Amritsar - Punjab
The sacred city of Amritsar embodies the quintessential Punjabi spirit. The city of the grandest and holiest of Sikh shrines, a rich history, a unique and robust cuisine and flamboyant festivals all add to a riot of colour and flavour that has no comparison.
The name of the city that means “a pool of nectar” is derived from Amrit Sarovar, the holy pool surrounding the magnificent Golden Temple.
Life in Amritsar revolves around the magnificent Golden Temple and the city has grown around it. The Golden Temple is a stunning sight with its golden cupolas and white marble structures. It represents Punjab and all that is good, as well as an indomitable spirit that can never be subdued. The temple was been damaged many times by invading Afghans and Moghuls, scarred by the violence of partition and has seen the restless days that led to Operation Blue-Star. Yet nothing has been able to destroy it. The shrine was re-built every time and life moved on.
History of the Golden Temple
The fourth guru (= spiritual leader) of Sikhism, Guru Ram Das excavated a tank in 1577 which was named Amritsar (Pool of Nectar of Immortality). Eventually people inhabited the surrounding area and a town started taking shape.
The fifth guru, Guru Arjan Dev planned the constructionof a temple in the area, as he felt the need for a central place of worship for the followers of Sikh religion. It is then that the foundation of the temple was laid by the Sufi Saint Mia Mir in December 1588. By 1604 the Harmandir Sahib was completed in the middle of the lake. The Adi Granth Sahib (the holy book of Sikhs) was installed here on August 16, 1604. Today, people from all religions and walks of life throng to this structure to pay homage to the wonderful teachings of this book.
The temple embodies the true essence of interfaith brotherhood as the foundation of the Sikh religion. In the true spirit of Guru Nanak’s message, the temple has doors on all four sides, which signifies the openness of the faith in embracing and welcoming all, as well as being accessible to every person without any distinction of Caste, creed, sex and religion.
The city soon became a center of art, religion and business as travelers from Lahore to Delhi usually passed through it. The much celebrated Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh took charge of the city in 1802 and is chiefly responsible for the present grandeur of the temple. It was the great donations of wealth and material made by him that gave the Golden Temple its rich architecture and opulence. He ordered the reconstruction of the temple in white marble covered with gold leaf. It was from this time onwards that the temple received its present name “Golden Temple”.
Guru Ka Langar or the Community Kitchen
This unique feature is common to all Gurudwaras (=the Sikh Temples). The universal Sikh welcome extends to providing free meals for everyone. Every day tens of thousands of meals are cooked and served by volunteers to anyone who is hungry, irrespective of their religion, caste, creed and nationality. Each individual is treated equally and made to sit together to have the food. This community kitchen at the Golden Temple runs 24 hours to serve the devotees and the expenses are met by the Temple itself. Approximately 40,000 visitors have meals every day at the Golden Temple. Devotees also offer voluntary help in various sections of the kitchen which is known as Kar Seva. They consider this as the service to God.
There are also rooms for travellers available in the temple complex. These are very basic, clean and relatively cheap.
The Jalianwalabagh tragedy
Amritsar witnessed one of the most tragic events in the pre-independence history of India. Hundreds of unarmed protestors gathered at the Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar to protest against General Dyer’s ban on such public gatherings. They were fired upon mercilessly by the British army on 13th April 1919. The memorial at Jalianwala Bagh commemorates the ruthless massacre of innocents.
The death toll of 379 men, women and children, as well as 1500 wounded shocked the world. General Dyer returned to England, was promoted and retired on a pension.
Located about 28 km from Amritsar, this is the international border between India and Pakistan. Wagah is an army outpost on the Indo-Pak border which lies exactly between Lahore and Amritsar. The spectacular beating of the retreat ceremony held at the Wagah border to mark the changing of the guards and lowering of the flags of the respective countries is a crowd puller here. This ceremony at the Swarna Jayanthi gate is held every evening. The highlight of this event is the excellent drill performance by the soldiers from India and Pakistan on either side of the gate while lowering their respective flags.
Nearest Airport : Amritsar (15 km / 40 mins)
Nearest Railway Station : Amritsar - connected by train from all major cities of India.
Best time to visit and Climate :
The best time to visit Amritsar is during the October - March period.
Best Time to visit and climate:
The best time for this trip is October - March. April onwards is summer when it becomes unbearably hot and then the monsoon prevails from July to September.
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