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AMRITSAR, INDIA, THE CITY OF MARTYRS, MAJESTY AND MUNIFICENCE, Shyam Amladi

 

                                   

The Golden Temple at early light

Where is it?

Amritsar is 280 miles NE of the capital, New Delhi and within 15 miles of the Pakistan border. It has an international airport and is a proud, historical city associated with the Sikh religion and some of the folk lore of Punjab.

History

  • Amritsar’s ancient history dates back to Indus Valley civilization---which flourished during the Bronze Age, from 3300 BC to 1900 BC. Several nearby sites like Vadalol and Har bear testimony to a rather advanced culture in the area. Later, Amritsar came under the influence of Greeks around 326 BC when most of modern day Punjab was conquered by Alexander the Great. After he left, and his successors were overthrown, Amritsar came under the rule of the Maurya and Gupta kings.
  • Its modern day history begins around 1573 when the third Sikh Guru, Amar Das acquired the land for building the Golden temple. The name means "pool of nectar" -- as the water around the Golden Temple is known. It is said that the Mughal emperor, Akbar was very fond of the Guru and persuaded the private owner to give up the land for a payment of  Rs. 700. The temple and the surrounds were developed the fourth Guru, Ram Das.

Things to See and Do

·         Of course the must-see site in Amritsar is the Golden Temple. GT  (built around 1590) and the main temple Harmandir Sahib is known for many firsts--including the oldest and largest continuing 'langar' - free food kitchen open to all. The tradition of “langar”was started by Guru Nanak, the first Sikh guru and the founder of Sikhism. The langar speaks of Sikh generosity and their love of people.  Harmandir is also built at a lower level than its surroundings, versus the tradition of building the temple on higher ground.

 

The Golden Temple at night

·         Amritsar is also known for old temples like Hanuman, Durgiana

·         One of the heroes of the Punjab culture is King Ranjit Singh, who became king at 12 and repeatedly defeated the incursors from Afghanistan, In fact, it was Ranjit Singh who donated the gold that adorns the exterior façade of the GT in 1830. There is a old fort that shows a 7-D film based on Ranjit Singh’s life. Even though animated, it is quite well made and historically accurate.

·         Another major attraction and a place of homage is Jallianwala Bagh (bagh means garden in Hindi). In  1919 some 400 innocent and peacefully protesting indian civilians were ordered to be shot dead by Col. Reginald Dyer (who was later murdered by Azad in a public meeting in London. Azad was an Indian revolutionary).

Bullet holes in the wall-Jallianwala Bagh massacre by the British commander, Col. Dyer

·         Last but not the least, there is pomp and circumstance at the Indo Pak Waga border,  some 15 miles from the city where around 7PM each day, the Indian  flag is taken down amid the elegant procession and marches by soldiers, students and flag-waving citizens. It is quite a patriotic sight.

Trips around Amritsar

While you can finish the sightseeing in Amrtisar in 2 or 3 days, if you have time, there are some nearby visit and stays you can think of:

  • Kangra Valley, and the town of Dharamsala is about 130 miles away and is a beautiful hilly valley with scenic trails and waterfalls
  • Dalhousie, about 125 miles, a settlement dating back from the British rule (named after Lord Dalhousie) is a hill station about 6-9,000 elevation, mountain hiking and close to the fabulous Chamba Valley and another hill station, Khajiar.
  • Vaishno Devi, the legendary pilgrimage place for Hindus is about 167 miles from Amritsar and not only known for its main deity for whom the temple is named, another form of Lord Shiv’s consort, Parvati.

We recommend a visit to Amritsar. A lot of history resides there.