Dazzled by Amritsar’s Golden Temple


Sikhs preparing to bathe at the Golden Temple.

The slogan of India’s tourist bureau is “Incredible India,” and I found myself agreeing whole heartily almost all the time and especially at Amritsar’s Golden Temple where I had to squint against the overwhelming light in the giant complex of marble and glittering gold that sits at the heart of this sprawling, hectic city near the border with Pakistan.

The temple is the holiest shrine for Sikhs, many of whom were bathing in the water surrounding the temple watched by enormous guards stood holding menacing spears at their sides.

There’s a museum in the grounds which depicts, in immensely graphic paintings, the centuries of fighting and torture–being sawed in half alive, cooked in cauldrons, that sort of thing– that Sikhs have endured for their faith.

I came upon an outdoor community kitchen in the grounds that serves free meals–flatbread called roti and lentil soup–day in and day out as an embodiment of Sikhism’s belief that everyone, no matter his or her religion, wealth or social status, is considered equal–and so I tucked in.