Up just after daybreak, Karen and I had a leisurely swim in the pool at Mrs Bhandari’s Guesthouse, and then it was time for breakfast with Claire & Emiel, all before 09:00am when our air conditioned van booked to take us on a sightseeing tour of Amritsar arrived.
We first stopped at Maharaja Ranjit Singh Panorama…..it was very interesting although a bit confusing at times. We saw exhibitions including the Golden Temple and the acquisition of the original Koh-I-Noor (1814). Fascinating to make the connections, even with Iran.
Next we were driven to Jallianwala Bagh memorial park – dedicated to the memory of the locals massacred by British troops in 1919. The massacre of hundreds of unarmed, defenceless Indians by British Brigadier General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer on 13th April 1919 at Jallinwala Bagh was a sad day. Under the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Dyer deployed his riflemen near the entrance without warning or order to disperse, they opened fire for 20minutes. 1650 rounds of ammunition was fired and 379 officially killed with 1200 wounded in a crowd of around 20,000. The park is very popular with locals, and it was a somber experience walking through it – seeing first a plaque denoting where the troops fired from, and a couple of hundred metres away a brick wall pock-marked with bullet holes. Nearby was ‘Martyrs Well’ – in an effort to avoid the gunfire many people jumped into this deep well, and after the carnage 120 bodies were retrieved from the well – all people who had drowned.
From here we travelled a short distance to the Silver Temple, Shri Durgiana Tirath – a copy of Amritsar’s Golden Temple. Placed strategically in the middle of the city, pilgrims flock to this temple not only from India but also from abroad. Over the years, it has become an epicenter of Hindu renaissance and rejuvenation. The complex is popularly known as “the Durgiana” and derives its name from the Goddess Durga. This connection with Goddess Durga has a socio cultural references as she is normally invoked for protection and health while the soldiers go to war. The sacred city of the Amritsar which was founded by the fourth Sikh Guru Ram Dass ji has come to assume a special significance in Hindu cosmology because of various mythical and historical connections. Amritsar is particularly nearer and dearer to Hindus as it is believed that the Lov-Kush along with their mother Mata Sita spent their early childhood in the ashram of Bhagwan Maharishi Balmiki ji in the land of Amritsar.
Not finished with temples, we then visited a Hindu Temple that was so outlandish that I would struggle to describe it, (Mandriva Mata Lal Devi). Perhaps if you imagined a cross between Adventure World and a temple you may come close – but even that isn’t close enough. We climbed up stairs through the multi-level temple arcade, climbing through narrow gaps that simulated the internals of an animal (I think ….) and then through the gaping mouth of a larger-than-life lion. For those of you familiar with sideshow alley at the Perth Royal Show, it was like a trip through the Ghost Train, with something new and exciting around every corner.
Lunch was enjoyed at a nice restaurant – my rogan josh was spicy and brought up a sweat, and it’s good we checked our change as that was quite short, and in the afternoon we went looking at the “Bazzar”….which turned out to be more of a shop to shop affair by our driver who may or may not have got a kickback. In any case we did end up finding a cool and tropical “Kurta” for Karen….inspired by Claire. Back at our guest house we had a swim and a few alcoholic drinks which haven’t had for the last 3 months….a relaxing finish to the afternoon.
Tomorrow we will move on again – this time to Shimla, for what should be a rest for a week or so. We’re all looking forwards to that !!!