We came down from Jalandhar today in a hired car. It was ten hours on the road. Here are some pictures of the ride for your enjoyment.我们今天离开Jalandhar来到德里。从那边开车到这儿需要10个小时。我给你们看一下马路上的照片。哇，我的中文越来越差！
When I was in Korea, I visited the DMZ, and now that I’m in India, I had the chance to visit the only India-Pakistan land crossing and watched just a bit (we arrived too late) of the daily border closing ceremony. Wagah is not far from Amritsar, so we headed out there after our visit to the Golden Temple yesterday. The closing ceremony is quite something, with thousands of people attending every day, and spectator stands on both sides of the border for people to sit and watch. There were dozens of tourist buses and tempus (a motorized open taxi) waiting to bring people home afterwards.I keep wondering, since there are so many soldiers lined up on both sides of the border, face-to-face (I gather it’s 1 million each side) for so many years now, what’s the effect on their fighting ability? Not that anyone here wants another war, but could they fight one if they had to? During the WWI Christmas cease-fire, enemy soldiers who had faced each for months in the trenches, played soccer and at Christmas dinner together. After that, all the commanders on both sides had to be replaced, because they wouldn’t give the order to fight. I wonder if the same thing could happen here?
After the ceremony, while we were walking back to the car, I was approached by a few university students. They all spoke good English and we chatted along the way. They were from the disputed region of Kashmir (no, I’m not going there). They told me Kashmir is very beautiful and that I should visit while in India. They asked me if I know the history of Kashmir, and told me they’re from “the other side” of Kashmir. I didn’t ask what that meant.Tomorrow we hit the road again and head to Delhi. We’ll visit the Taj Mahal as well as touring Delhi’s many sights before I fly out to Taipei later in the week. I’m hoping to get my new Chinese visa in Delhi next week. I have yet to tell you all about getting an Indian visa in Beijing. This should prove to be an interesting comparative exercise.
Yesterday we took a day trip to Amritsar, the location of the famous Golden Temple. This is a major (the major?) holy site for the Sikh religion.
The story goes like this. There was a princess whose father had turned away from God. Her father asked her what kind of husband she wanted, and she replied that she wanted whatever husband God gave her. Her father was furious so he made her marry a crippled man. The princess had to carry him everywhere in a basket.
One day she left her husband by a tree while she went to run an errand. While she was gone, her husband noticed that black crows that landed in the pond near the tree were being purified and turned white when they came out. He thought there must be something special about this lake, so he dragged himself into the pond and was immediately cured. When his wife returned, she couldn’t believe that this was her husband. He proved his identity to her by showing her his crippled arm, which he had not dipped into the pond, and then dipped it into the pond and was completely cured.
Eventually the Golden Temple and the city of Amritsar (meaning “holy water”) were built up around this site to which pilgrims came constantly to be cured.
The Golden Temple was very busy while we were there. I think we had to wait about an hour to cross the causeway into the centre of the lake to visit the main temple. We ate a simple but tasty lunch on site. Eating together, everyone at the same level, is an important part of the Sikh religion because Sikhism rejects the caste system. We did a full circuit of the lake and took a whole lot of pictures. My friends Vik and Aman, whose wedding I attended last weekend, got special copies of the holy scriptures, as is the tradition at the Golden Temple for newlyweds.
The other night we went to visit a Hindu temple here in Jalandhar. I’m not entirely sure how many Hindus live here in the Punjab. I know that the state was divided into two some years ago. The other half is called Haryana and is to the south of the Punjab. I believe the state was divided along religious lines, with the Punjab being overwhelmingly Sikh and Haryana overwhelmingly Hindu.This temple was huge with shrines of all sorts and guys sitting at each one offering visitors grains of sugar and sometimes ‘leis’ of orange and yellow flowers. I did find a blog entry talking about Devi Taleb Mandir, but haven’t been able to find much other information about the place. Enjoy the pictures.
Someone asked me for a map to show where I am currently and where the wedding festivities were happening last week. Jalandhar is not even the capital of the state of Punjab, so it might not be the easiest place to locate. As you can see from the map, we’re in the far north of India, not far from both Pakistan and China. The only part of India north of us is Kashmir, and I’m telling you now we’re not going there.
Here are some miscellaneous pictures I’ve taken over the past week or so since arriving. Tomorrow we’ll head out to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, then on Saturday we head back to Delhi for the last week of our stay in India.
When we were out shopping last Thursday afternoon, we stumbled across a parade. I looked it up afterwards and it turns out that Friday was the birthday of Sri Guru Ravidas Ji, which is a holiday here in the Punjab.
I don’t know too much about the Sikh religion. He was an important figure in Sikhism, but he’s not one of the ten Gurus, so I’m not entirely sure what the meaning of “guru” in his name is.
Because the streets were blocked for the parade, this was the only time we were able to walk around with relative ease. Any other time it’s extremely stressful because there are no sidewalks, there is constant honking, and we essentially have to walk with the traffic.
I’ll give you the quick summary of the wedding I’ve been participating
in for the past three days. Most of it I don’t understand, and
unfortunately the people we know here are too busy helping out to
explain it to the foreigners in great detail.
father. This was in a village outside Jalandhar. This consisted of
rubbing some kind of turmeric paste on the bride’s arms, hands and face.
Everyone got a turn. After that the bride fed lumps of sweet rice to all
the single people present, including yours truly. The second day was the bangles ceremony. This happened at the family
home of Vik’s mother, in Jalandhar. We all got a turn to put a few
bangles on her arms. The third day (yesterday) was the big day. We all got up early to be on
time, but nothing runs on time, so there was a lot of standing around.
We first went to the reception hall. At the hall we waited for the groom
and his family to arrive. The groom arrived preceded by a pipe band.
There was a exchange of greetings between the brothers & counsins of
both sides of the family, then a mock attempt by the bride’s sisters to
prevent the groom from entering to take their sister. After this we had
a bite to eat and headed out to the temple in Vik’s father’s village. The temple ceremony wasn’t very long. It consisted of the Granthis (Sikh
priests) chanting and reading from the Guru Granth Sahib. The bride and
groom then walked five times around the centre of the temple where the
Guru Granth Sahib was placed. After the ceremony we all headed back to the wedding hall. At the hall
we all ate while waiting for the groom to arrive. He’d gone home to
change before coming to join his bride at the wedding hall. He arrived
again preceded by the pipe band and then the couple were ushered to the
front of the hall where they sat for pictures with everyone. They didn’t
crack any smiles, I suppose they’re not supposed to. After the photos,
the families ate together and then the bride & groom made their exit.
The brothers, including me, had to ceremonially push the car off. It’s been interesting, even if I haven’t understood much. I came here
expecting to be attending a wedding, but as it turns out, I’ve been
included at every step: the blessing ceremony on the first day, the
bangles ceremony, and at several different points on the wedding day
itself, as one of the brothers.