Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Phew!!! It's been a whirlwind time as I just wind up my fifth journey in the last few weeks! Yes, I have been travelling most of last month, sometimes for work and sometimes, for reasons personal. It all began with a trip to Amritsar early December, in fact, I wasn't supposed to travel to Amritsar. It was to be a quick trip to Kurukshetra.We finished in Kurukshetra quite early, and as luck would have it, caught glimpse of a milestone that said 'Amritsar 380 km'. Something clicked inside, I now call it the pull of ' Darbar Saheb ' (The Golden temple), and we immediately decided to drive all the way to the holy city for darshan.

It was a long but pleasant journey and we managed to reach the quaint town before dusk.Checking into a hotel close to Darbar Saheb, we decided to visit the holy shrine early next morning.At night, a stroll through the narrow lanes and bylanes of Amritsar took us back to the times when this historic border town had not yet seen the bloodshed and violence of partition.Nothing seemed to have changed , yet everything had changed .There was an unmistakable calm and serenity surrounding the city.One did come across the ocassional mall and Mcdonalds, but the city, it seemed, had succeeded in retaining and preserving its heritage and old world charm.

Community work (Sewa) lies at the heart of the Sikh religion and hence, early next morning, as we walked through the gates of Darbar saheb, we saw Sikh men and women, young and old alike, washing the marble walkways along the sacred pool with milk and water.The Golden temple, splendid and magnificent in its divine aura, sat in the middle of the crystal clear waters of the sacred pool. The entire atmosphere was reverberating with recitations from the Guru Granth Saheb by the granthis inside the sanctum.

Legend has it that before his death, the tenth Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh, told his people that there would be no more living gurus after him and they must follow the Guru Granth Sahib ( the Sikh holy book).From that point on, the text remained not just the holy scripture of the sikhs, but is also regarded by them as the living embodiment of the Ten Gurus.The Guru Granth Sahib consists of more than one thousand pages of teachings, guidance to good living and hymns.The hymns and teachings are called ' Gurbani ' or ' Word of the Guru '. To the Sikhs, the Granth Sahib is more a living saint and therefore, every morning, it is carried in a procession to the sanctum and put to bed at night.

We watched the ceremony in the morning with much reverence, heads bowed and eyes half closed in worship.There was still some time for sunrise and as we sat along the peaceful waters of the beautifully illuminated holy shrine, I marvelled at the never failing ability of faith and religion to soothe and calm the human soul.Although a Sikh shrine, Darbar Saheb is visited by people from all walks,sections and faiths of Indian society and I caught a pleasant sight of some young Buddhist monks posing for pictures.In their curious and happy faces, I could see all matters of religious dispute and conflict evaporate.Pluralism, I concluded , however problematic it may seem, also happens to be the biggest strength of this country.

Later that day, we embarked upon a pilgrimage of a different kind. Close to Darbar Saheb, is the Jallianwala Bagh. Through the busy early morning streets, we covered the small distance on a cycle rickshaw. The rickshaw puller was an old Sikh man with a flowing white beard. He told us that he had also lost an uncle in the brutal massacre and to this day, his large, extended family worships him as a hero and martyr.

The board at the entrance to the historic site read – ' This soil has been made pious by the blood of nearly two thousand patriotic men, women and children .' My heart skipped a beat and I gave out a sigh.Closing my eyes, I tried to picture those violent moments of terror , exactly eighty nine years ago, when the British Army Commander General Dyer made the reckless decision of ordering his troops to open indiscriminate firing at an unarmed gathering of innocent men, women and children.Their mistake – they had gathered there for a peaceful pro – independence meeting.Records say that the firing lasted about ten minutes and more than sixteen hundred rounds were fired in that small duration.One could still see bullet marks on the walls ,carefully encircled.The only exit passage from the park was blocked and the poor people holed inside had nowhere to go.We also saw the well within the premises in which many of them jumped to escape the bullets only to perish in its never ending hollowness.And as I looked down into the well, I could hear echoes of voices calling out for help.They were all unsung heroes of our freedom movement and it truly felt like a pilgrimage visiting the site of their martyrdom !

P.S. - I wish all my fellow bloggers and readers a very happy and fulfilling new year !


Rajeysha said...

Sheetal Ji, Hearties wishes for Diwali and New Year.

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