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Location : Punjab
Languages : Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi, English
Climate : Semiarid
Temperature : Summers see mercury soar to as high as 45 degree Celsius; in winters, it drops as low as 4 degree Celsius
Major Attractions : Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh
Best Visiting Time : Winter season
Occupying the northern portion of Punjab, Amritsar is situated at about 25 kilometers from Indo-Pak border. Well acclaimed for its cultural, historical, and commercial aspects, the city is a renowned center of Sikhism and attracts a big crowd daily. You may be surprised to know that the number of visitors that frequent this place exceeds than that of Taj Mahal; the deep spiritual significance linked with the place along with several historical incidents that take place are responsible for attracting tourist in large numbers.
Down the Lane :
History of Amritsar has seen several tumults and soul-stirring incidents. Ram Das, an eminent Sikh Guru, laid the foundation of the city in 1574. The construction of Darbar Sahib was initiated by Mian Mir, a Muslim saint. The famous Akal Takht was installed in its premises a few years later. Repeated attempts were made to annex the city by Mughal rulers. Afghan ruler Ahmed Shah Abdali tried to demolish Darbar sahib. Under the leadership of Deep Singh, a fierce battle took place in 1757 to repel the attack. Despite being ransacked a number of times by Afghani army, Sikhs fought valiantly and reconstructed the structure many times. In 18th century, Sikh misls were established and under the powerful rule of Ranjit Singh, security of the city was tightened by construction of a moat around it.
The unforgettable incidence of Jallianwala massacre took place in 1913 when General Dyer ordered the killing of thousands of unarmed people who had gathered for a peaceful meeting. This unfortunate incident led to the killing of as many as 379 people. The bloody incidence became a symbol of sacrifice of a number of innocent people of Amritsar.
The partition of India in 1947 led to profound changes in various aspects like demography and Culture of the city.
Upcoming Industrial City :
Amritsar is the base of a number of industries that have contributed to the commercial growth of the city. Government has spent a large chunk of money to transform the city into an industrial power. Transport system, sewage, and roads have undergone a drastic change. High end residences have stared blooming here. Upon visiting the city, you will see a plethora of luxury apartments and penthouses. There is no dearth of top class malls that attract the tourists in large number.
The spiritualistic city of Amritsar is laced with a number of sacred sites including gurudwaras and temples. Let's explore the city's major attractions that you may find interesting to visit:
Golden Temple :
Commonly called Harminder Sahib, the temple is a symbol of ardent religious faith of Sikh devotees in the principles laid down by their revered gurus. The first glimpse of this beautiful structure will leave you astonished and awe-inspired. Its golden dome is its main highlight. Resting over a piece of 67 square feet piece of marble, Golden Temple is a double storey building. Raja Ranjit Singh beautified the structure by covering the upper half of it with gold. The gurudwara is frequented by innumerable devotees from different religions and communities. A daily langar, a unique feature of the Temple, serves more than 20000 devotees. On auspicious occasions, the premises are over crowded. Before landing your foot over the premises, you are supposed to cover your head. In the surrounding area, there are a number of temples that you can visit while on a visit to this holy place.
Wagah Border :
An outpost of Indian army, Wagah border forms the international border of the country with Pakistan. The main highlights of the place are its Beating Retreat and handshaking ceremony between the army generals of both sides. A multitude of buildings and roads occupy the complex; During Beating Retreat, soldiers from either side march in harmony with rhythmic sound of a drill. National flags of both the nations are brought down at sunset.
Jallianwala Bagh :
Visit to Amritsar remains incomplete without visiting the historical site of Jallianwala Bagh. The place is the evidence of the bloody History that was laid down in its premises on April 13, 1919. Its walls still speak of the brutality that was meted out to the unarmed civilians by British forces. The site is the reminiscent of the torture faced by unwary public.
Ram Bagh :
An exquisitely beautiful place that once served the Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh is Ram Bagh. This summer retreat is a nice place to roam about and is known for its architectural excellence. In order to memorize the valor of Ranjit Singh who successfully brought local chieftains under control, an idol of the king was erected at Ram Bagh. It was he who named the place in order to recognize the services of its founder. The place has been refurbished into a museum now in the premises of which several weapons have been kept on display. Other attractions that you may find interesting to look at are statues of many ruling houses and a duplicate of the world renowned "Kohinoor" diamond.
Pul Kanjari :
Another magnificent structure that is associated with Ranjit Singh is Pul Kanjari. Founded by the ruler himself, the site is located at about 35 kilometers from the city of Amritsar. The place was a resting retreat to the king while he used to pass this area along with his troops. Though the place is now in ruins, you can still have the glimpse of a temple, a mosque and a gurudwara. A dome located nearby is embellished with scenes from ancient scriptures.
