Thursday, March 12, 2009


Believers’ land

Northwestern Punjab (NW India) cradles the seat of Sikhism Amritsar, with the quintessential Temple in marble, bronze and gold leaf. Not just the fascinating Golden Temple, Amritsar’s claim to fame also owes to the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak and Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, who found this land befitting to meditate in a gap of some 2000 years. Legends even have it that saint Valmiki wrote the great religious epic Ramayana here. A halo exudes from this land --- not for your vision, but for your senses, that leaves you sanctified by the time you are ready to leave.

Tale of the City

The city’s genesis can be traced back to the then prevailing belief that the waters of its lake (the present Amrit Sarovar or the lake of Nectar) had medicinal properties that could cure ailments as serious as leprosy. This place became the obvious choice of Guru Amar Das and his successor Ram Das to lay the cornerstone of their faith. By 1577 a tank was constructed and believers etched a small village its vicinity. The fifth Sikh Guru Arjan Sahib, constructed a temple right at the middle of that tank. Legends have it that at his behest Hazrat Mian Mir ji of Lahore (a Muslim peer), laid the cornerstone of the temple in December, 1588. Laborious toils of Sikh devotees followed to give to the world one of its most beautiful shrines ever. The tank was christened Amritsar - that became the very name of that place.


The Golden Temple: The Golden Temple, popular as Sri Harmandir Sahib or Sri Darbar Sahib, is the sacred seat of Sikhism. Bathed in a quintessential golden hue that dazzles in the serene waters of the Amrit Sarovar that lace around it, the swarn mandir (Golden temple) is one that internalizes in the mindscape of its visitors, no matter what religion or creed, as one of the most magnificent House of Worship. On a jewel-studded platform is the Adi Grantha or the sacred scripture of Sikhs wherein are enshrined holy inscriptions by the ten Sikh gurus and various Hindu and Moslem saints.While visiting the Golden Temple you need to cover your head. Street sellers sell bandanas outside the temple at cheap prices.

Monument of Jalianwala Bagh: This is the Martyr's Memorial built in the memory of the unarmed people who died in an open firing by General Dyer on April13, 1919. The place still resonates of the tragedy that registers itself as one of the cruelest in the history of humanity.

Ram Bagh: Here is the summer palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and a museum. This garden is laid out on the pattern of Shalimar Bagh at Lahore. The museum houses miniatures, coins, weapons and the replica of most famous diamond Kohinoor.

Mata Mandir Temple: An old pious lady built a Hindu temple at Rani ka Bagh, in the lines of holy shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi at Katra (Jammu). Pilgrims from far and wide flock to seek the late Mata’s blessings.


Shop at the Hall Bazar and Lawrence Road for souvenirs and other branded wears. Do not forget to pack your bags with some exquisite Amritsari woolens and blankets, juttis and embroidered stuff.

A lesser known fact is that 99% of the world's wooden chess is made in Amritsar ! Not just simple wooden chess, here you can buy Camel Bone Chess, Artistic Chess, Chess Boards, Chess Boxes and what not. Go to Focal Point (industrial Area) and you'll find many small houses who make chess boards right at their homes. Another souvenir is the orange colored Golden Temple banadana -- buy one for yourself and then a whole bunch for friends.


Amritsaris love to eat, drink and be merry. Punjabi culinary has always been a gourmet’s delight and with dhabas (roadside restaurants) at every bend of street, there is no end to feasting your taste buds. Piping-hot Makke di roti (corn-flour flatbreads), Sarso da saag (fried mustard leaves), lassi (yogurt shake) are the pride-of-the-platter amongst other concoctions. Butter and milk are an important and indispensable part of everything. And needless to say, a heavenly hiatus from those dietery regimes.

Some spots to head to: Kesar da Dhaba in Bazaar Passian for vegetarian food, Makhan Dhaba (Lawrence Rd.) for luscious Amritsari fish, Kundan Dhaba (opposite Hall Gate) for yummiest traditional Punjabi platter, Ahuja Lassiwalla (near Hindu Mahasabha College) for that glass of lip-smacking Lassi, Surjit Chicken (Lawrence Rd.) for delicious butter chicken and kulchas or lachedar parathas, Crystal for your very familiar Chinese and Continental cuisines, but with an emphasis on North Indian specialties.


The Five “K’s” of the Sikh’s: The most distinguishing feature of every Sikh is undoubtedly the turban and the beard. Other than that, Sikh’s have five must-have’s known as kakkar in Punjabi to stand united as part of Guru Gobind Singh's sacred Khalsa brotherhood --- Kesh (hair they are not supposed to cut their hair ever), Kangha (comb, to keep the hair neat), Kirpan (saber or sword a symbol of dignity), Kaccha (loose underpants a symbol of their modesty), Karra (traditional steel bangle symbol of fearlessness).


Wagah Border (28 km): Wagah, an army outpost on Indo-Pak border is of tourist interest because of the “Beating the Retreat” ceremony every evening. Soldiers from both countries march in perfect drill and the ceremonial lowering of the flags is carried out with great pomp. As the sun sets, nationalistic fervor reaches its zenith and lights are switched on amidst thunderous applause.

35 Gurudwaras around Amritsar: Buses leave from the clock tower near the Golden Temple at 8 am and returns around 5 pm after touring the 35 Gurudwaras including those at Gobindwala, Tarn Taran, Baba Bikala, Buddha Sahib, Khadoor Sahib, Damdama Sahib and Chheharta.

Hari-ka-patan: Situated just outside the city at the confluence of the Beas and Sutlej rivers, this is a favorite picnic spot peopled by tourists, myriad birds and anglers.

Location :
In Punjab, 410km NW of Delhi

Go there for :
Golden Temple, Wagah Border

Climate :
34°-15°C (Sum); 18°-0°C (Win)

When to Go:
Oct - Mar

Local Tongue:

Literacy :

STD Code :
+91 - 183

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