I spent several days in the Punjab, an Indian state which borders Pakistan and most of that time in Amritsar a city near the border. The name Amritsar is derived from "amrit" which refers to the nectar of immortality and "sar" which means lake. The city is home to the Golden Temple and is also the cultural and spiritual center of the Sikh religion. The name of the city describes the temple in the middle of the lake as well the spirit of the place.

In order for anyone to enter the Golden temple area it's required that they put on a small cotton head scarf. I was also told to remove my shoes and socks and wash my feet -- in the (I hoped) clean water flowing through several channels at the entrance. While in the compound I went out through another of the four entrances (again washing my feet out and back) to visit the Guru ka langar or free kitchen where food is prepared by volunteer families and eaten by anyone in need in a community setting -- all sitting on the floor.

The line of worshippers (and sightseers) to the temple itself was long but moved quickly -- there were some foreigners but mostly Indians and, of those, mostly Sikhs. My guide took me through the main hall and up to the roof. The sky was overcast so I can't say that the view was magnificent but the view of the temple, from any direction, is.

At the border there is an energetic mock war ceremony performed each night at the time of flag lowering by both the Indians and the Pakistanis -- each on their own side and observed each by its own audience (although anywhere you are you can hear the amplified sounds of the other and, depending on where you're sitting, you can view some of the other). It's loud and martial but, at the same time, humorous and lighthearted. Wagah border town is about a half hour drive from Amritsar and then there's a 15 minute walk from the parking lot. It was like a rock concert with several thousand people in the stands -- only the gyrations were more formalized and the guitars were missing.