Exploring Amritsar: Things to Do
Amritsar, Punjab is a traveler’s delight. There’s plenty to see, lots to do and loads to eat! My husband’s family’s ancestral haveli is in Amritsar, giving us an excuse to visit this historic city often. Over the years we’ve identified our favourite spots, and return to them tirelessly. This is a three-part series on Amritsar. The first post is dedicated to must-visit places.
The gorgeous Golden Temple at mid-day
Harimandir Sahib/ Darbar Sahib/ The Golden Temple:
The Golden Temple is the main place of worship for followers of the Sikh religion. The third Guru or preacher of this faith, Guru Ram Das Ji, built it in the 16th century, around a sacred water body said to have healing powers. The iconic building sits in the center of the holy pond, shining like a gold beacon. Its stunning architecture and historical background make it one of the most visited sites in India and perhaps the world.
Large crowds wait in line to enter
Large congregations are present through the day and night, and langar (community kitchen open to everyone) is served throughout. Droves of people take a dip in the holy waters. A separate enclosure allows ladies to do it discreetly. Parshad and amrit (holy water) are available for everyone, and people can donate to the gurdwara by funding the parshad (separate cash donations are also made). In spite of the large crowds, a sense of unparalleled peace and calm permeates the entire area. It’s undoubtedly one of my favourite places.
Peace despite the milling crowds
Best time to visit: Between 7:30-10:30 a.m.
3:30 a.m to see the beautiful palki (platform carrying the holy book of the Sikhs) being moved.
No cars allowed in the area surrounding the temple
This garden is best known for the horrific act that took place here in 1919. General Dyer with a regiment of the British Army ruthlessly attacked and killed hundreds of peaceful protesters. The innocent people were protesting a draconian bill passed by the British Government ruling over India. At the time of the attack, the only passageway for escape was narrow and tiny; forcing people to either jump into a well and suffocate to death, or be shot while climbing the walls.
Memorial structure at the Jallianwala Bagh
The park and memorial are now cosmetically beautified, but the museum on the premises and the gruesome memory of the event, provide an eerie atmosphere. It’s a must-visit for history buffs.
The only passageway to escape was narrow and blocked by the troops
Many jumped in to this well and were suffocated to death
Best time to visit: Weekdays as they are slightly less crowded
The Wagah Border marks the division between India and Pakistan. An elaborate ceremony of shutting the gates takes place every evening. When I last visited many years ago, there were a few, mostly empty, stands for people to observe the ceremony. I’m told it’s now such a popular tourist attraction, there’s no place to stand!
The ceremony at Wagah Border. Picture courtesy: http://www.travelmax.in/2015/04/04/wagah-border-patriotism-echoes/
Best time to visit: The ceremony takes place at 4:15 p.m. in the winter and 5:15 p.m. in the summer
The Partition Museum:
This is a relatively new addition I’ve not yet visited. By all accounts, it’s a fantastic homage to the largest mass migration in human history; when India was divided into two lands i.e. India and Pakistan in August 1947.
The Partition Museum. Picture courtesy: http://www.traveltradejournal.com/partition-museum-in-amritsar-to-be-inaugurated-on-aug-17/
Timings: 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
A 2-3 day trip is required to do justice to this wonderful city. Stay tuned for the next post in this series- Places to Shop in Amritsar!
City sight-seeing rating: 5/5