I walked the courtyard, prayers being chanted, incense being burned then turned a corner to see this sadhu smiling animatedly. We couldn't share a conversation but I was able to give him a Polaroid of himself as a gift. He seemed extremely thankful for the present then said a little blessing for me before parting with a handshake.
Minutes after taking this picture, I was invited to join these women in to leave offerings at the temples of Kajuraho. They spoke no English, I spoke no Hindi (except what I could manage with a phrase book) but we understood each other. I Ended up spending four days with the women, learning to make chapatis and how to wear a sari, and trying to explain why I was traveling alone.
A gurdwara is a Sikh place of worship and the one in the photo is Goindwal. Located in the town by the same name, it’s a popular place for the local Sikh community to go to but few tourists know about it even though it’s located only a very short distance from the famed Golden Temple.
The locals here are very friendly and more than happy to explain their religion and faith to you and to give you a few pointers about visiting the gurdwara. You can also join them for a free meal, called the langar, in the main dining hall.
What makes Goindwal special is its baoli, or covered well. The well sits below the gold domed structure known as “Baoli Sahib”. There are 84 steps leading down into the well which is large enough for people to bathe in or perform ablutions. There is no charge but the line can be long. When you get to the bottom of the steps, there are separate areas for women and men....
For serious architecture buffs, the Baha'i Temple in New Delhi is not to be missed. Popularly called "The Lotus Temple" because it looks like a blossoming lotus flower, the interior is a marvel of light and engineering.
Be forewarned: getting in and out can be a little bit of a cattle call because of all the locals that go-- so only go if you're so excited about architecture that you're willing to wait in a line in the hot sun.
Touring the Wayanad district of Kerala we came upon a temple where this folk dancer was performing Chakyarkoothu, a style of dance from in the area. This dancer is dressed as Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god. Five drummers thrummed a fast beat while he stomped and spun in a trance. Several temple attendants assisted the dancer while he acted out a mythic story and they propped him back upright when he fell backward from dizziness, exhaustion, or whatever concoction he had taken to enter his trance. A small crowd formed outside the temple to watch this loud and colorful display that like so many other beautiful art forms in India was a blend of faith, tradition, and artistry.
India is becoming modernized at a rapid pace, but if you find a way to travel through the rural mountains of Kerala you may be lucky enough to stumble upon the colorful Chkyarkoothu dancers. Look for a village temple...
Amritsar is a popular tourist destination in India and people from all over the world come here to see The Golden Temple.
But once you're done admiring the beauty of the temple, walk around and observe. Look at how almost every individual is genuinely willing to serve you. Right from taking your shoes before you enter the temple, to washing utensils of those who have just finished their free lunch at the 'Langar'. They volunteer at the temple because they believe that service of any kind here is service to The Almighty.
P.S - Do not miss to visit the temple at night. Brilliant experience!
Sikhs and non-Sikhs go to Amritsar for one reason – to see the Golden Temple (Hamandir Sahib) so, that is what I did on my most recent trip to India. Except, I went on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday which is a national holiday in India and because of that, I expected the place to be crowded with locals enjoying a day off. It was indeed crowded so much so I could barely walk. I returned the next day thinking it would be better and it was but it was still packed with people. I did manage to see the place but not quite in the way that I wanted to experience a holy site. So, I hopped in a taxi and went down the road to Tarn Taran Sahib. There, I found a place of religious tranquility and a golden temple that was just as beautiful albeit on a smaller scale. Sikh devotees were out and about but there was not a throng of people. It was just the place I was looking for!