Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Golden Temple in Amritsar

We visited the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The Golden Temple is the most important religious site for the Sikh faith. In Sikhism there is a belief that everyone is equal. The Golden Temple provides food and lodging 24-7 for anyone who wants or needs it. The temple serves 50,000 meals a day. Anyone is welcome to come and eat for free, not just Sikhs. Many people volunteer in the kitchen each day cooking and cleaning. We helped sort Chapatis into stacks and then put them into big metal buckets. We also helped roll out chapatis and shaped dough into balls. Chapati is a whole-wheat flat bread similar to a pita.
There are five symbols of Sikhism.
1) Long Hair- the Sikhs believe that hair is the gift of God. Cutting ones hair would be destroying God's gift. Men braid there hair and keep it wrapped in a turban. They also tend to have a lot of facial hair. Women only have to cover their hair when they are in a temple.
2) A Comb- to keep the long hair neat and to remind one of good hygiene. All of the Sikh people I saw were very neat and clean in their appearances. It's a big part of the faith.
3) Undershorts- Sikhs wear a pair of undershorts under their clothing as a representation of chastity and faith to ones spouse. Sikhism is not a religion that encourages or accepts polygamy. The shorts also remind one of that.
4) A Sword- Sikhs carry a small sword to represent the duty to defend those in need. Some Sikhs carry big swords, but they are purely symbolic.
5) Silver Bangle- A simple bangle is worn on the working hand to remind Sikhs if their faith and the responsibilities that come with it. Sikhs do not drink or smoke, they are accepting of others.

We arrived in Dharamsala two days ago. It is the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. There are also thousands of Tibetans living in Exile here. Many people flee over the Himalayas out of Tibet seeking religious freedom.
Yesterday we met with a woman named Ama Adhe. She lives on the top floor of a building that houses newly arrived refugees and helps them get on their feet. Ama Adhe spent twenty-seven years in prison in Tibet and China. She stayed in a work camp with three hundred women. All but four people died of starvation there. They were only given three cups of broth each day and they were worked to death. Ama Adhe came to India in the eighties(I think). She told the Chinese that she was going to visit her sister in Nepal and that she would bring her sister back with her, Once in Nepal she asked for asylum and then went into India. She has been telling her story for many years and had a book written about her life called "The Voice That Remembers".

Five of us students are going into home stays tomorrow. We will be living with a Tibetan family for a week.This is a wonderful way to get to know Tibetan people and to understand the culture better.


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