Amritsar is at the epicentre of the Sikh faith, for it is home to
the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines. For Sikhs it is
both a place where Punjab's wealth is on full display, as well as
an important pilgrimage. But it is not only Sikhs who come here.
People from all faiths come to the Golden Temple, a tribute to the
syncretist traditions of a faith whose holy book is a compilation
of the writings of men of different faiths. Outside the sacred precincts
of the Golden Temple, you can enjoy this chaotic city while you
gorge on Punjabi specialities like makki ki roti, sarson da saag
and gur da halwa. It won't take you long to discover that food is
an obsession for the locals, and it is rumoured that more desi ghee
is consumed here than anywhere else in the world.
When the Mughal emperor Akbar visited the third Sikh Guru, Amar
Das, he was deeply impressed with the sage's wisdom and humility
and insisted on gifting some land as a wedding gift to the Guru's
daughter. The daughter, Bibi Bhani, was betrothed to a young man
called Jetha, destined to become the fourth Guru, Ram Das (a responsibility
he saw through from 1574-1581).
In 1574 AD, Guru Ram Das settled by a pool which was said to
have miraculous healing powers. He further excavated it and named
it Amrit-Sarovar (Pool of Nectar). In 1577, he bought the pool
and another tract of land (to add to the gift of land) and secured
Sikh ownership from the local Jats. As the land was strategically
located on the silk route many merchants flocked to this region.
Guru Ram Das encouraged them to settle and trade near and around
the shrine. Many more followers soon settled near the temple and
the village of Guru-ka-Chak grew. This soon developed into a small
town called Ramdaspur. It was later renamed Amritsar after the
holy tank or the Pool of Nectar-Immortality where the Golden Temple
Guru Ram Das' son-in-law and successor Guru Arjan Dev then built
the Hari Mandir in the middle of this tank. He requested the great
contemporary Muslim mystic, Mir Mohammed Muayinul Islam, popularly
known as Hazrat Mian Mir of Lahore, to lay the foundation stone.
The Temple was completed in 1601 and the Adi Granth was placed
inside it. The pillage and plunder of this city began in 1757.
In 1762 Ahmed Shah Abdali sacked the town and razed the temple
to the ground. The Temple was rebuilt in 1764 with its domes plated
in gold, which is when it was officially named the Golden Temple.
Amritsar played an important role in India's fight for independence
against the British, with its residents providing active support
to the freedom movement. Both the All India Congress Committee
and the Muslim league held their sessions in Amritsar in 1919,
the year of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
Amritsar, the city of the Golden Temple, was an important business
centre. Its status was similar to a wazir, in charge of managing
the king's finances. The city suffered terrible losses once again
during the Partition of India in 1947 - communal riots broke out
and refugees poured in from the other side of the border, while
the city wept.
In the early 1980s Amritsar became centre of a violent political
controversy when Sikh extremists tried to rid the state of Punjab
of non-Sikhs and attempted to create an independent Sikh homeland
called Khalistan. They made the Golden Temple their hideout and
the centre for their activities. The government retaliated with
Operation Bluestar. Amritsar has survived a calamitous past and
is now a thriving industrial city.
Places to visit
The Golden Temple
The Golden Temple The best time to visit the Golden Temple is
the early morning when it gleams, pale and ethereal, in the dawn.
This is also the time when its reflection in the Amrit Sarovar
- the Pool of Immortality - is untrammelled by the splash of bathers'
feet. The Golden Temple (Swarna Mandir) was originally called
Hari Mandir (Temple of God) and is now also known as Darbar Sahib
(Divine Court). It is the epicentre of one of the great faiths
of India. All are welcome here for this is a truly syncretist
faith whose holiest book is a collection of hymns by enlightened
men of different religions.
Is a peaceful park with picnicking families and college kids,
but move to a section of the wall which still has visible bullet
marks, and you will be reminded of one of the most horrific events
in colonial Indian history. When the Rowlatt Act (1919), which
gave the British the power to arrest and imprison Indians without
a trial if suspected of sedition, was imposed on Indians it was
severely criticised and regular hartals (strikes) were organised
to protest the law. Then Lieutenant Governor of Punjab, Sir Michael
O' Dwyer, arrested an Indian leader causing great unrest among
the people. On April 13,1919 (also the festival of Baisakhi) around
10,000 people gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh to peacefully protest
the new law. General Dyer had been called to Amritsar to return
the city to order. He arrived at the Bagh with 150-armed soldiers,
ordered the crowd to disperse and two minutes later inhumanly
commanded his troops to open fire. The square was surrounded by
high walls and the soldiers had blocked the only entrance (and
exit) to the compound. The firing (1650 rounds) continued for
about 15 minutes and people were shot as they tried to jump the
wall while others drowned after they jumped into the well to escape
the relentless onslaught of bullets, most of which found their
mark. About 400 people (including children) died while 1500 were
left wounded. Though there was an international outcry over this
horrific uncalled-for massacre neither Dyer nor O'Dwyer was ever
charged with any crime. In response to this massacre, Nobel laureate
Rabindranath Tagore returned his knighthood and Gandhi began his
program of civil disobedience announcing that 'co-operation in
any shape or form with this satanic government is sinful'.
