Punjab is a country in itself. Or so they would like to believe :P
Not an attack, not at all. But after a visit that offered a peek into their culture, customs and history, I come back all amazed, and whirring with the colours that the city flashes at you.
So it was a one day visit to Amritsar. We had an amazing localite for a guide. Babbu aka Devender Singh. We dropped the bags off at a hotel and headed straight to a Dhaba for breakfast. Kulchas and Parathas. dripping with ghee, with a hundred flavours that tantalize your tastebuds..Heavenly is the word. We stuffed ourselves till we could eat no more.
Amritsar is a small city, it still has this old world charm about it. You see ancient arch ways and spires that do not look the least out of place next to neon lit dhabas and crowded market places bustling with denim and sneakers clad men going about their businesses. But what hits you more is the colour! Bright hues, all around you. Like butterflies flitting around, and not restricted to gender. The men sport colourful pagris and the women, as always, have no dearth of choice.
We visited a couple of temples in the morning. Their temples allow photography! And they are worth being clicked too, I should say. Their idols are nothing like the stone sculptures we see in the south- they are neatly chiseled, decked and ornamented- such a feast to the eyes.
We visited two such temples- One called the Vaishno Devi, which is a simulation of the real Vaishno Devi temple, with all its caves and corridors. The other was the Ram Tirath temple, which is, according to legend, the place where devi Sita lived, and raised her twin sons Luv and Kush, after she was banished from his kingdom by Lord Ram. When he performed the Ashwamedha yagna, this was where his sons intercepted the horse, and this was where the Lord had reunited with his family.
Around lunch Babbu took us to the Golden Temple. The temple itself, its ambience, cleanliness, the seva, the sanctity and the reverence that the place held to the Sikhs cannot be put to words. We had the langar, (food served to all visitors at all Gurudwara), which is touted to be very tasty, but for some reason I felt it was overrated. We visited the museum- and then is when the gravity of the great Sikh heritage hits you. Their valour, sacrifices and inherent greatness is out there for all to see- and then you wonder who ever came up with all those irritating Sardaji jokes.
We troop into the Jallianwala Bagh which is next door. We all know the history. Some pics that would give you an idea of the horror.
Finally we head to the much written about, much heard of Wagha Border for the famous Retreat ceremony. Forgive me, but it was sheer madness. A 3500-strong crowd sits in the gallery, with a mere 200-300 odd, from the Pakistan side of the gallery, a few metres away. The impeccable march and ceremonial closure of the gate is marred by the crowds jostling for space, pushing and pulling around, with absolutely no respect for the National flag. Add to it some lathi charge from the police men, trying to keep the crowd in check. And an army officer who mistakenly tries to spice up the sober ceremony by egging the already fanatical crowd to shout ‘Bharat Mata ki..JAI’, ‘Bhande..MATARAM’ and the like. No, not my style.
And then, there is nothing else of touristic importance. We find time to shop. Jutis, patialas, and suits with amazing phulkari work- that I cannot wait to show off. Babbu buys us Aam papad and takes us to this local pani puri wala who offers us- for 20 bucks- 6 puris, each dipped in a different flavor of pani. I forget the flavours, but I remember grinning through the whole episode. And there ends my first, and probably only taste of Punjab, but, to sum it all up in a word- Respect!