Ram Tirath :
Another worth visiting site that is famous for its antiquity is Ram Tirath. It is said that the place belongs to Ramayana period. A small hut is present at the site and is believed to be the place where deity Sita gave birth to her sons. The month of November sees the celebration of a grand fair at the site. The fair is organized for a periods of four days.
Khoo Kalyanwala :
Linked with the mutiny of 1857 when Mangal Pandey's rebellion against British forces ignited a spark at Amritsar also, Khoo Kalyanwala is another historical place. Here a troop of about 400 soldiers initiated a rebellion and fled their barracks. As Deputy Commissioner Fredic Cooper was informed about the incidence, he ordered to lock all the soldiers within a small room. Almost all of them died due to suffocation; those who were left behind were shot dead and their bodies were thrown in a well called Khoo Kalyanwala.
Shaheedi Bohr :
This banyan tree has a history of its own. Its massive canopy and the lush green backdrop amidst which it is present make it a tourist attraction. The sentimental incidence of hanging of four Kooka soldiers from this tree made it immensely important for Sikh followers.
Jama Masjid :
This mosque was built by Mohammed Khairuddin in the late nineteenth century. Famous for its architectural beauty, the mosque carries both sacred as well as historical significance. It was at this site that Shah Attaullah raised an uprising against British rulers.
Shravan's Samadhi :
Shravan, a character from Ramayana, is one of the oldest heritage place of Amritsar. It is said that Shravan, after from being shot by King Dashratha, fell down at this place and was buried here. The ideal location of the place bear a source of water makes it a fine place to visit.
Amritsar has many Fairs and festivals that are celebrated here.
Ram Tirath Fair :
This sacred place associated with goddess Sita is the venue of a grand fair celebrated after Diwali. The festivities continue for five days. A tank here is believed to be dug by Lord Hanuman carries religious importance to the devotees. It is considered holy to take a dip in the waters of this auspicious tank. A circumambulation around the tank is also a regular feature of the event. If you are a spectator to the event, you will hear the chanting of Lord Rama's name by the devotees. Women folk gather at night and pay obeisance to the holy waters by liting a number of lamps made from kneaded flour. The lamps are placed over leaves and released for floating on water surface. The floating ceremony is said to purge all the sins of the devotees.
Entertainment in the form of acrobats, folk music, and magic shows are the other highlights of this fair of Amritsar. You will notice that the event is visited by people from different clans and communities. Balmikis pay a visit to their revered deity Balmiki whose temple adorns the premises. The Sikh followers from the adjoining villages arrive here to pay veneration to their gurus. On the occasion of Diwali, a pyrotechnic display is the main feature. As the lights of different hue and colors light the sky, the scene appears quite spectacular.
A number of accommodations are scattered all over the venue; people can stay at local inns and rest houses. Some of them also seek shelter in verandahs. Ram Das Langar offers free food to all the devotees.
Basant Panchami :
On this special occasion, hustle and bustle can be seen at the premises of Gurudwara Chheharta Sahib. The festival is celebrated in the month of January/February. The festivities are carried during thr entire night. Kite flying is the popular sport that is observed at Basant Panchami. People do extensive shopping on this auspicious day. Special buses are arranged that carry that commuter the passengers to their destination.
Shopping can be a nice experience at Amritsar. The markets are flooded with different saleable items. The humdrum of bazaars is worth noticing. You can take away souvenirs from markets at Katra Jaimal , Hall Bazar etc. Woolens, glassware, embroidery work, fireworks, and shawls are popular here.
The city is a spiritual center of literature. The excellent works of Punjabi poetry can be seen; the works of Santokh Singh and Veer Singh are example of excellence in artistic abilities. The literature of almost all genres is available. The political, cultural and societal changes that took place in the history of Amritsar from time to time are reflected in the various works of literature. The works of Baksh Khusta, Feroze Din Sharaf, Girami, Kirpa Ram, and Nanak Singh are worth reading.
Delicious Palate :
People of Amritsar are known for their hospitability; they are, in fact, excellent hosts. There are several culinary delicacies that you can relish here. Stuffed paranthas, kadi-rice, chole bhatura, rabri, tandori chicken, and lassi are the main specialty here. For those having a sweet tooth, there are many items that can be relished; halwa, balushahi, pinni are few such names.
A number of nice hotels and resorts are present in city and surrounding area; two, three or four starred hotels can be booked. Some popular ones are Ritz Hotel, Royal Castle, Mohan International, Suncity Towers, Astoria etc. If you are not willing to spend a hefty sum and prefer some economical option, there are many options. Online booking can be done in order to avoid last time crunch.
Amritsar is one of the most sought after destinations of Punjab; its historical and cultural charisma has a lot to offer to the tourists.