Where the Golden Temple Glitters: Amritsar, Punjab
Amritsar, also known as Ambarsar was founded in 1577 by the fourth Sikh Guru Ram Das. The city is home to Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the spectacular Golden Temple or the Harmandir Sahib.
Located in the state of Punjab, the city of Amritsar close to the Pakistan border and is 450 kms from Delhi, the national capital. It is interestingly 230 kms from Chandigarh, the capital city of Punjab state but just 50 kms from the Pakistani city of Lahore. The city is well connected by rail, road and airways. One can choose to go either by plane, road or train to this city.
Amritsar witnessed the horrifying Jallianwala Bagh Massacre during British Rule where General Dyre in 1919 opened fire on a peaceful gathering, which resulted in the death of 400 innocent people and with 1200 being injured. Actual figures were much more than these official figures. This has lead to Jallianwala Bagh becoming an iconic landmark in the freedom struggle of India.
Wagah Border, the only open international border between India and Pakistan, which is officially accessible by both countries, hosts a closing ceremony known as ‘lowering the flags’ ceremony. This Retreat ceremony is a daily martial custom followed by the Border Security Force (India) and Sutlej Rangers (Pakistan), since 1959. Timings for this amazing ceremony are before sunset, at around 4:30 pm.
The crowd is always cheering and screaming “Jai Hind” and “Vande Matram”, while Pakistani nationals scream “Pakistan Zindabad”. One can feel a different level of patriotism in the 45 minute ceremony with soldiers marching, and the aura of celebrations.
The Golden Temple, the spiritual centre of the Sikhs, has a fascinating history behind its planning and construction. Popularly known as ‘Darbar Sahib’, it has four entrances, which symbolise an open invitation to all to visit the shrine. The incredible amount of pure gold on the shrine is much more than one can see in pictures.
The Golden Temple is surrounded by water on all four sides and that’s what gives the city its name – ‘Amrit-sar’, meaning, ‘lake of nectar’. Cold breeze, sparkling waters make a beautiful image of the Golden Temple. Sitting beside the sarovar, listening to Gurbani is a blissful experience one can ever have.
The city has the oldest train link also known as Attari which runs between India and Pakistan since partition in 1947. Attari station is about 4 kms from Wagah Border. The Samjhauta Express or the Attari Express leaves the Old Delhi Railway Station and travels to Attari where the Attari Express changes formally into the Samjhauta Express. After the customs and immigration clearances at Attari, the passengers start their journey to Lahore, Pakistan through the Wagah Border.
Besides all the historical places, Amritsar is a paradise for food lovers. Right from the Golden Temple Langar to famous ‘dhabas’ – some more than a century old; the city has various eating options for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians as well as for sugary lovers.
Kesar da Dhaba is one legendary eat-out which opened in 1916 in Lahore and shifted to Amritsar during the Partition. They prepare and serve food the same way since they opened. It would not be wrong if we call Amritsar, the land of butter chicken, lassi and chole kulche.
Finding accommodation in Amritsar is not a problem as one can stay at the Golden Temple or can find a decent room around the temple for an economical rate. There are a range of hotels to choose from which include a few five star hotels.
Amritsar is all about peace and rejuvenation. It is a must visit for people for a soulful journey as well as to feel one with India’s history and patriotic flavour.
Text & Photography: Heena Raheja
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