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2023 - The Year That Was

Places impact you for a variety of reasons. And the same place impacts different people in different ways. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual experiences, where every single person’s experience is unique. And personally, every spiritual experience is unique, the same person can have different deeply spiritual experiences at different places, at different times. This thought has emerged because of my own experiences over the years, but especially so this year, with different and unique experiences at various places I have visited recently. I began this year with a visit to Baroda (Vadodara) with friends. It was meant to be a relaxed trip, a touristy trip, with our sons. We enjoyed ourselves to the hilt, but the highlight of that trip was a visit to the Lakulisha temple at Pavagadh. It was the iconography of the temple that I connected with, and I spent a few hours simply lost in the details of the figures carved around the temple. There was an indefinable connect with

Moving on... from Dharamsala to Amritsar to Rishikesh

Amritsar wasn’t on the original itinerary for our #SummerTrip. The city was added to our plan simply because we were delayed in booking Shankar’s return flight, and the only convenient one available was from Amritsar! It was then that realization dawned – that Shankar had never visited the Golden Temple! Plans were at once re-modified, tickets booked, and I began to look forward to my third visit to the city!

Somewhere on the way to Amritsar...

When I told people we were taking the train from Pathankot to Amritsar, most suggested I would be better off hiring a car! “It’s a short journey. Why do you want to take a train?” But a train it was, for us, and we arrived at Pathankot station in a rush, having made an unexpectedly long halt at the Nurpur Fort along the way. We were tired, and hungry, and the train was late. The shops at the station only sold chips and packed snacks. Off we went in search of something more substantial to eat. Our search brought to us to a refreshment room at the other end of the platform, where an old couple told us they could make us pooris and subzi. We couldn’t have asked for anything more!

The refreshment room looked like it belonged to another era. An old hat/coat stand stood on one side, a relic from the past. The kitchen was old fashioned too, in a cavernous sort of way. The old couple were the only staff, and the rates they charged seemed to be from a different age too. “Only 9 puris to a plate. And 20 rupees for a plate.” they warned us, and seemed surprised when we didn’t bargain!

The puris, when they arrived, were piping hot, and the potato subzi just perfect. It was a filling meal, which we ate with relish. The train finally arrived, and off we headed to Amritsar. I have too few photos of the journey, since the light wasn’t good, but a journey through any part of India has its moments. From tiny village railway stations which are basically just a platform, to colonial structures which were once important halts along the route, there is always much to see and enjoy.

An old station... note the bell...

We arrived at Amritsar late, and found ourselves an inexpensive place to stay. Then, it was time to head to the temple. I was surprised to see the temple packed with devotees. It was then that I realized that I had never visited on a weekend!! We debated the issue of joining the queue for darshan, but fate intervened, and allowed us to jump the queue!! No, I am not sharing the secret of how that happened! After all, we aren’t always this lucky!

The Golden Temple, all lit up! I don't think I can ever tire of this temple, or this sight. No matter how many times I visit, I am still entranced by this sight. Besides, its always an incredibly peaceful and spiritually charged experience. 

Palkhi Sahib leaving the Golden Temple late at night, around 10:30 PM

The next morning, the first half of the day was for Shankar, which we spent eating, visiting the temple, and shopping, before dropping him off at the airport. The rest of the day passed too soon, with us whiling away the time at the museum within the Golden Temple. It was an interesting experience, but as Samhith put it, there was too much blood and gore. Well, what could I say, but explain to him what a long, violent history this beautiful place has had!

Golden Temple in the morning light (pic from a previous visit, in 2012)

a detail of Guru Nanak above the entrance... (pic from a previous visit, in 2012)

The other best thing about Amritsar... the garment industry. I love buying dress materials with phulkari work. Plus, they stitch it within just a few hours! What more can I ask for? 

Moving on, the day passed swiftly, and it was time for us to board our train. We arrived at the station well in time, and settled down for our train to arrive. Time passed and there was no sign of the train. Then, there was a sudden commotion and we realized that the train number had disappeared from the list of trains displayed. While the person at the inquiry counter assured us that the train would arrive on the same platform, on time, the few porters around shook their heads gravely and told us that the train was delayed, and that it would most probably arrive on another platform.

The confusion continued, and information remained unavailable. Meanwhile, Samhith was sleepy, and I was tired and irritated. All the other passengers were part of large, family groups, or single men. I was the only female around, alone, with a kid. I was starting to draw curious glances, which only irritated me further. And so time passed, and we simply sat and waited…..

And waited…..

And waited…..

It was almost midnight when there was a commotion once again. The train was arriving. Finally! On the other platform!

There was a mad rush for the few porters who still hung around. We weren’t lucky enough, and poor Samhith chipped in “Amma, I will carry my own suitcase” he bravely said, and carried his bags all the way up and down the staircase. Then, we had to find our seats, which were in a First Class coach on the other end of the platform. We heaved a sigh of relief when we eventually found our seats and settled in.

Then, the train seemed to be delayed further. Extra coaches were being added, said a policeman who came to check on us. “Close the door and windows” he insisted. “How does your family allow you to travel alone? They should have sent at least someone with you” he added, as an afterthought, on his next round. The TC came to check our ticket, and reiterated the policeman’s words. Both nodded sagely at each other, and shook their heads at me, clearly perturbed. Both hung around outside the window till the train eventually decided to set off.

Samhith meanwhile, was fast asleep!

Morning arrived, and we awoke just in time to get off at Raiwala Junction, our halt for Rishikesh. It was a relief to see our driver waiting for us, and off we headed to our final destination of the first half of the #summertrip!

One adventure was over, and another was just beginning. Coming up soon are more posts, about our Rishikesh experience!

This post is part of my series on my #summertrip 2015, and I hope to take you along with me as I recount stories from my month long trip, which took me across the country. To get an idea of all the places I visited, and what you can hope to read about, click here.  

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  1. Very very well detailed. Beautiful pictures! I would never imagine having this kind of experience in Amritsar. Thank you for sharing your experience! Amritsar is an amazing place and you have explained it in a great manner. I really like your post. We are also providing  Taxi Services in Amritsar.


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