Being so close to India in Lahore, we have to say that it looks like we unconsciously delayed our arrival in India. Maybe because we expected so much about it (India was the reason we did not take the “straightest” way to go back to France!), maybe because lots of people had said they did not like India, that it was too much for them in terms of noise, traffic, poverty, Indian people staring at them. We were afraid, I guess, to break the dream and realize India is not so much our cup of chai (the Hindi word for tea!). However, when time came, we happily crossed the border!
Going back to Wagah border, this time as travellers wanting to actually cross it was a great moments of our trip. Check out the video below:
After this memorable border crossing, we headed by local bus to Amritsar, the sister city of Lahore, on the Indian side of the border. After a quick night in a guesthouse, we moved to live in Amritsar’s Golden Temple!
The Golden Temple is a stunning Sikh temple, a true beauty. It is for Sikhs the equivalent of Mecca for Muslims. The temple itself is in the middle of a huge pond filled with crystal clear water (called the nectar) and surrounded by buildings. Sikhism is a rather young religion, started in the 14th century by Guru Nanak. It is the first religion to condemn the system of casts in India. What a revolution! Then you understand why Sikhs have been persecuted for centuries by Indian rulers. Sikhism advocates that everyone is equal, whether poor or rich. For Sikhs, every religion leads to the same God. It is only the name of God and how to pray that differ. They do not want to replace other religions but they open their temples to everyone. Sikh places of worship are called Gurdwara.
So in the Golden Temple, everyone from pilgrims to tourists can sleep for free (upon donation) in some of the temple’s buildings, and meals are also served for free almost 20 hours a day!! We experienced life in the temple and it was amazing. The spirituality is so inspiring. And the process of cooking and serving food for 60 000 pilgrims per day amazed us (as engineers!). This common canteen is the langar. People volunteer to peel the tons of potatoes, onions, carrots, to prepare the food, from bread to dhal, and to wash the dishes. The meal served is always the same and it is vegetarian. People take their plate, sit on the floor in a big room and are being served: a dhal (lentils), some vegetables, rice, and a delicious sweet mix of rice and milk. Everyone also gets a hot fresh chapatti that you have to receive with your two hands raised in front of you.
Sikhs welcomed us warmly in the temple and we felt at home, taking some time to better know about their philosophy and watching life going. This temple surprised us by its cleanliness and the harmony between all these people gathering.
The city of Amritsar also surprised us for being more peaceful than Lahore. We walked a lot in the streets, some of them around the temple being for pedestrians only.
We were very far from the worst thoughts we had about India!! Let’s see if we will still have the same feeling when we arrive in New Delhi, our next step in India…