It was already the end of a long and weary day when we reached Amritsar. We had little idea what the evening had in store for us. Thanks to some inspired googling, we were armed with the knowledge that a local version of marijuana, called Bhaang was an easily available commodity on the street. We were only familiar with one form of Bhaang – Bhaang Lassi, and therefore we started scouting for Lassi shops. A few futile attempts at a couple of such local shops had us a little less hopeful about acquiring the consignment. We had almost given up when we asked a local auto-wala if he knew any place that sold Bhaang. He sheepishly pointed to a local shop that sold general provisions, and told us we would get what we wanted there. Then, a little kid, no older than 6 years, sitting cross-legged in front of the shop pointed us to a Paan shop, with a definite grin on his face. And so, we proceeded to ask the paan-wala how much Bhaang would cost. He replied, ‘2 Rupees.’ I figured he had gotten confused that we were asking for Paan rather than Bhaang, and so I repeated our request. And to this, he said that he had Bhaang in the form of biscuits and each biscuit was just 2 Rupees. That did it. We bought biscuits for 30 bucks, and set off happily, smug about our successful score. We had no idea how many biscuits we needed to eat, or how high it would get us. We decided to be on the safer side, and the five of us popped two biscuits each. If insufficient, we would take one more later. Sound reasoning. In the spirit of praemonitus praemunitus, let me go ahead and tell you that the biscuits taste quite ghastly indeed.
The biscuits would take at least an hour to kick in. Quite innocuously, we entered the premises of the Golden Temple, and sat down near the lake in the middle silently looking out at the magnificent temple in front of us; all the while waiting for the initial buzz. We must have sat there for around half an hour. It had already been 45 minutes since the biscuits had been ingested. And we got up and looked around us. Boom. What was it? It was nothing like anything. The transition had been so smooth that only the movement had made us aware of it. A regular marijuana user would have been staggered, let alone a first timer. Everything seemed different. A warm pulse of energy rang through our heads, as we set out on a walk around the temple. Heck, a walk is a mild word. It seemed more like an expedition.
As we paced on, the effects of the Bhaang grew more and more intense. The brain seemed ridiculously capable of processing and perceiving more information, and coming to some deeply intimate conclusions. I think the location plays a great role in ‘trips’ like this. The temple was a marvelous scene for introspection. My first thought was that somehow, a mini-utopia had sprung into existence. As my thoroughly stimulated self slowly walked on, I watched magnanimous and selfless Sevadars offering large cups of water to the thirsty devotees. It was so simple, and yet, so brilliant. I remembered Da Vinci once writing about water being the life force of all nature. How nice to be offered a drink of water, I thought, as I got myself another bowl. I started grinning and looked around. There were poor, homeless people sleeping near the temple walls. As one entered the Golden Temple, he/she had no place for any ego. The symbolic act of covering your head with a scarf or cloth meant that everyone was together, seeking solace in an unknown force; a force that had been channeled most creatively to create a paradise of sorts. Soothing music played in the background (Kirtan) provided an atmosphere that I can only describe, weirdly, to be a homogeneous blend of serenity and courageous exuberance. I was humbled beyond repair.
All this was within an hour and a half of our entry to the temple. We were nowhere near the peak of the high. The temple seemed to be divided into three tiers, each resonating with subtle and unique vibrations. The next part was, according to me, the most magical. As we waited patiently in the line, to visit the inner chamber of the temple, a most delightful wave of calm crashed through my body. Evil, as an entity, had been negated. The very idea seemed stupid and laughable. If there existed anything called positive energy, this was it. In front of us, a couple of majestic looking devotees lifted up a majestic looking rope, and let people through, few at a time. I remember looking at them with awe, and a little fear, as well. As I looked around, I realized that I had been separated from my friends at some point. It didn’t matter. I was sure everyone was bound to be having a grand time on their own. And as my turn to enter the chamber came, I could barely conceal my excitement on what I was going to see. A Guru sat in the center of the scene, with a scroll in his hands. Or something like a scroll. I can hardly recall what he was doing because I was transfixed by his face. A breathtaking countenance of composure and a remarkable sense of purpose was what I managed to discern. There were other figures and activities going on in the inner chamber as well, but I was simply unable to peel my eyes away from what I had first glimpsed. As I walked out, the lingering image of the Guru in my mind told me that I had been absolutely blown away by what I had witnessed.
The rest of the trip pales in comparison, really. We had a delicious dinner at the famous Langar, where volunteers serve food throughout the day. This is carried out with a supreme attitude of service and compassion. It quite simply gives the Golden Temple its distinctive flavor, if you will. Everyone is welcome to partake of their heart’s content, but one is not allowed to leave with food on their plate. Of course, one can refuse and stop when being served. And as we walked out, with full stomachs and the warm satisfaction of having been treated to a phenomenal experience, it was difficult not to appreciate the marvel that is the Golden Temple and everything associated with it.
If you do plan on going to Amritsar, it goes without saying that you must visit the Golden Temple. For the more intrepid and adventurous, I would definitely recommend you searching for some Bhaang beforehand. They are easily available in several shops, packaged as Ayurvedic medicine, in the form of Golis, for 3 rupees a pop. Two Golis make for a phenomenal trip. It is true that a normal trip to the Sri Harmandir Sahib would arguably turn out to be a most riveting experience by itself. But on a Bhaang high, it promises to leave you with a spiritual experience that will have you spellbound.