Sath siri akal (Punjabi greeting),
I arrived in Amritsar yesterday morning after a 12 hour train ride from Dehradun that proved to be quite the experience and quite the test of my compassion.
Amritsar has been incredible, and very, very hot! Yesterday’s high was 104. To put that into perspective for some you, although the high was only 104, it felt like it was 119 outside with the humidity and lack of wind factored in to the equation. By 9AM it was already 93 and it was still 97 at 9PM. This is probably the hottest weather I’ve ever encountered in my lifetime, far hotter than Mexico or the Caribbean. The heat has been so intense that I adjusted my schedule here significantly, waking up around 4AM and going out until about 10AM and then returning to the hotel for the afternoon and going back out again around 6PM.
My first day here was pretty intense and I accomplished a lot. I went to the Golden Temple, which was built by the fourth Sikh Guru Ram Das in the late 1500’s and is considered the most holy of Sikh sites, in the morning for about an hour, but did not venture inside as the crowd was almost three hours deep. I tooled around the city after lunch and later went to the India / Pakistani border and watched the rather theatrical but very cool “closing of the border” ceremony.
What a great city filled with beautiful sights and very friendly people. I have been at an almost celebrity status during my stay as many Punjabis will stop me to ask for one “snap”, wishing to have their picture taken with me. This morning I woke up early and walked the streets for about an hour, taking in the morning sights and sounds of people starting their day and then walked over to the Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre Memorial, where on Sunday April 13th 1919 Brig. Gen. Reginald Dyer opened fire on an unarmed group of Indians in a public garden killing between 800 – 1300 unarmed men, women, and children. Government estimates put the number of those killed to be at only 300. More than half of those killed were Sikhs.
Everywhere I’ve gone people are very curious about me and some will stop me to ask me where I’m from. Sikhs are such a very proud people. Proud that they live in Amritsar, home to the Golden Temple and proud to see so many foreigners coming to visit their city and temple. Ram Das’s creedo was that the Golden Temple should be a place for worship for all people everywhere, from all religions, welcoming all ethnicities, and welcoming both men and women. This was a pretty unknown practice in 17th century south Asia.
To beat the heat, I’m waking up at 3AM and will head over to the Golden Temple and pay my respects and hopefully have a shot at getting inside. After breakfast I will depart for the airport.
Sath Siri Akal,