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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

April 12th: Amritsar

On April 12th 1973, or thereabouts, I was in Amritsar. 

We drove up the Grand Trunk Road from Delhi, which was not as difficult a drive as it had been in the less developed areas to the east where we had tried to avoid it, as we had other main roads.  We had a puncture and I remembered a friendly man on a small motorbike stopping to see if he could help us.   Amritsar was our first stopover on the journey back to Europe, we had been there before in November 1972 and we were looking forward to visiting the city again.

As we approached, it gradually became clear that there was unusual traffic heading for the city.  Thousands upon thousands of people were arriving from every direction.  We could see all sorts of vehicles joining from every side road, mostly trucks and pickups.  The people were mainly country Sikh men with loose white clothes, long beards and straggly turbans.  In the city it looked as if they were heading for the Golden Temple.  When we finally got to visit the temple there were long queues of these people waiting to get in, while others were leaving, carrying pieces of mud in any sort of container.  We were ushered into the temple which felt quite  different from the previous visit.  The water had all been drained out of the tanks and worship was largely suspended.  Meanwhile the visitors were all taking amorphous piles of mud from the lake and carrying it away.  The lake was being cleaned.

This process is called Kar Sewa and does not happen often.  The previous one had been fifty years before in 1923.  The lake was cleaned twice in the Eighties after army operations, to clear weapons and the bodies of victims.  There was one more Kar Sewa in 2004 and some resources are available on this, pictures and words.

I would return to Amritsar in October 1978.

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