Standing at the ancient gateway to India on the Grand Trunk Road, the historic city of Amritsar has stood in the path of Mughal, Persian and Afgan invaders, and the British Raj, all of whom have left their mark in different ways. Founded in 1577 by the fourth Sikh guru Ram Das, on a site donated by the great Mughal emperor Akbar, the city is built around the fabled ‘pool of nectar’ (the translation of ‘Amritsar’) and Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple), the spiritual home of the Sikh faith. With a population exceeding 1.5m, Amritsar today is the largest city in the Punjab.
Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) is open to all; shoes should be removed, feet bathed, and a head covering worn. Photography permitted except within the Temple itself. The times to visit for best views are early morning or sunset.
A harmonious blend of Mughal and Rajput architechture, the Golden Temple is the holiest shrine of the Sikh faith. The Temple itself (Sri Harmindir Sahib, also called the Darbar Sahib) sits at the centre of the Amrit Sarovar, or ‘pool of the nectar of immortality’. The present Temple complex dates from 1776-84: the gilded copper-gilt ornamentation of the Harmandir was donated by the legendary Maharajah Ranjit Singh.
The main entrance leads down to the polished – marble Parikrama that surrounds the holy waters of the artificial pool, where Sikh Pilgrims immerse themselves. Opposite the causeway leading to Sri Harmandir Sahib is also Sri Akal Takht Sahib, the sacred shrine where the Adi Granth (the Sikhs holy book) is ceremoniously brought every night. No pilgrimage is complete without a meal at the Guru-ka-Langar; where free food is offered to all comers 24 hours a day, a symbolic manifestation of the egalitarian Sikh faith
Places of Interest
Jallianwala Bagh site of the infamous massacre in 1919 of unarmed demonstrators who were fired upon by troops under the command of General Dyer. The event was significant in hardening resistance to British Rule
The garden was laid out in 84 acres by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the north of the city on the pattern of the Shalimar Bagh of Lahore. It also houses the Summer Palace of the Maharaja. A striking statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh on horseback commemorates his valour. The garden was named by the ruler himself as a tribute to Guru Ram Das, the founder of the city.
Now being restored and converted into a museum, this elegant early 19C building is notable for one of the earliest examples of a maintenance free cooling system. On display are weapons dating back to Mughal times, portraits of the ruling families of Punjab, coins, manuscripts and a replica of the ‘Kohinoor’ diamond that Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s son was reputedly duped into giving to the British. The adjoining Darshani Deorhi gatehouse architecturally unique.
Flag Ceremony, Wagah
Daily at sunset, extraordinary colorful and boisterous ceremony of the Pakistan border crossing, where impressively mustachioed guards of both countries in extravagant headgear formally lower the national flags.