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Amritsar Overview

Golden Temple, Amritsar

Wagah - the India Pakistan Border near Amritsar

Summarise the city :
Epicenter of Sikhisim

Best time to visit (High & peak months) :
October - March

Experiences :
Gurudwaras (Sikh sanctuaries), history of Indian Independence, Punjabi culture & cuisine


City calling code :
+91-183

Recommended no. of days for a tourist :
1 - 2 days

Best buys :
Embroidered suits, shawls in traditional weaves,  jutties (traditional embroidered shoes), papad and wadiyan, decorative swords

Essentials to be carried along :
Cotton outfits for summers & good woolens for winters (Dec-Feb), sun glasses, sun blocks, hats etc

All about the city :
Amritsar is the proud owner of the Golden Temple that serves as a spiritual center for the World’s entire Sikh population.  It is the epicenter of Sikhism, an Indian religion of a recent vintage. The fabric of the city seems to be woven around the temple. In fact, Amritsar even derives its name from ‘Amrit Sarovar’ (meaning holy pool of nectar) the pool around the Golden Temple. Unsurprisingly, every time the Sikh shrine was razed by the Muslim invaders like Nadir Shah or Ahmad Shah Abdali, it had direct bearings on the town. Last tragic event occurred in 1984, when the Indian army stormed the Gurudwara to weed out the Sikh terrorists who had hid inside it to force the Indian Government to comply with their demand of a separate state of Khalistan.

The city was founded in 1577 by the fourth Guru Ram Das. Outside the old city that can be entered through 12 huge gates a whole new organized town has emerged. Being one of the most advanced yet traditional cities in Punjab, it is also one of the best places to taste the scrumptious Punjabi food and shop in. Along with big brands, there are shops that sell items made in different corners of Punjab and brought to Amritsar. The flag retreat or the lowering of the flags ceremony held every evening, just 30 km from Amritsar on India Pakistan border is a real magnet for eye balls.
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Amritsar Tourist attractions

Name (suggested time required to see the place)DescriptionEntrance charges (if any) for Foreigner Close Day (if any) Open / Close time
Golden Temple
What is common between the movies Rang de Basanti, Gandhi, Bride and Prejudice, Namaste London? All these movies have scenes from Golden temple – the Gurudwara (sikh religious sanctuary) that sees over 100000 visitors every day, very much comparable to the world’s most popular wonder the Taj Mahal.

 

Golden temple is the informal name for Harmandir Sahib (meaning The abode of God) or Darbar Sahib, the holiest shrine in Sikhism for it houses the Adi Grantha, the sacred scripture of the Sikhs. Adi Granth, declared the eternal guru of Sikhism by the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, is a collection of devotional poems, prayers, and hymns composed by the ten Sikh gurus and various Muslim and Hindu saints.

 

Guru Ramdas excavated the holy tank on the land endowed by Mughal Emperor Akbar. The temple, in the midst of this tank, was raised during the period of 5th Guru Arjan Das who installed the Guru Granth Sahib here. The foundation stone was laid by a sufi saint Mian Mir in 1589.

 

The 4 entrances signify the openness & acceptance for all. All gold and marble work was done under the patronage of Hukam Singh Chimni and Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Inside the temple complex there are shrines, holy trees, memorial plaques, pilgrims' dormitories and dining halls where all devotees are fed for free. The free kitchen service is operational 24 hrs of the day. You will find many people offering voluntary service (seva) in the kitchen or elsewhere. All volunteers are welcome to serve here.

 

It is open to all irrespective of their cast, creed or sex. But all must remove their shoes, wash their feet and cover their head with a scarf (also available in the temple complex). The cleanliness and orderliness in the temple complex is amazing.

 

The continuous chanting of hymns accompanied by various instruments and the scene of pilgrims immersing themselves in the water, a symbolic cleansing of the soul rather than an actual bathing of the body, makes the environment all the more spiritual. Every evening the Guru Granth Sahib is ceremoniously carried out of the Harmandir Sahib in a palanquin to Akal Takht and is brought back here the next morning with a similar procession. It is worth watching. For this period the main shrine i.e. Harmandir sahib is closed for public view. Golden temple is worth a visit in the evenings, when it is beautifully lit up, as much as it is in the day light.

