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Photographer's Note

Craig (macjake) asked if my long-dreamt-of visit at the Golden Temple matched my expectations. So I decided I’ll write a bit more about how it felt to be there.

I’ve already mentioned that my first impression was… it was cold. Only 6 degrees Celsius and you spend the whole visit walking with your bare feet. The choice of flooring is cold marble or wet carpets but avoiding the latter doesn’t help keep your trotters dry - at the entrance to the temple complex you have walked across a puddle of water to symbolically wash your feet. I’m sure the opposite applies during summer months, when all the surfaces must be frying-pan hot.

However, visiting in January had its benefits - I was one of very very few foreign visitors and most people around were genuine Sikh worshippers. The atmosphere was that of a festival. I’ve mentioned the temperature and you’ve seen the views in my photos but the sound is also worth mentioning. So much so, that I recorded it for you to listen to, if you can spare 51 seconds!

https://youtu.be/wQpIG9lyv2Y

I really enjoyed being there - join the crowd for awhile then sit and watch people walking around the pool.

A word of warning though – it’s not a hippie paradise Europeans once believed the whole of Asia is. Just like everywhere in India, there are lots of dos and don’ts (and lots of signs, that explain what you must not do). Typically, as we all well know, signs are not enough to keep people from mischief, so the temple complex is policed by several guardians, all tall guys with fierce look, each brandishing a long wooden spear (see WS photo).

As for photography, it is strictly forbidden to use your camera inside the Harminder Sahib shrine. Everywhere else… it’s a bit of a lottery. I spent the first hour or so, sitting on the floor, taking photos and making videos of what was happening around me with camera on a tripod. The guardians passed by, and, other than a quick glance, seemed to pay no attention to my “activities”. Until, much later, I took a snap of the area where men were changing before taking a dip in the pool (see WS). You can’t see much but of course I knew I was doing something inappropriate (well, it wasn’t me; it’s “my inner photographer” that made me do it!) and that I would get told off. Afterwards, I was approached several times by the guardians and stopped from taking most innocent kind of photos. I protested and pointed out that everyone else was taking photos and was taken aback by the reply: “it is forbidden to take photos with this type of camera, madam”. Fortunately, at this point, a group of the worshippers intervened and explained to the guardian: “no, this camera is ok”. After that, I was allowed to continue for the rest of the afternoon. The incident made me smile – something to note in my diary.

However, come blue hour, I was suddenly approached again and informed that tripods were not permitted. I took this (and many other images) with my camera resting on the floor.

But that didn’t spoil the mood. All and all, seeing this place, 3 and half decades after I’d first heard of it and being there was travel magic in its purest form. I hope I managed to capture some of it in the images I took.






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Additional Photos by Kasia Nowak (kasianowak) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1597 W: 9 N: 3247] (16832)
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