Day 8 – Banaras to Amritsar – December 6th, 2017
The majority of my trip was unplanned, however Amritsar was and I was so looking forward to getting there. My next flight was not till 14:25 and I decided to take another stroll around Banaras. I wanted to know how an early morning was here, and I was rewarded with a non-chaotic, calm Banaras. With a simple breakfast at Jyoti cafe consisting of eggs, toast and black coffee its just what I needed to start the day. Cows were busy finding food and goats were resting.
People were bathing, doing their morning rituals and setting up for the rest of the day ahead. Food vendors getting ready cooking batches of food, guys walking serving and offering tea for ₹10. Black headed gulls flocked the river as boats came and went, that was a sight to see.
Breakfast consisted of fresh hot jalebi. If you want some sugar this is definitely what you need – a crispy outside with a soft almost syrupy inside.
I headed back to the room and finished packing and took one last shower, and rested until I had to leave.
The flight to Amritsar was with a fairly new airline, Vistara Airlines. The plane was very clean and compared to my other flights the staff were very polite! I definitely recommend Vistara Airlines!! The arrival to Amritsar was late, about 10PM. I waited for the Uber to arrive to where I had to walk quite a bit after trying to understand the mans Punjabi. The ride to the Airbnb, or so I thought was nothing but tricky! Apprently the listing on Airbnb did not mark itself as a hotel which was kind of deceiving. Had i known this was an actual hotel (Hotel Sarovar) I would not have booked it. Nevertheless, after about scouring and asking for directions we found the place. The room was huge and spacious, the bathroom albeit a little dirty was alright. I was super tired and after a shower I hit the sack.
I woke up between 6:30-7am and hit the streets. Next to the hotel was a stall where tea and snacks was served. I had a cup of tea while elders came and went as well, getting tea. I decided not to go inside Harmandir Sahib right away and instead went on the hunt for food, and I hit the jackpot!
I really had no clue where I was going and this was the case for the entire trip! I just decided to walk around till something looked appetizing. Bunty Kulcha Point was busy and making fresh hot Parathas!! What better breakfast than an traditional Amritsari Kulcha with Chole and a side of picked onions. A knob of butter was provided which only meant one thing, spread it all over. Spicy and fresh piping hot the meal was awesome!
With an awesome and filling breakfast it was finally time to walk about the grounds of Harmandir Sahib! Adjacent to the Golden Temple is Gurudwara Baba Atal Rai Sahib Ji. It’s a nine story tower that is supposed to illustrate the life of Baba Atal Rai. Before entering the tower you must take your shoes off. Upon entering you will discover murals painted on the walls depicting a story of Baba Atal Rai. This continues all the way up the nine stories until you reach the top where you have a perfect view of Harmandir Sahib.
At the top, there is a small room where one can sit and recite the Guru Granth Sahib or listen to the audio provided from Harmandir Sahib. After enjoying a nice view, albeit hazy, it was finally time to head inside the Golden Temple! Something that I have waited for a long time.
First things first, wear a handkerchief on the head and then wash your feet before entering. If you do not have a hanky not to worry, they are provided for you at the entrance. You have to walk through water, to wash your feet and then make your way into the complex. Be prepared for something amazing that words cannot explain. Just take it all in and feel the calmness, feel the bliss.
I am not sure what it was about this place but I did not want to leave. There was no rush, no pushing, no body screaming. The line up to go inside Darbar Sahib was calm and steady, while the Kirtan playing live over the speakers. No photography is allowed inside so ensure you take it all in. As you make your way inside and around, devotees take part in the Kirtan (If you’re lucky enough to get a seat), pray to the Guru Granth and take a moment for themselves while chanting Waheguru (which means God in Sikhism). As you make your way around and are about to leave you will receive prashad, which is super tasty.
Devotees at Harmandir Sahib are in no rush. Take your time and sit and enjoy the calmness.
Harmandir Sahib offers meals all day long, and all year long. It’s called Langar, which basically is a community kitchen. The people that run the langar are all volunteers and you yourself can volunteer as well. Food is cooked constantly serving thousands of pilgrims and locals. Langar is always free, no matter which Gurudwara you visit in the world. People sit in rows on the laid out carpets with the plates in front of them.