Andrew Buncombe: Hypnotic sound of music and prayer

Indian Notebook: The combination of music and prayer and people, walking clockwise, was mesmeric

We had said we'd be there before first light. We had said we'd beat the crowds. And it was not as though we had far to walk; our hotel room overlooked the Golden Temple complex. As it was, lazy to the core, it was well into the mid-morning before we found ourselves, headscarves dutifully in place, shuffling in a crowd of thousands along the inscribed marble walkway that led to the temple, located in the centre of the pool. For Sikhs, the visit to the temple complex, and to bathe in the beautifully clean waters, is a lifetime's ambition. And no wonder; this remarkable, friendly, spiritual place is a wonder to behold. As we edged forward, the haunting sound of musicians, performing inside the complex, played out across the speakers. The music would build to a crescendo and the crowd would gain a few more yards. Then it would calm. People would pause.

Eventually we squeezed into the ornate valuted interior where the faithful bowed and knelt before the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib. [The 10th Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, declined to name a successor, deciding instead that the religious text should be the final Guru.] The combination of music and prayer and people, walking clockwise, was mesmeric, almost hypnotic. "You are from England?" asked one friendly devotee, as he pushed his way past. "I am living in Hayes. I had a meat shop there but I had to sell it." In a moment, the man was gone, lost in the crowds. Had I imagined this unlikely encounter? No, it had been real. Moments later we were back outside, blinking in the bright Amritsar sunshine and making our way out. And the line of people heading in was just as long.

Wonderful legs of steel

The journey to Amritsar had not started well. My better half had decided to try out a new taxi service "run by women, for women". The taxi showed up late. Worse, the female driver declared she could not let me get in. "No men." Heated words were said. An exception was made. While she had fulfilled every sexist stereotype of being unable to use a map or be on time, the woman drove like a wonder – a mad, deranged, speeding wonder. Somehow, she got us to the station on time. Thirty minutes later, we received a text: "Highly sorry about the delay."

At Amritsar station, there was no sign of the hotel taxi. Instead we climbed aboard a rickety rickshaw, pedalled by a wiry rickshaw-wallah with leg of steel. His English was excellent. "Your country is very good country," he began. "Two years ago, woman from Newcastle is buying me this rickshaw. Yes, good country."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'