As the flight touched down Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport, the excitement of re visiting the most visited place in the world, an irony in itself, built up. Amritsar has been one of my favourite places in the world! The Eiffel tower, River Thames and all else notwithstanding, this city has always exuded some kind of home coming....
Inextricably linked with the history of Sikhism, the largest sikh town in the world, Amritsar is amongst the most revered sites of the world. Founded in 1577 by the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das, Amritsar is home to the spectacular Golden Temple... and that was my destination!
A 7-8 hours drive from the airport could have been exhausting... but not for me, as the cab dropped me off at Bharawan Da Dhaba... the oldest in Amritsar and one of the most popular all vegetarian restaurants in the country. A meal here is an absolute necessity.....
As i walked towards the looming majestic holy Golden temple, the stream of shops selling turbans and chunnis fell on either side.... as the religion asks for respect to God, one has to cover the head throughout the time inside the temple. After depositing the shoes, a hand wash from the line of taps, and dipping feet in the water is compulsory.
The sarovar or holy pond is where all is believed to heal. Some drink a handful of the water to cure diseases, some collect water to take home and some completely submerge themselves in this holy water, the blessings of God embracing through the water. The women have a separate enclosed bathing area for privacy and as a sign of respect.
A walk along the volunteer area was by far the most humbling experience. Over 100 volunteers, of all ages, economic backgrounds and professions sit peeling vegetables for the Langar.... and a gigantic holder with piles of utensils, washed and ready to be served were being carried to the Langar room.
A visit to the holy kitchen that feeds almost a lakh people daily, is an ethereal experience! The spacious kitchen has a pile of logs to be used for cooking! Yes, everything that is cooked in the kitchen uses wood burning under a massive fireplace!
Humongous pots lined with Dal and kheer were a sight to behold.... these pots come with a 2600 kg capacity, every pot cooks dal upto its brim! The largeness one cannot even fathom!
Rotis are prepared in a separate area, that sees over 100 volunteers rolling the dough, piling them neatly to be carried to the large tawa, cooking 50-80 rotis at a time! Smeared with ghee, they are transferred to the serving area where over 50000 people seat themselves for the lavish Langar- caste, creed, religion, profession no bar!
I picked my plate and sat among the thousands for a taste of holy food. A small prayer of 'Wahe Guru' later, the volunteers went around pouring the delectable dal, roti and kheer to the people, making several rounds for a refill. The most endearing part was the feeling of being 'one'.... and that one can eat as much as the appetite allows... we could do with more of this in the world!
The used utensils then are piled in a holder and transferred to 6 washing stations..... the cleanest and one of the mist hygienic processes I have seen! The selfless contribution leads by example.
As I asked for my favourite 'kara' prasad on my way out, it was served from a massive pot full, the aroma filled me with a feeling of renewal and refreshment...
Feeling like a pea just out of the pod, the fantastically frenetic old-city bazaars, sheltering a sensory overload of sights, sounds and smells, welcomed me....
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