Thursday, January 5, 2017

Amritsar- Heartland Of Punjab


A tour of Punjab is incomplete without a visit to Amritsar. Amritsar is the spiritual hub for not just Sikhs but people from other religions as well who are equally enchanted by "Harmandir Sahib" or popularly known as the "Golden Temple." The Golden Temple attracts more visitors than Taj Mahal in a day. Amritsar is also known for the Ramtirth temple which is believed to be the ashram of Valmiki, author of the mythological epic Ramayana.

Though neither of us are religious, every time we enter a place of worship it tends to have a soothing and calm effect on us.  It was an even better and amazing feel to visit the Golden Temple. It is very rare for us to spend a lot of time at crowded and jam packed places and we find reasons to quickly pack and leave from such attractions. But at Golden Temple it was very different, we enjoyed spending a lot of time here and not once did we even realize that we were in a crowded place. We guess that is what makes this place so special.


The amazing and beautiful temple sits pretty in the middle of a Holy Pool and is one of the Holiest places for Sikhs. The temple was constructed with the idea of welcoming people from all religions and faith for worship. The four entrances signify the openness of the temple towards other religions. In fact, the foundation stone of the temple was laid by a Muslim Sufi Saint who was invited by the then Sikh Guru.

There are two queues at the main temple. One takes you to the inner sanctum plus the first and second storeys of the Golden Temple. The other queue just gives you a glimpse of the inner sanctum and leads you to the exit. We highly recommend you visit the inner sanctum and take a complete tour of this beautiful and calm temple. The inner sanctum is a very busy place and one needs to fall in a queue to get inside. Unlike other popular temples one cannot just pay to jump queues and have his/her way through the inner sanctum. Irrespective of who you are everybody has to follow the procedure. There are several volunteers who very politely manage the crowd.


Once past the inner sanctum, one has to go clockwise and on the other side there is a staircase that leads you to the first and second storey of the temple. Here it is very calm and quiet with very few people meditating. Unlike other popular places of worship, there are no bouncers to send you packing. One can spend as much time as he/she wants without disturbing other devotees. Post this we took Kanha prasad that is made with wheat flour and ghee.

We sat by the holy pool with views of the Golden Temple beautifully lit up and the brightly colored massive fish in the pond is a big attraction. Early morning or late evening is the perfect time to visit the Golden Temple. The view of the sunset behind the temple is mesmerizing. While visiting the temple, make sure you try the Langar here and one could also volunteer here. This is one of the Holiest places so please maintain decorum and respect the sanctity of the place irrespective of your religious views.

The locality around the temple has changed drastically compared to what it was back in 2010. There seems to be a world of difference on the outside from then to now. Large scale commercial activities have come up. If you are not on a spiritual tour, it would be best to not stay around the Golden Temple. The narrow lanes and by-lanes are way too over crowded but fortunately not a thing has changed inside the Golden Temple.

Just a few hundred meters from the Golden Temple is the Jallianwala Bagh massacre site. A dark day in Indian history marked by bloodshed of several hundred people caused by one psychotic britisher General Dyer which shows how coward, ruthless and spineless the britishers were to open fire at unsuspecting, unarmed civilians who were protesting in the most civil and Gandhian way possible. Thousand of rounds were fired with absolutely no escape route for the innocent people gathered. Desperate to escape the firing, most of them jumped into a well and several of them had a miserable and painful death.


Even today bullet ridden walls stand testimony to this gory incident and the main conspirator was never punished by law for his actions. At a ripe age without an iota or shame or guilt Dyer passed away due to prolonged illness. One young Sikh who was present at Jallianwala Bagh on the fateful day, survived the gun fire and was determined and motivated to avenge the death of fellow Indians and a National Hero was born that day. Several years down the lane he traveled to London, shot and killed Michael O'Dwyer, the then Governor Of Punjab in broad day light as he had supported the massacre. This Son Of Soil was Shaheed Udham Singh.


There is Amar Jawan Jyoti at the site in Honor of the innocent victims. The colonial occupiers who are so called champions of 'Democracy and self righteousness' did not have the basic courtesy or decency to apologize for their heinous acts. Not just this incident, they have been directly responsible for several such incidents across India and other parts of the Globe. If they were to return all the stolen exhibits, The Grand Central Museum in London would have almost nothing to display.


Ram Bagh Palace was earlier the Summer Palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and was later converted to a Museum housing some rare artifacts and interesting collection of coins. The massive park surrounding the palace in the heart of the city is a perfect place to take a leisure evening stroll and is usually buzzing with activity. There is enough in the park to keep kids, youngsters and older folks occupied. The amazing part of the park were the antique looking speakers that were playing yesteryear's melodious Hindi numbers. The park houses a skating ring, jogger's /walking track and there are a lot of vendors selling snacks to fill your tummy.


We stayed at "The Grand Galaxy" hotel in hotel lane 2 on Queens Road and it was one of the best budget hotels in Amritsar. Their spacious rooms were very clean and came with all modern amenities. The best part was the amazing soft mattress and clean and comfortable quilts. They also have bike parking in their basement which helped us to a great extent as we were on a road trip. Plus there are plenty of good eat outs around the hotel. They also have WiFi which can be very comfortably accessed from their spacious lobby but it might be a little disappointing for people who need to be online 24x7.

Punjabis celebrate food and sports. We have dedicated an exclusive blog of must eat places in Amritsar. Food here is sinful and worth multiple visits.

8 comments:

  1. Amritsar is very close to my heart. Nice blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sapna, glad that you liked the post.

      Delete
  2. Visited the city 3 years back. Loved it. Was amazed at the Langar preparation at the Golden Temple.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah,such massive scale food preparation.

      Delete
  3. I love the old streets of Amritsar. The 'Golden Temple' is not exactly the 'holiest' of Sikh shrines as Sikhism doesn't classify it's Gurudwaras. They are all supposed to have the same relevance (spiritually, historically it is a different thing altogether).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Very nice post. Thank you for giving nice information about Amritsar golden temple. It can help me a lot for visiting Amritsar. But can you suggest me about the food in Amritsar?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment, Amritsar offers splendid food check out of our blog post https://goo.gl/em1dlA

      Delete