it was the overwhelming amount of the yellow metal that left a lasting impression. Maybe it was the roadside roasted chicken. I cannot say for sure.
I went back there in 2006 when with a group of bikers I was travelling the length and breadth of the country, a story that I will save for some other time, and we decided to give this unbelievable city with the holy shrine the respect that was due. During that particular tour, the Golden Temple was a cursory visit, not worthy of writing penning down which left me feeling guilty of not doing justice. During that tour I was completely knocked out of my senses by the pompous show at Wagah and the change of guard at the Pakistan border, something so silly and raucous that I decided never to go back there again just to save myself from the dust and the asthmatic conditions that that can induce. It is just not worth it unless you are a staunch nationalist in the mould of the rightist brigade willing to choke on dust and sweat for the sake of a few moments of inglorious pomp that is on display for the benefit of the willingly gullible!
That said, I did however spent a good bit of my Amritsar time on a go-kart track on the outskirts that did satisfy some of my more passionate instincts of racing that comes naturally to me and has forever remained unharnessed for the lack of… let us not even get there. In short, I was compelled to go back there and I was looking for an excuse. And go back there I did! For my son’s tennis tournament. He was having tournaments all around the country.
But I chose Amritsar, for this unfulfilled desire to have a better look at what I saw when I was nearly a quarter of my current age and also probably to calm the guilty mind of this avid traveller.
The tournament was important for my son. The visits were no less so for me. And I went back to the Golden Temple premises during one free afternoon in the midst of a rare summer afternoon rain that brought some relief to the scorching white heat of the North Indian summers. And when I reached the Golden Temple, to say that I felt satisfied, impressed, awed, guilt free, happy… it would all be gross understatements.
I stared at the Golden edifice through the light drizzle with heavy large black clouds looming behind even as my thirteen-year old son got involved with the locals in some community service of cleaning up of the premises. I stayed transfixed.
And when I came to my senses, I started taking some pictures. And yet again, it was unfortunate that I could not enter the holy shrine because of the sheer crowd. It had to wait. And I was willing to wait. I was time bound. I had to move.
I moved on to the historical site of the Jalianwall Bagh massacre. I would not go into the gory details of the historic massacre unleashed by the British General Dyer killing innocent people in an enclosed space. Even a century later, the British PM visiting the controversial site stirred yet another nest stating ludicrous remarks that clearly demeaned his self and his people. But then, lets not get all political.
It is not a pretty site to visit. But it certainly is relevant to the country’s colonial history and can be heart rending if not for the local bare-chested roadside macho kinds, who seemed oblivious of his roots and history and thought it was more important to have the correct pose in front of this friend toting a smartphone camera!
As I was saying, despite three visits to this city, which seems is more popular than Agra, given the statistics, I still have not been able to conclude my desire of feeling and seeing the inner sanctum of the holy shrine. I reckon it has to wait… some more. I am willing to wait. I will go back to Amritsar, yet again!
The Author, Krishnendu KES, is an avid traveller and is also the Director of Maavalan Travels.