Caitlin Joensson - India Study Tour 2015

Photo credit: Margaret Quixley

Photo credit: Margaret Quixley

After feeling the toll from train rides, crazy traffic and being dragged into numerous photos with locals in Delhi, I found Amritsar to be a welcome change. Exhausted from the late night train arrival the night before, we woke to a classic Indian “continental” breakfast; stale cornflakes, toast with questionable butter, a banana and chai.

We ate what we could and then made our way as a group towards Jallianwala Bagh, a site in which approximately 1500 Indians were shot by the British in 1919 as they performed a peaceful protest. Now a park in which families sit peacefully together and picnic, it was hard to imagine that such am atrocity was committed almost 100 years ago.

After reflecting on the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre we made our way to The Golden Temple, a beautiful display of Sikh infrastructure. We covered our heads and removed our shoes outside the temple gate and followed a great crowd of religious worshippers into the temple gates. The Golden Temple was surrounded by what we would see as a moat. To the followers of the Sikh religion however this water is much more, a way of cleansing themselves. Many men and women bathed at the temple, dipping somewhat unwilling children into the chilly water. Many selfies were taken, chai was given and new friends were made. At one point as I wandered around the temple, I was ushered in to have chai with Caity and Erin. Knowing it was rude to refuse we went along with the process in which we were given delicious biscuits and sweets.

Already feeling touched by the beauty and generosity of the Sikh religion we made our way to have lunch at the Langar, a feast in which anyone from any religion or background could come and enjoy a free hearty meal. The experience was incredible and the food was delicious. To be welcomed into this religious practice with such genuine kindness was something to aspire to. I left feeling that Sikhism was a religion in which the human race should definitely admire and look up to.

The day for me had already been very impressive, but Amritsar still had more in store for our tour group. We made our way to the India-Pakistan border where we would witness the Wagah Border closing ceremony, a daily display of the tensions and battle for dominance between the two countries. Men in funny red hats displayed great flexibility with their high air kicks, Indians danced and cheered and it was all accompanied by the playing of a drum kit by a man on the border control office roof. We were quickly ushered away after the ceremony to avoid the stampede of patriotic Indians who rushed to the border gate. Previous worries about the safety of the ceremony left our minds as we made our way home to our hotel, impressed by the performance we had just witnessed.

Amritsar surely was an experience to remember!

Caitlin Joensson, Perth