 

Such is the aura of the Golden temple that it has been visited by so many eminent personalities from Queen Elizabeth to Dalai lama Tenzing Gyatso.
No entrance feeNo close days The temple complex & also the langar (kitchen service) is open 24 hrs

 
The Harmandir sahib or the sanctum sanctorum is closed between 10 pm – 5 pm in winters & between 11 pm & 4 am in summers
Jallianwala Bagh
This is one site in Amritsar that is witness to one of the most gruesome incidents that happened during the Indian struggle for independence. The Rowlatt Act of 1919 that empowered the British police to imprison any person on mere suspicion of terrorism enraged the Indians. A political meeting was convened at Jallianwala bagh. But the majority in the crowd comprised of those who had gathered to celebrate the harvest festival of Punjab, Baisakhi. Without any warning to disperse, the mob was fired upon the orders of General Dyer. The park had only one exit that was blocked by the armed troops. 1650 rounds of fire claimed the lives of 379 (official figure; actual no. was much more) innocent people.

 
The marks of the bullets can still be seen there. The well into which many jumped to avoid the fire is also well preserved. After Independence a flame shaped memorial has been instated here to pay homage to the victims.  The martyr’s gallery in the complex displays portraits of some of the freedom fighters associated with this place. 
 No entrance fee
No close days 6 am–7 pm (summers)

7 am-6pm (winters)

 

Martyr’s gallery:

9am-5pm (summers)

10am-4pm (winters)
Durgiana Temple Dedicated to Goddess Durga, this temple seems to be a replica of Harmandir Sahib in design. This shrine is also built in the midst of a tank. It is sometimes known as Silver Temple for its carved doors made in silver. The Goddess temple that is just outside the huge structure is about 700 years old. One of the greatest reformers and political leaders of India, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, laid its foundation stone. It is a well-known repository of Hindu scriptures. No entrance fee
 noneSunrise - 9pm
Mata Temple
Constructed in the honor of 20th century female saint Lal Devi, this is a small scale imitation of Vaishno Devi temple of Jammu. The way to the main shrine is quite amusing. The devotees pass through shallow waterways, tunnels, staircases, narrow walkways and caves, adorned with paintings and statues of various Gods and Goddesses, before getting to the sanctum sanctorum. The Goddess is said to fulfill all the desires of the devotees especially the desire to have babies. No entrance fee
No close days opens at sunrise
Ram Bagh
The museum here recreates the scenes from the life of Punjab’s most valorous king Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
 Monday 10 am - 5 pm
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Getting there

AirRailRoad
The Rajasansi International airport is located 11 km from the town. It has direct domestic flights from Delhi. On the international sector there are flights from London, Canada, New York, Paris, Frankfurt.     

Amritsar is connected by direct trains to major Indian cities like Delhi, Jaipur, Jammu, Mumbai, Nagpur, Calcutta and Puri .

For more details visit http://www.indianrail.gov.in

Amritsar is connected by road with several tourist centers in India. Bus services connect Amritsar with most north Indian towns, including Chandigarh (235 Kms), Delhi (450 Kms), Shimla (322), Manali, (415) Jammu (219) etc. There is also a bus service to Lahore, 35 km away, which is the only overland connection between India and Pakistan.
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Amritsar Festivals

Name of festivalDates / MonthsFestival details with link for more information
Diwali or DeepawaliOct-Nov (The celebrations start a day earlier than the Diwali and come to a close 3 day after Diwali)

Diwali is celebrated at Golden Temple with great enthusiasm for three days.

Guru Hargobind reached Amritsar on the eve of Diwali, after his release from Gwalior fort, during the reign of Jahangir. People illuminated the Golden Temple and the city splendidly to celebrate the return of their Guru to the city. Illuminations and pyrotechnic display are made. Candles and small earthen lamps fed with pure ghee are floated in the tank making the place truly surreal.

Ram Tirath Fair
about a fortnight after Diwali, for a duration of 5 daysRam Tirath is located about 11 km to the west of Amritsar city on Amritsar Lopoke road. It is said that Sita spent her period of exile at this place in the cottage of Rishi Valmiki.It was here that twins (Luv and kush) were born to Sita and Rishi Valmiki composed the great Indian epic Ramayana. Pilgrims consider it auspicious to have a dip in the sacred tank in the early hours of the Puranmashi ( full moon) night . After the holy dip, the pilgrims take a round of the tank while chanting mantras. Women float votive lamps, reciting devotional songs and hymns. This ceremony is called tulla toarna. For entertainment of the folks there are merry go round, feats by acrobats, magic shows, singing minstrels etc.

