May 19, 2017

Amritsar Diaries

By The Benign Maleficent In Travel 3 minutes, 39 seconds

The small city of Amritar, touted as one of the holiest cities of India, is a favoured weekend-trip destination. Amritsar is fairly accessible and the fuss-free traffic situation ensures a relaxing stay.

The most important places to visit are undoubtedly the Wagah Border, Shri Harmandir Sahib, and Jallianwala Bagh. Durgiana Temple, a Hindu temple built in stark similarity to the Harmandir Temple, and the small shops that sell the famous badi and the aampapad, especially the delectable chamra aampapad with masala.

Shri Harmandir Sahib, or the more common, Golden Temple, is indeed a grand sight. Designed by Guru Arjan jee, the 5th Sikh Guru, the gurudwara was completed in 1604 AD. Shri Harmandir Sahib is also home to the Akal Takht, a symbol of god’s temporal powers. The gurudwara has withstood the ravages of time and history. Recently, the complex was renovated, giving it an overall immaculate look. It is especially a beautiful spectacle at night with the gurudwara and complex so well lit! More than three lakh people are said to visit Shri Harminder Sahib every day on an average.

Sri Harmandir Sahib

Shri Harmandir Sahib, as all gurudwaras, also has an elaborately organised langar, or a community kitchen system. Here, all persons sit  on mats laid out on the floor for a meal together. This practice is a commendable attempt in making us realise our common humanity, irrespective of our nationality, colour, caste, creed, gender, or position. The langar is thought as the prasad and many people engage themselves in different aspects of preparation of langar too. It is indeed pleasantly surprising to see the long queues of volunteers waiting to help out with preparing and serving langar and washing the dishes, with queues stretching so long that people have to wait to get a chance to help out!

The ongoing kirtan at the gurudwara has an immensely calming effect however you must be ready to wait for at least 2-3 hours to pay your respects.

Jallianwala Bagh is located within a walking distance from Shri Harmandir Sahib. Jallianwala Bagh too attracts a large number of people who wish to revisit the history of the place.

As many of us already know, it is the sight of the infamous 1919 Amritsar Massacre. On 13th April 1919, on the day of Baisakhi, thousands of people informally gathered there. However, claiming that the gathering was illegal under the rather oppressive Rowlett Act, the British soldiers were ordered to openly fire on the unarmed gatherers. The shooting is said to be so gruesome as it is claimed that General Dyer, the man behind it all, continued the mindless atrocity till the ammunition was almost exhausted-on defenceless people with no way no escape.

Jallianwala Bagh

Jallianwala Bagh has been turned into a bitter symbol of cruelty and pain under the British rule. It is also a repository of the documented experiences of the relatives of the victims and the responses of the larger public and Indian freedom fighters, amongst them Udham Singh, who devoted his life to avenge the victims and Rabindranath Tagore, who renounced his knighthood in his letter to the Governor General severely denouncing the act and the how the viciousness of General Dyer will never be forgotten by Indians. A visit to Jallianwala Bagh is recommended for all once in a lifetime to remember what it took to gain the independence we enjoy today.

Wagah Border, located on the international highway between Punjab and Lahore is also a sight to behold which will fill you up with nationalist fervour. There is a daily flag-raising and flag-lowering ceremony accompanied with much pomp and gaiety. Undoubtedly, the area is highly crowded. Therefore, it is advisable to reach early, depending upon the time of sunset in different seasons. VIP passes can be picked up from BSF headquarters which certainly make for a better view. Contrary to the ambience, pickpocketing is frequent! Cameras, luggage bags, and shoulder bags are not allowed inside the venue so it is better to leave them in a safer place.

Amristar makes for a memorable trip. Do not forget to try the wadi, chamra aampapad, and daal papad from the local markets. Phulkari duppatas and punjabi jutti can be found here in great variety and greater bargains! You may also check out new theme-based gardens and Durgiana Mandir which holds utmost religious importance.

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