I had to share a speck of the Golden Temple’s magic with you. It has been a while since we visited but the memory of our four days there still stays fresh and vivid. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that Amritsar is one of the highlight of out trip so far. After the shock of witnessing extreme poverty in India from the moment we arrived, the Golden Temple felt like a fairy tale utopia, where everyone seemed at peace and all were welcomed, fed and housed for free no matter of their religion, cast, gender, social status and ethnicity! Indian mustache and beard styles.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar is the most holy site for all Sikh people. I didn’t know much about the Sikh religion, except for the fact that all Sikhs are not to cut their hair and are to always wear a head cover. Still I was completely unprepared for this ~
A Sikh men at the golden temple. The hair is a gift of God and is to be never cut. Many Sikhs also carry with them a Kirpan – a strapped curved sword. It symbolizes the safety of all and the carrier’s personal duty and responsibility as a Sikh to protect the innocent. Even children, boys and girls alike, carry a pocket knife on a strap.
~ I was also unprepared for the Sikh’s hospitality. Their duty is to practice compassion, humility and love, so at the train station we were immediately received as old friends and treated like special guests. A sweet old man with braided beard tied to his sideburns whisked us away from the aggressive rickshaw drivers to a free shuttle bus headed for the temple. Our ride was full of singing Sikhs and the vibration of approaching a very special place.
Inside the temple grounds we were not immune though to the usual attention and constant requests for photos. One person would stop us and soon there will be a crowd waiting for their turn. Our children got tired quickly and ran away, Kuba and I tried to be polite for as long as we could handle and pose patiently.
The ladies wrapped me in my scarf and pulled my pants down, so ‘men don’t stare’. OK. What surprised me though was how insistent they were to be photographed with me, yet their faces remained so serious! Still cannot understand the obsession of the Indian people to be photographed with foreigners:)
Moustache and beard styles photos
After paying our dues and being photographed with and without permission I decided that it was fine to pull out our camera and steal some shots of the men passing by. We have a rule of never to take a photo of a stranger without asking, but here we were surrounded by so much color and so many different beards and mustaches that I couldn’t help myself! Below is just a tiny sample of the variety of colorful turbans and facial hair styles walking past us ~
The Golden Temple itself is stunningly beautiful. A blend of Hindu and Islamic architectural styles it is plated in gilded copper and set in a pool of holy water called Amritsar, meaning The Pool of Immortal Nectar. It is surrounded on all four sides by the Sikh parliament, all in white. The whole complex is magnificent!
After the clothing advice I was given by the local ladies I started wearing my full on Indian outfit when visiting the temple.
I wanted to do a quick photo essay on the mustaches and beard styles but now I realize I can’t pass on telling you about the communal kitchen, the langar. This might be the world’s largest free eatery, serving a vegeteran meal to around 80.000 people on a weekday. On weekends and special holidays this number skyrockets!!! Sikhs believe that all the well to do have to look for the needs of the less fortunate. So they do their service by donating money and volunteer labor. Hundreds of them, all from different walks of life, work side by side scrubbing the floors of the dining hall, washing the endless river of metal plates, spoons and cups, pealing mountains of onions, garlic and vegetables, cooking serving and cleaning up! The crowds of people who flock the hall for a meal never ends. The clattering of dirty dishes being thrown in huge metal buckets never quiets down. The chapati machine never stops transforming tons of whole wheat flour every day into nearly a quarter-million discs per day of flat bread called roti. The huge pots full of lentil soup, three and a third tons of them per day, never quit bubbling away. Each one of them is big enough to cook both of our children together!
Peeing garlic with a smile on their faces.
132 pounds of garlic are needed every day! I found the women peeling garlic to be more reserved than the men:)
The mountain of metal plates and silverware that greets you at the door. Volunteers hand out a set to everyone.
Peacefully waiting for out turn to get in the Dining Hall.
Dishing out the lentils and the vegetables from big buckets.
The human dishwasher at work. If sound was included you will hear loud shouts, clapping and clicking made by metal plates being thrown in huge aluminum buckets.
How to grow a great mustache
There is so much more to this the Golden Temple though. Please, if you ever come to India include it in your trip if you can. It is a magical place that blurs the boundaries between people and takes one to a place where community, sharing and worship go hand in hand. I have never felt so included anywhere else on my trip and loved every minute of my time here.
The moment you walk through the shallow water ponds at the entry of the Golden Temple you will feel at home. I promise you.