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Archive for March, 2015

5641 Amritsar

Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab, April 22, 2010

 

The Golden Temple of Amritsar in Punjab is truly a wonder, and not simply because of the beautiful and elaborate solid gold upper storeys of the Harmandir Sahid, the structure at the centre of the complex seen here in the background. It is a huge site – a square of gleaming white marble colonnades surrounding a central man-made lake, or tank – and is without a doubt one of the cleanest, most stunning places in the world. The perfection of the architecture and the standard to which it is maintained is immediately apparent. Upon entering through one of the four temple gates (symbolic of the openness of the Sikhs to all who wish to visit, irrespective of religion), the blinding white marble is just as striking as the shining gold.

This was without a doubt one of the highlights of my first visit to India. I flew in first thing in the morning, after an overnight stay in Delhi en route from Darjeeling. I had not had anywhere near enough sleep and felt a little overwrought, which actually heightened my experience, intensifying the emotional response to the magnificence of this site. There was so much to be appreciated here – the chanting and music which played throughout (on without a doubt the best P.A in India), creating a peacefully exotic atmosphere; the spear-wielding, turbaned temple guards; the gorgeous, colourful clothes of the Indian visitors, so luminous against the white backdrop; the dreamy reflections in the water of the lake, and the almost cloying niceness of every single person I met.

Apart from the impressive appearance of the place, I was astonished to learn that the temple feeds up to 40,000 people each day, for free, through the efforts of volunteers. This involves using around 12,000kg of flour a day, and the number of people fed can rise as high 100,000 on religious holidays and weekends. This seemed to coincide with how nice everyone was. I had several locals approach me, all wanting to make friends and talk to me. This is not uncommon in India, but the locals around the temple in Amritsar seemed somehow to be the sweetest people I’d ever met and I actually was left feeling terribly guilty when I finally made excuses and walked away from them.

Originally I intended to stay in the town, but ended up just visiting the temple for four hours before taking a bus north to McLeod Ganj. It was a short, but sweet visit and the temple has left indelible images in both my mind and camera.

This photo is taken from just outside one of the gates, looking back into the temple. I chose this one for its various vignettes – the man inquiring of the temple guard, the cleaner, the woman taking the photograph and the man in the striped shirt who may or not be accompanying the man in the white turban. It reminds me fondly of the different people who visit the temple for different purposes and of the people who look after and maintain the place.

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2525 Hampi

Hampi, India, January 5, 2013

This shot was taken by the river that flows through Hampi in northern Karnataka in India. There is no bridge across the river at this point and the stairs here lead down to the bank along which the tiny ferry – a small, uncovered boat with outboard motor – collects and unloads passengers. The stairs pictured here were also a popular place for resting in the shade.

These school-children may have been locals, or else they may have come to Hampi on an excursion to see the extensive archaeological ruins, which I have written about elsewhere. As is so often the case in India, they wanted their photo taken and called out to me to do so. Unlike so many other children who asked for their photo to be taken, the young chap in the middle didn’t smile, but rather offered a far more serious and quizzical expression.

Aside from the strong contrast of the sunlit boy against the dark shadows on the stairs, it is his expression and body language that I most like about this photo. Every time I look at his face, I detect an intelligent and discerning personality – he strikes me as a real thinker. There is almost a hint of disapprobation in his look – the frown, which forms a neat triangle at the top of his nose, seems to indicate some frustration or impatient curiosity – or perhaps he is just squinting into the sun. Though their faces can barely be seen in the shadow, the other children are also an interesting mix of expressions, with only the one in the middle smiling unreservedly. Something gave me the impression that the main subject was older than the others, or in some way more mature, and that his friends looked up to him. Of course, one can never be certain in these brief, stolen moments.

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