[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Saturday, January 27, 2007

[The Golden Temple]
1. In my recent trip to India, I decided to fly home from Amritsar via SIA's direct flight. Amritsar is the holy city of the Sikh people where the Golden Temple is located. Although we were only scheduled to visit the temple the morning after the day we arrived, I decided to see it first at night. Many years ago, I saw the Taj Mahal in Agra both in the daytime and at night under a full moon. The two experiences were completely different. And so it was too for the Golden Temple at Amritsar.

2. We had first to remove our shoes and socks and cover our heads. Then hands and feet had to be washed in running water before we entered the temple. After descending some steps, we reached the tank, a large rectangular pool in which near one side was the Golden Temple linked to it by a causeway. Hymns were sung continuously twenty-four hours a day. Surrounding the pool were buildings housing offices, rooms for the priests and a large kitchen which served food free throughout the day and night. The Temple provides free shelter, food and medical treatment for anyone who visits it. You don't have to be a Sikh. Temple guards were everywhere dressed in saffron robes and carrying arrow-tipped lances. The Sikhs are a martial race. Bank notes donated to the Temple in the sanctum santorum (the holy of holies) were flicked with a sword to a central pile.

3. Our host, one Mr Kuldip Singh (who happily cracked the cool-dip Sikh joke to me) was wonderful. He was friendly, patient and perfectly helpful. He had worked as an official of the Temple for over 30 years. In 1984, when Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian Army to storm the Temple after it was turned into an armed redoubt by Sikh separatists, he was there. He pointed out to me the gateway through which the tanks rolled in and trained their guns at the headquarter building. He narrated the harrowing events more in sadness than in anger. All those responsible, he said, were themselves killed in the end. I remember visiting the house in Delhi where Indira Gandhi was shot by her Sikh guards. Those were days filled with anger and pain. That Indira Gandhi's daughter-in-law Sonia chose two Sikhs to lead India today shows how much the wounds have healed. It is testimony to the spiritual depth of Indian society.

4. I saw Kuldip again the following morning. He was surprised that I went back a second time and happily showed me around again. When the visit was over, he gave me some presents including an iron bangle which Sikhs wear on their right wrists.

Read my post on The Wagah Crossing on Beyond SG


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