In 1997 Queen Elizabeth II visited Jallianwala Bagh and though
she laid a wreath on the memorial to the victims no official apology
Jallianwala Bagh is a five-minute walk from the Golden Temple.
The stone well has been preserved as a monument to the victims
(120 bodies were recovered from the well) and the "flame
of liberty," a 45 foot flame-shaped red sandstone pillar
set in a pool, was built in 1961 as a memorial. The park is open
from 6 am to 7 pm in summer and 7 am to 6 pm in winter. The Martyr's
Gallery which features portraits of heroes involved in the incident,
is open from 9 am to 5 pm in summer and 10 am to 4 pm in winter.
An impressive Hindu temple built in 1921 by two Amritsari philanthropists
is dedicated to Goddess Durga. The complex also houses the Durga
Mata Mandir, Bhairon Mandir and the Hanuman Mandir. During the
Dussehra Navratras, parents follow a quaint custom (unique to
Amritsar) of dressing up their male progeny as langoors (a species
of monkeys), probably to honour Hanuman, the monkey god. The dome
of the mandir is beautifully illuminated at night during fairs
Is a huge park spread across 18 acres of land from the Chattiwind
gate to the outskirts of Gilwali Gate. It lies near the Gobindgarh
fort, which is being used by the defence forces right now and
is therefore not open to visitors.
The Kuka movement founded by Guru Ram Das (a warfare expert in
Maharaja Ranjit Singh's army) played an important role in the
freedom struggle. On 14th June 1871, the Kukas entered the Amritsar
slaughterhouse and freed the cows after murdering the butchers.
In retaliation, the British government prosecuted and awarded
capital punishment to 12 innocent Hindus and Sikhs. The Kukas,
on the advice of their Guru, then confessed their involvement
and surrendered to the authorities. A memorial was then built
to those who were executed or sent to Kaalapani Prison in the
This Hindu temple (north-west of the station) commemorates Lal
Devi, a bespectacled 20th century female saint and was developed
along the lines of the famous Vaishnodevi temple in Jammu. Women
who wish to have children come here to pray. The temple has a
series of vivid shrines and grottoes.
Jama Masjid Kherudin
The Jama Masjid Kheruddin, built in 1876, is located at the Hall
Bazaar. On 9th April 1919, the bodies of 20 freedom fighters (mainly
Sikhs and Hindus) shot by the British General, were brought to
this Masjid for their last rites.
Samadhi of Baba Rode Shah
This is a unique and popular tomb that lies on the Amritsar-Majitha
road. One of the few places in India where offerings and prasad
are given in the form of IMFL (Indian-made foreign liquor) or
country liquor. Nothing is diluted in any way and must be 'slammed
back' neat. It is said that the Baba used to meditate at the place
of the present samadhi (tomb) and he once blessed a childless
couple who gave birth to a son soon after. The Baba refused to
accept the money the grateful couple offered him, but asked the
couple to bring a bottle of liquor and distribute it among his
devotees instead. Though he passed away in 1924, the tradition
is still going strong. Among the more famous devotees of Baba
Rode Shah was the singer Mohammed Rafi.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh built this small palace and park in 1819.
It lies in the newer, northern part of Amritsar. It used to serve
as a summer residence for the philanthropic, one-eyed Maharaja
(who rebuilt the Golden Temple) between 1818 and 1837 and now
houses the Ranjit Singh museum, which has paintings and weapons
dating back to the Mughal period.
You can tell from Darshani Deorhi (gate) on the south edge of
the park that strong defences and a moat originally surrounded
it. Ram Bagh also houses the Lumsden, Service and Amritsar Clubs,
a children's park and zoo and is a very pleasant place to take
The museum is open - Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am to 4:45 pm, Rs 5 entrance.
Amritsar is the largest (and holiest) city in the State of Punjab.
An important centre for border security in north-west India, it
is located close to the Indo-Pak Wagah border (29 km west).
Like most of northern India, Amritsar is chilly but pleasantly
so during winter, which lasts from November to January, and is
the best season to visit the city. The summers can sizzle with
maximum temperatures hitting 44°°C in June. The monsoons
are a welcome relief in July and last through September, while
October is an enjoyable autumn month.
