Day 2 of our 3 days in Amritsar begins leisurely. We have nowhere to be until the afternoon when we’ll check out the Wagah Border Closing ceremony on the border with Pakistan. I had hoped to do a day trip to Lahore in Pakistan as it’s generally considered safe for tourists, but Maggie said she wasn’t going anywhere ‘dangerous’ until she paid off all her student loans. Then she would go wherever I would lead. But until then, we’ll have to go shopping and sightseeing in Amritsar instead.
Our first stop was Jallianwala Bagh, the site of the Amritsar Massacre. Back in 1919 during British rule of India, the British Army fired on a large group of peaceful protesters. The park is walled in so they had nowhere to go. The army mainly focused it’s fire on the exits as people were fleeing. Many Indians jumped into the well to escape the gunfire. British numbers say 320 were killed, but Indians estimate the number at over a thousand. Today, this place is a lovely park where locals spend time and relax.
This massacre is believed to have been a step in the direction of an independent India.
As we left the park and wandered around the shops, we came across one selling all sorts of jutti’s, Punjabi shoes that can be worn on either foot. They were so beautifully decorated so of course we had to stop and buy some!
We all left with at least one pair, I got those greenish blue ones above to the right, but knowing how inexpensive they were and how pretty, I wish I would have bought another pair or two.
By this point, all the sightseeing and shopping had us starving. We found a place called Brother’s Dhara, which had come highly recommended by our local friends and stopped for lunch and a rest. Then we went back to the hotel to get ready to catch a shuttle to the Pakistani border.
It’s so interesting to see the stark contrasts between the two nations. On the Indian side, there’s crowds of people dancing in the street, loud music playing and a very joyful atmosphere. On the Pakistani side, men sit on one side, women and children on the other. There are a lot less of them, and they are very quite. But both sides fly their countries flag with pride, and the whole event is quite harmonious, especially for two countries that otherwise don’t get along.
We are able to get pretty decent seats to see the proceedings, and after the crowd dies down, the ceremony begins with a call and repeat by the guards on both sides of the gate.
Then the gates are opened and the soldiers on both sides do a series of quick marches up and down the street. A lot is happening, but we’re not really sure what it all means. It’s full of pomp and circumstance, and really cool to see how similar the Pakistani guards look.
Soon, it’s time to lower the flags. Once again, it’s a very harmonious ceremony, making you forget about the tensions between these two countries.
After the flags are down and folded up for the evening, the guards marched off and the gates were officially closed for the night. This is the point where we’re all allowed to leave our seats and take pictures.
It’s a really enjoyable ceremony to watch and I hope to return someday and actually visit Lahore.