Diwali at the Golden Temple of Amritsar

It was time to head south if we were to make it to the Camel Fair in Pushkar. We reached Amritsar in the afternoon of Diwali and the city was in a festive mood. It reminded us a bit of Delhi but without the annoying touts.

Instead people stopped to wish us a happy Diwali with a huge smile and the streets were bustling with colourful punjabi turbans whizzing by on little motorbikes, horns honking.

Shops and stalls everywhere were selling flower chains, sugary sweets, glitter kitsch and candles for this evenings festivities.

After sunset people were streaming towards the Golden Temple, the most important Sikh temple in India and the destination of many a pilgrimarge. The roads were closed off to all but pedestrians. Street sellers were waving white and orange headbands at anyone without a scarf or a turban. You must cover your head when going into the temple, so I bought one too.

You also have to take your shoes off and wash your feet in the little canal around the entrance. So we handed our shoes in at one of the busy windows in return for a heart-shaped token.

The golden inner sanctum of the temple is surrounded by a lake connected to the outer square of white marble walkways and buildings by a bridge. The buildings were doused in the light of millions of light bulb strings like giant fairy lights.

A colourful sea of people sat around the lake’s edge, listening to the prayers and music coming from the speakers.

Most of them had dressed up for the day and were more than happy to let us take pictures. (As usual many also wanted pictures of us…)

People were lighting little prayer candles at the water’s edge and in corners and at shrines giving the place a beautiful, spiritual atmosphere.

More and more people crowded into the temple, till the occasional bumping into each other became a sardines-in-a-tin like pushing and shoving. So we decided to escape. And just in time it seemed. As we reached the courtyard outside, fireworks went off above the temple and even more people were rushing for the gates, trying to get a view from inside. Many just enjoyed them from the courtyard too.

Our token did indeed get us our shoes back and we wandered through the dark streets lit in many places by little prayer candles.

And guess who was waiting in our room for us!

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