On October 1st 1978 I was in Amritsar.
I enjoyed being back in Amritsar, which I'd visited twice before, in 1972 and 1973. I revisited the fine streets of the old city, and ate from the street stalls as I had during my first full day in India in 1972. There were huge brown bulls blocking the streets, beggars lining the bridge where the rickshaw passengers had to get off and walk. At the Golden Temple I made a note of the music, 2 harmoniums and tabla; a prayer time at midday when everybody stood up; and the weapons brought by the men from the country, long clubs and sticks, one man with a huge double-barrelled shotgun and ammunition slung proudly across his chest.
From my notebook for October 1st:
Sunday evening in the Jallianwala Bagh, scene of General Dyer's massacre, as the signs make quite clear. The Memorial Well where 1290 bodies were recovered, the wall by a shrine with bullet holes still visible and it's a suitable place for reflection on aspects of the British Empire.
But now it's Sunday evening promenade on the only green space within the city walls, mainly middle class, mainly obvious Sikhs, as one would expect. A genuine sadhu in orange robe passing me now, fair skinned with curly hair and a high proud forehead, possessions in a yellow cloth shoulder-bag . A group of 20 or so mainly elderly men sitting on the grass to my right, only 2 or 3 turbaned, listening to mainly one elder speaking, perhaps similar to those conversations of white-clothed men huddled into shops which I passed in the bazaar on the way here. Kids playing on the grass in the centre. Some young couples sitting quietly to the side. Most people wearing their smarter clothes. Opposite 4 or 5 story brick buildings with TV aerials on the top but little sign of activity. One or two paper kites flying in the sky but low. Evening trill of insects in the bushes. Poorer-looking Sikh men wearing a shade of dark royal blue turbans and long shirts over bare knees, some of the shirts blue, some white; they have flowing beards and carry their daggers prominently and sometimes a long stave as well.Later in the shaded light of the Golden Temple, near the tree which people queue to touch. Very busy now, with people coming to worship and others to sleep for the night, the arched cloisters around the outside are getting full. A thick line to enter the sanctuary, the chanting and music fills the whole place, and the lights reflect the gold with a golden sheen on the surface of the water. People are friendly and of all sorts; the men in white and blue are much in evidence, they often have spears on the end of their staves. A colourful mass of people in the feeding room, sitting on the ground in neat lines waiting for their chapattis and dhal, colourful turbans and saris, women predominating. I have just sat by the tank, getting a warm sense of relaxation and well-being. Immersion going on at one end and squared off areas, for women I imagine. An elderly couple happily exhorting me to do something in the middle, join in the worship I suppose.
Patrimonium Mundi: Panoramas of The Golden Temple.
|Golden Temple at night. Picture by DJ Singh, CC|
|Jallianwala Bagh. Picture by Distra, CC|