 
Women outnumber men because of the popular belief that issueless women beget children if they take a dip in the baoli known as ‘Mata sita di baoli’ on the full moon night.
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Amritsar Excursions

Excursion (distance in kms)Description
Wagah Border (30 km west of Amritsar/45 min)This is undoubtedly the most popular Indian border. Also known as ‘Berlin Wall of South Asia’, it is the only road border crossing between India and Pakistan. It lies on the Grand Trunk Road between Amritsar in India and Lahore in Pakistan. Wagah is the village through which the Radcliffe line dividing India and Pakistan passes.


‘Beating the retreat’ or the lowering of the flags ceremony held every evening since 1959 is a real crowd puller. Proper stadiums are made to accommodate the viewers.  There are separate seats for men, women and foreigners approx. 100 meters from the gate. The no. of tourists turning out every day, however, outnumbers the seats. The smarter ones reach early to occupy strategic positions. The patriotic fervor of the zealous Indians yelling the slogans of ‘Vande Matram’ & ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ and that of the Pakistanis on the other side of the gate electrifies the whole atmosphere.

 
Around sunset the extremely energetic and passionate soldiers from India’s BSF (Border Security Force) & Pakistan’s Sutlej Rangers march towards the border gates with seemingly huge and aggressive goose steps. The gates are thrown open. After a brief handshake and salute the flags of both the nations are lowered simultaneously. It is then folded carefully to be brought back with utmost dignity and the gates are slammed shut. A loud sound of a trumpet announces the end of the ceremony.
Taran taran Sahib (25 km south of Amritsar/45 min) Sri Guru Arjan Dev laid the foundation of Gurdwara Tarn Taran Sahib in honor of Guru Ram Das. The tank of this gurudwara is said to possess healing powers. They say that if a leper swims across it, he is sure to be cured of his ailment. Guru Arjan Dev also established the first home for lepers in India at Tarn Taran. The tank is quite big, even bigger than that of Golden temple & the parikrama or circumambulation takes good time.  The design of the Gurudwara is very similar to the Golden temple at Amritsar. The top of the main shrine here is also gilded in gold but is situated at one side of the tank unlike the Golden temple.
Gurudwara Baba Budha Sahib (20 km south of Amritsar/30min)Also known as Gurudwara Bir Sahib, this sanctuary is dedicated to Baba Budha ji who is said to have blessed Guru Arjan Dev and his wife with a son. He was named Har Govind and he later became the 6th Guru of Sikhs. Guru Arjan Dev’s wife had offered Baba Budha ji an onion and bread. Till date the visitors especially the couples are offered a bread & onion as prasad so that they are blessed with a child. In the north of the large hall that houses Guru Granth Sahib there is a sarovar. The Guru ka Langar (free kitchen service) & residential hall for devotees is in a separate block.
Gowindwal Sahib/Baoli Sahib Gurudwara (30 km south East of Amritsar / 45 min)This was the first centre of Sikhism. 3rd Sikh Guru Amardas Das took personal interest in the construction of this Gurudwara and an 84 steps baoli (step well) nearby. He stated that whoever recites the entire ‘japji sahib’ (prayer) on each step before taking a holy dip in the baoli will attain spiritual solace. In the langar i.e. community kitchen here Mughul Emperor Akbar is also said to have had meal before meeting Guru Amar Das.
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Suggested Places to eat

Name of the place Phone / Email Cuisine
Kanha Sweets, Lawrence Road 0183-2222855Best for Amritsari breakfast - Puri Chhole, Pinni, Besan ladoo .Puri chhole usually finish by afternoon
The Brothers, near Golden Temple
 Pure Vegetarian Indian food. Delicious Sarson ka saag and makke ki roti
Crystal Restaurant 0183-2225555 Multi cuisine. It is Amritsar's classiest restaurant
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Suggested Holidays with Amritsar

Holiday NameNo. Of days Destinations Covered & Highlights
Religions of India
11 days - 10 nightsDelhi - Haridwar - Amritsar    - Dharamshala - Jammu (Vaishno Devi)
Gourmet tour of India
08 days - 07 nightsDelhi - Amritsar - Agra - Jaipur - Ahmedabad - Thekkady
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