The Shattered Dome

The story of the Gandhis’ biggest mistake, and how it still haunts Punjab

01 May 2014
NARINDER NANU / AFP / Getty Images
NARINDER NANU / AFP / Getty Images


EVERY SUMMER FOR THE FIRST FIFTEEN YEARS of my life, my family would travel to our village of Khankot. It lay on the outskirts of Amritsar amidst pear groves, now almost subsumed by the march of suburbia. The Golden Temple—or, to use the name most often invoked by the faithful, the Darbar Sahib—lay barely ten kilometres away. A visit soon after arrival was obligatory.

Even allowing for nostalgia, its memories evoke a rare tranquility. The chant of the gurbani rises and settles over the pool that surrounds the shrine, and gives the city its name—the sarovar of Amrit, or Amritsar. As the early morning light shimmers on the water, a sprinkling of pilgrims walk on the parikrama, the pathway that surrounds the pool, heading to the causeway leading to the central shrine encased in gold, the Harmandir Sahib.

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    Hartosh Singh Bal is the executive editor at The Caravan.

    Keywords: Indian Army Punjab Indira Gandhi Sikhs Rajiv Gandhi insurgency federalism Emergency Operation Bluestar Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale Khalistan Shiromani Akali Dal 1984 Sikh pogrom The Congress Chaos The Caravan Collection #13