Monday, July 26, 2010

Amritsar, Part I

We travelled to Amritsar for a week. Amritsar is the capitol of the state of Punjab and also the main pilgrimage site and “capitol” of the Sikh religion. The Sikh religion is a cross between Hinduism and Islam, but is very different than both. Sikhism came about around 500 years ago, and many Sikhs told us they are a “young religion” because of this. And compared to the other religions in India, they are young. For those of you that are LDS, there are surprisingly a lot of parallels between our religion and Sikhism. Someone once told me that the Sikhs are the “Mormons of the Middle East.” I’ll talk more about the religion in my next post, but for now I want to talk somewhat about the culture and people in Amritsar.

We stayed with a friend of a friend of one of the group members. He took us to his farm house, just outside of the city. It is a 250 year old fort, which is now a string of rooms (and nice rooms). We joked about how this building is older than our country. This “fortress” is a little outside of Amritsar, located in the middle of farm land. It was a beautiful place to be located! Surrounded by rice patties, fruit trees, and maize fields.

We spent part of a day following a local villager around the village. As we left the “fortress” area and walked down one of the dirt roads, suddenly a horde of people came out. The children ran to us and greeted us first, shaking all of our hands and saying “Hello, how are you?” As we got closer there was a large group of adults there as well. One man began playing a Punjabi drum and everyone started dancing. They pulled us in and got us a dance a little too. Welcome to Punjab!

Our village friend then took us to probably half a dozen different homes. Not many spoke English, but all welcomed us in, offered us drinks or food, and would communicate with us in whatever ways possible, usually just exchanging a few words. All the homes were simple- small, but clean, with beds, chairs, and usually a tv. Based on some other places I’ve seen in India, and based on the clothing of those in the village, this was a fairly well off village, though still a simple village.

The last house we visited had a couple English speakers. We stayed a bit longer there and learned more about the area and their family. The family was all smiles as we conversed. As we were leaving one of the young women said that her family was very happy we came. I couldn’t help but think really? Just from this motley crew? How different they must look at life, that when uninvited guests who can’t speak your language, show up at your house and you are able to find happiness in this? And I could tell she genuinely meant it, that her family really did enjoy our visit. It was a really neat experience and left me with a lot of thoughts.

1 comment:

Robyn Richardson said...

Thanks for posting your thoughts. India is such an amazing place that is so culturally diverse. Each state is entirely different than its neighbors. I'm glad that you got to go to Punjab, I hope to be able to go there some day!