The city of Amritsar has evolved over the years around the Golden temple and its large pond. The city derives its name from the pond surrounding the shrine (Amritsar- Pool of nectar). Located close to Pakistan border and just 50 Kms from Lahore, Amitsar has over the years witnessed attacks by various invaders such as Mughals and Afghans apart from the fights between the Sikhs. The city was also marred by the Jallianwala bagh massacre during independence struggle, the partition and Blue star operation in 1984. However, the divine city has overcome all the scars and is a popular place among travellers and the Golden temple is supposedly one of the most visited monuments in the country. The city is also known for its shopping avenues and a host of eateries.
1. Harmandir Sahib
Though often referred as Golden temple, Harmandir Sahib is the official name of this shrine which is also popularly known as Sri Darbar Sahib. The tank was built by Guru Ram Dass, the fourth Sikh guru in 1577 CE and the gurudwara was built after that by the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan in late 16th century. This is the most revered place of worship in Sikhism and the shrine was given a gold plating in the 19th century by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. As you walk across the marble steps, the shrine surrounded by the divine lake showcases itself gorgeously bathed in gold. Though it remains crowded all through the day, a walk along the periphery of the lake listening to the hymns is an ideal way to soak in the ambience of this divine place. A causeway leads to the shrine which houses Adi Granth, the holy book of Sikhism. The complex also houses other shrines, Alkal Takht (the Eternal Throne), a museum and a community hall which also has the largest free community kitchen in the world. Anyone who visits here should definitely experience the langaar (free food provided by the kitchen). It is well recommended to visit Harmandir Sahib twice, once during the day and at night. The shrine is at its glorious best during the night when it is lit up all across.
2. Jallianwala Bagh
Jallianwala bagh is presently a well laid out garden with two memorials and a gallery. During the British rule in 1919 CE, this place was filled with massacred bodies of more than three hundred Indians. General Dyer closed the only entrance to the ground and then opened fire here against an unarmed Indian crowd who had gathered to listen to nationalist speeches. Apart from the three hundred who died which included women and children, more than a thousand people were injured. Many jumped into a well nearby to save themselves. Presently, the garden with its memorials and walls with bullet marks informs visitors with stories from the pre-independence times.
3. Old City
A walk through the old city takes you through its many gates, crowded bazaars, eateries serving delicious cuisines and shops selling a wide range of items from curios, jewellery, kitchenware and consecrated weaponry. Rambagh garden located in the middle of the old town is an ideal place to relax and spend the evenings. Apart from the tank at Harmandir Sahib, the city has a few other tanks such as Santokhsar, Bibeksar, Ramsar and Kaulsar.
4. Partition museum
When India became India and Pakistan in 1947 CE, people who lived in Amritsar and along the border had to undergo torrid times as the place was battered with many losing their families and identities. Partition museum has an extensive collection of stories, documents and photographs from the times of independence and partition. The museum is a tribute to the martyrs and the people who had to undergo those excruciating experiences. The museum is closed on Mondays and photography isn't allowed inside.
5. Durgiana temple
Modeled on Harmandir Sahib, this shrine is dedicated to Durga and is a prominent temple in the city. With a gold plating and located in the middle of a tank, architecture of the temple resembles that of the golden temple in many ways. The temple is also known for its lovely silver doors with exquisite carvings. Located next to it are two other temples dedicated to Hanuman and Shitla devi.
6. Gobindgarh Fort
Located in the middle of the city, Gobindgarh fort was built in 18th century and later renovated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The fort houses many structures, museums, canons, numerous gates and a large garden. The museums have a lovely display of coins and warfare, and have been well maintained. With a large stage that has frequent live performances, food stalls and shops selling various artefacts, the fort is an ideal place for a day picnic with family.
7. Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum
The summer palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the Rambagh gardens is converted into a museum showcasing paintings, manuscripts, coins and a collection of armoury. It gives a detailed insight into the life of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The museum is the pride of Punjabi culture and displays stories related to the king and important incidents during his rule. It is closed on Mondays.
Amritsar is 230 Kms from Chandigarh and connected to other major cities by flights. There are regular trains connecting Amritsar with other parts of the country and frequent buses between Chandigarh and Amritsar.
Food and Accommodation:
The city is known for its wide range of restaurants and dhabas which serve delicious Punjabi cuisine. Being a large city, there are numerous hotels to stay in Amritsar. I stayed at Jugaadus hostel.