A few years ago, I went to Amritsar on a school trip. Amritsar is in the state of Punjab, in Northern India and is famous for the Golden temple, the Mecca of Sikhs. Amritsar is a small town and the major tourist spots can easily be covered in a stay of 2 days. Amritsar can be reached by air, train and by road. Amritsar being more of a pilgrimage for Sikhs has no specific tourist season and can be visited at any time of the year. But preferably one should go in February- March or in September-October, when it’s neither too hot nor too cold.
My trip began at 6 AM, by a horrid call about half an hour before my alarm had to ring. It was best friend announcing he couldn’t go as he was down with fever. With 15 minutes of mourning and deciding whether I should still go or not, I concluded I should take the risk of boredom and go ahead.
I reached the New Delhi Railways Station’s Platform Number 12 with my brother and that’s when the ‘Real Trip’ began. Everyone was under the impression I wouldn’t come but I still made it; happy and nervous. I located my rock addict second best friends and hoped that all shall go well.
A train journey with friends is least boring. You have silly games to play which make everyone laugh, even if it makes zero sense. Singing songs is old, it’s after all the age of I-pods, so you can imagine some anti-social elements just listening and not participating.
We reached Amritsar in the afternoon and headed directly towards Hotel Sheetal Palace, our place of stay. Amritsar offers hotels that can fit anyone’s budget. Since the stay for tourists is short, one can manage in a 3 to 4 star hotel. The hotel was least palatial as the name suggests, but was good enough for us students.
After lunch, we headed directly towards the Wagah Border. Taxis and Tourist Buses can be found easily at the Railways station and from the Hotel. Wagah Border is the boundary line between India and Pakistan and is a 45 minute drive from Amritsar.
We found space for ourselves amongst the hundreds who had come that day to witness the marching of Indian and Pakistani soldiers. Men and women are seated separately for convenience. As the marching began, there were shouts from either sides-“India Zindabad! Pakistan Zindabad!” (Viva India, Viva Pakistan). Though rivalry is present among the two nations, at this strange united spot, not one wishes the ill of the other, but only glory of their own country.
The Wagah border is an emotional moment and often brings tears to the eyes of many. It is a proud moment for many to see their country’s soldiers marching ahead. For me, it was a happy one to see the countries together sans hate and dislike.
We returned back to our Hotel for dinner. Since we were all young and determined to disobey, we didn’t listen to the teacher’s advice of staying put after midnight. We had fun all night playing hide and seek, cracking jokes and telling secrets. We did it without letting the teachers know; the hotel staff was of course, on the side of the innocent children.
The second day began with breakfast and the excitement to see the Golden Temple. The Temple, also called Harmindar Sahib (House of God), has attracted many visitors from around the world including Queen Elizabeth II, who visited in 1997. All of us had covered our heads and entered the temple complex. A different kind of feeling overwhelmed us. It was all so buzzing, yet so serene. The Golden Temple shone in the sunlight and it was paradise indeed. We offered our prayers and admired the entire complex, while taking rounds of the sarovar. Unfortunately, we couldn’t have lungar as we had to go to the Jallianwala Bagh; but the memory of the temple still lives on in me. Some say that a visit to the Temple in the night is a long lasting memory.
Next we went to the Jallianwala Bagh, which is a stone throw from the Temple. Jallianwala Bagh is the garden in which a deadly massacre took place in 1919. It today stands as a reminder of how horrifying human intentions can be.
Our itinerary was over. We got back to the hotel and off to the railways station for the evening train. I wasn’t sad that this was coming to an end; I was happy and thrilled that this had happened. Amritsar was fun, with all the eccentric shouting at the Wagah Border and the games that we played; spiritual, with the Golden Temple giving us a hindsight of not only beauty in the name of God, but the beauty of God himself; and patriotic, to see the two nations smile towards each other. It was amazing. A must visit for all.
[Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vinish/13118141/]