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India: Punjab

Experiencing the super festive changing of guard at Pakistan border, and the magnificent Golden Temple in Amritsar.

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Punjab

To Go or Not?

I had initially decided not to go to Punjab. It is out of the way from my planned path - with two attractions to see, and not much to do.
I'm currently in Dharamasala, enjoying fantastic yoga, tabla lessons, and getting to know Tibetan culture (stay tuned for details in next update...)

I was in Hezi's Tours using the internet, when a voice said from behind....
"Hey, do you want to go to Punjab?"

I didn't. It's far out of the way...
"No, you only need to look at a photo of the Golden Temple online to get Amritsar.... and Changing of The Guard (at Pakistan border)... how great can that be?"

Trip organiser, Chen was trying to get numbers for a day trip to Punjab. Charter a vehicle, leave early morning and come back late at night.

Genius! I decided to join.

Chen managed to round up 9 people for the trip - 7 Israelis, and 2 Aussies.
A great group and good fun..

Changing of the Guard

Every day at around 6pm, there is a changing of the guard for border patrol, on both sides - Pakistan and India.
On either side of the border are large arena type setups - where both nations show national pride and try to outdo each other, by dancing, chanting, singing, etc.

There is capacity for (I'm guessing here) 40,000 people on either side.

When we arrived, we had to queue in a "staging area" where it got really cramped, really fast!
One thing I love about India is that tempers never seem flair - they are always either calm or very happy...
Anyway, we were all so squashed in - rib crushingly so - yet nobody got upset, pushed hard, etc.
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Men and women are queued separately which makes perfect sense in this instance.

Folks running to get a good seat:
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After about 30 minutes we were allowed to pass through to the border side arena.

Foreigners are seated in their own area with very primo views!

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This was the greatest show of national pride I have seen in India.

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Indians outdid Pakistan in every way!

Videos I captured....

Dancing:

National Pride:

Jai Ho!

Chanting for India

Marching to the Border

This was a beautiful celebration!

Golden Temple

Next we went into Amritsar to see the (Sikh) Golden Temple.
This is an intensely spiritual and majestic place.

Punjab is home of the Sikh's - their warrior based culture is steeped in strength, prosperity, work ethic, etc.
You get a sense of these characteristics when you walk into the vast and spectacular marble complex.

The temple itself - (Gold!) sits in the middle of a large man made lake, with other temples surrounding it.
Chen had the great idea to go at night - it is truly gorgeous lit up with darkness behind!

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A ceremony of some kind was taking place at the time we were there.

We had to queue for roughly 45 minutes in the grand entrance, to enter the temple - though the wait was definitely worth it.

View from the queue:
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The interior is also mostly gold, and the music played by the "custodians" (Sikh's do not have any kind of priests).

As we walked through the temple, we were invited to sit and witness proceedings taking place in each of the golden rooms.

I was really drawn to the music. Strong, melodic, rhythmic tabla's, soaring melodies from the Baja (melodeon) and chanting.

It was a magical experience - I would say en par with Taj Mahal at the very least.
A video from youtube:

I'm so glad I joined the group, and of course Chen was right - you can't really get Punjab by looking at photos ;-)

Posted by SkinnyFists 05:48 Archived in India Tagged amritsar punjab change_of_guard india_pakistan_border india_festivities

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