Your Itinerary for Amritsar
(Delhi-Chandigarh-Parivar Vichhorra- Anandpur Sahib- Amritsar-Tarn
Taran - Gobindwal- Hazoor Sahib - Amritsar- Baba Bakala Amritsar-Delhi
(7 Days/6 Nights) )
Day 01: Delhi - Arrive Delhi
and transfer to hotel. After lunch half-day visit to Gurdwara
Sisganj. Gurdwara Bangla Sahib and Gurdwara Rakhab Ganj. Dinner
and overnight at hotel.
Day 02: Delhi / Chandigarh / Parivar
Vichhorra / Anandpur Sahib/ Chandigarh - After breakfast,
depart for Chandigarh by car/coach (238kms/5hrs). Check-in at
Hotel Shivalik or similar. After lunch, visit Parivar Vichhorra
(52kms/2hrs) and drive onto Anandpur Sahib (30kms/ 1hr) -fortress
temple situated on the left bank of the River Satluj founded by
the ninth Sikh guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur. It was here that the Sikh
religion acquired its final military character. Back to Chandigarh
for dinner and overnight stay.
Day 03: Chandigarh / Amritsar (250
kms/ 6.5hrs) - After breakfast, sight-seeing tour of Chandigarh,
visiting the Museum. High Court, Assembly Chamber and Rock Garden.
After lunch, depart by car/coach for Amritsar, situated on the
north-western border of the country. The 400 years old city, founded
by the fourth guru of the Sikhs, Guru Ramdas, has been the seat
of Sikh religion and culture from its very inception. It is renowned
for the famous Golden Temple. Amritsar, literally - 'Pool of Nectar',
derives its name from the holy pond around the temple. The land
for the pool was gifted by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Check-in
at Hotel Amritsar International or similar on arrival. Dinner
and overnight at hotel.
Day 04: Amritsar/Tarn Taran / Gobindwal
/ Hazoor Sahib / Amritsar - After breakfast, excursion to
Tarn Taran (22kms/ 3/4 hr), famous for a gurdwara standing on
the side of a large tank and built in honour of Guru Arjun Dev.
Lepers come from far-off places to have a dip in the tank, for
it is believed that its water can help cure Leprosy. Proceed to
Gobindwal (22kms/'/;hr). a short run from Tarn Taran, connected
to the memory of Guru Amardas who lived there. A gurdwara built
by the Guruji still stands there. Since no space was available
for a tank, an underground 'Baoli' was constructed near the gurdwara
with a flight of 84 steps leading to it. Continue onto Hazoor
Sahib (10kms/1/4hr), where the Samadhi (memorial) of the second
Sikh guru, Guru Angad Dev Ji, was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh
in 1815. Return to Amritsar and after lunch, visit the Golden
Temple. Built in the midst of the holy pool by Maharaja Ranjit
Singh in 1803. It is also known as Darbar Sahib or Har Mandir
Sahib. The dome of the temple is covered with an estimated 400kgs
of gold leaf, hence its popular name the 'Golden Temple'. The
interiors of the temple, like-wise, decorated by inlay work with
delicate floral patterns is done with semi-precious stones. Adjoining
the pool is Akal Takht, established by the sixth Sikh guru, Guru
Hargobind Singh. It is the seat of the supreme head of the Sikh
religious authority. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 05: Arnritsar/Jalianwala Bagh/Baba
Bakala/Amritsar - After breakfast, visit Jalianwala Bagh (24kms/3/4hr),
the historic site where hundreds of innocent Indian men, women
and children were massacred by British General Michael Dyer on
April 13, 1919. A memorial and garden have been created here as
a national monument. Proceed to Baba Bakala (21kms/3/4hr), a place
associated with the ninth Sikh guru, Shri Guru Tegh Bahadur, having
a magnificent gurdwara where people gather in thousands on every
Amavas. An annual fair is held on Raksha Bandhan with about a
hundred thousand people visiting the place, commemorating the
day when the ninth guru was located by his followers. Return to
Amritsar (45kms/1.5hrs). Lunch, dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 06 : Amritsar/Delhi - Morning
return to Delhi by train (Shatabdi Express 0:0510/A:1100), breakfast
on board. Check-in and lunch at Hotel Imperial or similar on arrival.
Dinner and overnight at hotel.
Day 07: Delhi/Back Home-After
breakfast, half-day city sight-seeing tour, visiting Red Fort
- the symbol of Moghul power and elegance built in red sand-stone
by the fifth Moghul Emperor Shah Johan when he shifted his capital
to Shahjahanabad from Agra in 1638; India Gate - the country's
memorial to the unknown soldier; and Qutub Minar - built in red
sandstone in Islamic style, the tower is 71m tall with its walls
consisting of intricately carved quotations from the Holy Quran.
After lunch, transfer to the airport to catch flight for onward