I have neglected to put up my final thoughts for nearly 2 weeks. Granted, as soon as I returned to the States I went up to first Boston, then Downeast Maine, and then New Hampshire for nearly a week. I’ve still had a week to get this final post made, but I keep procrastinating like it is some kind of school assignment. On a related note, this is the first September I can ever remember where I didn’t go back to school. It’s going to be a strange adjustment.
My trip in India closed out with a torrential downpour on Thursday. It rained so much that in monsoon-drenched Delhi it was still newsworthy for the shear amount of flooding. Roads had at least a foot of rain on them, one of the roads I was on had rain as high as the tires. Why was I out in this weather? Well, I was taking a trip to the National Museum. By the time I reached the rain had stopped and I had a good two hours to spend at this museum.
I cut Thursday short, because I needed to hurry to sleep so I could wake up bright and early the next morning. I took a quick flight to Amritsar and by 9:00 I was in a different city and on my way to the Golden Temple. I’ll be honest and say I found the Golden Temple to be much more astounding than the Taj Mahal. One is simply a tourist site, that being the Taj Mahal. The Golden Temple is serenaded by prayer and song and for as many people there to see the complex there are at least the same amount of Sikhs there for strictly religious reasons. I had a good driver on this day, he showed me around the entire complex. I visited corners of it I would not have seen had I just been there by myself.
A short walk away is the Jallianwala Bagh, site of an infamous massacre in 1919. Today the place is a memorial for the roughly 1,500 Indians who died. The incident has been covered in history enough that if you are curious about it you can Google it. I’ll just say that this is a very solemn place, the bullet holes are still in the walls and you can see the well where so many jumped into to escape gunfire. It reminds you of the independence struggle of the first half of the 20th century, and the amount of people who died for it.
I then spent the next few hours at Amritsar’s lesser-known tourist sites. The Maharaja Ranjit Singh museum, dedicated to the legendary Punjabi leader of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. As with Jallianwala Bagh, historians have covered him extensively so if you’re curious you can search for more information on him. The museum is small, but has interesting dioramas of important moments in his life. About halfway through my walk of the museum the power happened to go out, and it never fully was restored. As a result all the daytime scenes turned to nighttime scenes.
I also visited two Mandirs in Amritsar. During the entire time I spent in the city it was overcast and the weather was comfortable. There was still some humidity, but it wasn’t the overpowering heat I was used to. This all changed when I reached Wagah Border at about 3:00 in the afternoon. The sun magically came out and the temperature skyrocketed. You have to get here early to guarantee yourself a spot, there’s a section for foreigners but I chose instead to sit in the section with Indians (they separate males and females). The flag lowering on this border with Pakistan doesn’t begin until later in the evening, I think close to 6:00. I was sitting with thousands of people for over an hour waiting for it to start. It was so overwhelmingly hot that I was absolutely drenched in sweat, and the funny part was as soon as the ceremony was over I would have to hurry back to my driver and get to the airport for my flight. You can imagine how terrible I must have looked at the airport, but I doubt I was the only tourist who had just come from Wagah.
On Saturday I visited Akshardham, a massive Swaminarayan temple in Delhi on the banks of the Yamuna River. It is a new complex, having just opened in 2005. I went to a Swaminarayan temple in London during my time there in 2006. That temple was beautiful, but Akshardham is much, much bigger. It comes complete with the Hall of Values, a tour featuring lifesize robotic dioramas, an IMAX theater, and a boat tour of Indian history. The main temple itself is beautiful. It’s certainly a must-see for someone visiting Delhi.
With that my tour of India came to a close. The next day, following a farewell meal of South Indian food I said goodbye to India. My flight left on Sunday night and by Monday morning, thanks to time zones, I was back in New York City. That afternoon I took a long bus ride to Boston and managed to fend off jetlag. Perhaps that last accomplishment is the greatest one of my entire trip. I would love to do it again, and I can’t wait to return to India sometime in the future.