We spent six weeks in India, the longest of any country we've visited. For all that time, however, we feel like we only became acquainted with India... It's such a huge country that there are giant regions we didn't even come close to seeing. That said, we enjoyed our time and already have a rough plan for what India trip 2 could look like someday. In the meantime, here are some final observations from the sub-continent.
Relations between India and Pakistan have been tense for a long time. Near Amritsar is the Wagah boarder crossing, what was for decades the only land crossing open between the two nations. Daily at sunset these rivals hold a ceremony for the lowering of the Indian and Pakistani flags at this crossing. How do these two rivals show their patriotism as their colors are lowered? With coordinated dance fighting, of course.
Langar is the word in Sikhism for a communal canteen that serves all people, regardless of religion, for free. The institution of langar was designed to uphold the Sikh principle of sharing and equality between all people regardless of caste, religion, age gender, or social status - a revolutionary idea back in the 16th century when the practice began. In this tradition, the Golden Temple is home to what might be the world’s largest soup kitchen, serving free, hot, vegetarian meals to an average of 100,000 visitors daily. We stopped by for lunch.
Our final excursion with Tori during her time with us in India was to Amritsar, located in India's northwest corner in the Punjab province. Amritsar is the holiest city in Sikhism and home to one of India's most famous religious sites, the Golden Temple Complex. We braved the cold weather, a dreary hotel room, and a six hour train ride (after several overnighters on the train already) to make it to this fascinating pilgrimage site.
The extreme western sliver of the Indian state of Rajasthan is the Thar Desert. The desert forms a natural barrier of sorts between India and Pakistan and provides a sparsely populated buffer between the two nations. From the Indian city of Jaisalmer you can book an excursion in the desert, riding out into the empty desert with a guide on camels and camping for a night (or two or 30) in nature. Tori, Kelsi, and I booked a one night adventure and rode our camels off towards (but not all the way to!) Pakistan to see what the desert held for us.
After our escapade at the textile factory, we took in some of the other sights of Jaipur. My personal favorite was Jantar Mantar, roughly translated "calculation instrument," a small park of astrological structures of unusual construction. We took some time one afternoon to poke around this highly accurate horoscope playground.