India is high on so many people’s ‘bucket lists’ and thousands of travellers make a pilgrimage to this country rich in culture and real life experiences.
Intrepid’s Yvette Thompson was overwhelmed by the beauty, contrasts, chaos and spirit of India, but it was the generosity of the Sikh temple that moved her to tears…
“Finally, I have found a religion that makes sense to me! Today we visited a Sikh temple: a place of peace and prayer in the middle of a seemingly disordered, dusty Delhi. As we made our way into the marble entrance, we walked through a pool of cool water, cleaning our soles, or perhaps cleansing our souls, or perhaps both. We made our way up the inside steps, the calm and quiet a vast difference from the perpetual beeping and yelling out on the streets.
Inside the temple sat maybe 100 people, in prayer. They sat cross-legged on the floor and all faced the same direction, towards a small stage of pink velvet and gold trim, under a huge chandelier. In the middle of the stage sat a man making patterns in the air with a large feather. Music accompanied his performance.
Here we learned the basic principles of the Sikh religion: Sikhs believe that there is only one god for all religions, and whilst ‘God’ may go by different names, that he is the same god. They do not believe in celibacy, but rather an honest life. They believe in the equality of all men and women regardless of race and gender, and that their religion is not confined to a certain area or to people of a certain origin.
You can spot a traditional Sikh by his hair, which is never cut, so his beard grows long and his hair is tied in a topknot. However, I noticed that the most striking feature about the Sikh men was the kindness in their eyes. I surveyed the room and noticed that it was a common trait amongst them all.
We made our way to the back of the temple where we discovered many locals sweating over enormous pots and saucepans. It looked like a scene out of Alice in Wonderland, the pans so big they were bigger than bath tubs. One man stirred what looked like a pool of lentils, another stirred a pool of curry, continually towelling the perspiration from his forehead.
Further along were six women, who between them created a production line of naan breads. They quickly and nimbly rolled wads of flour into neat balls. They then flattened them with their hands and rolled them until they were perfect circles. Each naan bread took them no more than five seconds to make. A man walked around the table endlessly picking up the naan and throwing them in an oven. No machine could have been so efficient.
The women invited us to help them with their naan making. It really wasn’t as easy as they made it look. My naan stuck to the pin and kept breaking apart, and then when I finally got the motion, there was no way that I could make mine resemble a circle!
The food was being prepared for the free lunch that the Sikh temple, that is provided every day for the hungry. It was great to be part of such a terrific community service. It’s these kind of experiences that Intrepid offers that are so difficult to find when travelling on your own. I could so easily have walked past this temple without even seeing it, which would have been such a shame.”
* Yvette travelled with Intrepid through India earlier this year, and we look forward to posting more of her real life experiences on our Express blog soon.
* photo by Carina Harris – Intrepid Photography Competition