The city of Amritsar in the state of Punjab in Northern India has lots to offer visitors. People flock to see the glittering Golden Temple but also discover a city full of interesting sights and plenty of world-class restaurants. Here are some things to do in Amritsar to make the most of this vibrant destination.
1. The Golden Temple
The Harmandir Sahib commonly known as the Golden Temple is a prominent Sikh gurdwara. Construction of the Golden Temple began in 1574 on land donated by the Mughal emperor Akbar. The building project was overseen by the fourth and fifth Sikh Gurus.
The temple was completed in 1601, but restoration and embellishment continued over the years. The Golden Temple has unique architecture. It has been deliberately built at a level lower than that of the neighbouring land in order to teach the lesson of equality and humility. The shrine can be accessed from all four directions signifying that people belonging to every walk of life are equally welcome.
The only restrictions are that visitors must not drink alcohol, eat meat or smoke in the shrine. Visitors are asked to leave their footwear at a facility near the entrance, cover their head and wash their feet by wading through the shallow pool before entering. It is advised to come here keeping a few hours spare in order to soak in the magic of this divine temple.
2. Jalianwala Bagh
A historical monument telling the sad story of mass killing during India’s freedom struggle is another must visit in Amritsar. The site is famous for the memorial of the martyrs of the 1919 carnage carried out by British General Dyer. He was convinced that a major insurrection was going on and hence banned all meetings. On being informed that about 15,000 people had gathered at Jalianwala Bagh, he along with 50 riflemen opened fire and kept firing till all ammunition was exhausted. Although, Dyer was removed from duty and forced to retire, this tragic incident left a deep scar on the people and was a catalyst in quickening the struggle for Freedom. The place also has a park. The Martyr’s Gallery is open to all from 10 am to 4 pm during winters and from 9 am to 5 pm in summers.
3. Wagah Border
Wagah, on the Indo-Pakistan border, is 28 kms from Amritsar. Numerous visitors come to see the ceremonious change of guards and the flag hoisting and lowering activities done skillfully and with precision by the border security forces of both the countries. It is interesting to note that border security forces of both India and Pakistan undergo the elaborate ceremony jointly! The ceremony is impressive and one of its kind in India, and is a sure shot recipe to evoke feelings of patriotism. The flag down ceremony starts at 4:30pm and goes on till 5:00pm.
4. Khair-ud-Din Masjid
Renowned for its architectural beauty, Jama Masjid Khairuddin is one of the most admired religious center of Amritsar. Famous among the tourists as well as the locals, this beautiful mosque was built by Muhammad Khairuddin in 1876. This holy place is where Tootie-e-Hind, Shah Attaullah Bukhari raised his voice against the British rule. This grand edifice of the freedom struggle displays one of a kind architectural elegance. Do note that being located in the midst of a busy market, this mosque is quite crowded.
5. Durgiana Mandir
Located in close proximity to the Golden temple is the Durgiana Mandir which was built during the 16th century. Although dedicated to Goddess Durga it also houses other deities such as Lakshmi and Narayana. Located in the middle of a pristine lake, it does not follow the typical temple architecture of ancient times. A renowned depository of Hindu scriptures, this temple displays an unusual grandeur and elegance of its own.
6. Akal Takht
The Akal Takht, next to the Golden Temple, is the seat of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, the religious governing body of the Sikhs. The principal sacred text of Sikhism, Adi Granth is housed in the ground floor of the Akal Takht and is taken out in procession every morning to be placed at the Harmandir Sahib. Again at night, it is brought back to the Akal Takht. It also houses the 68 holy shrines of the Hindus and according to the teachings of Guru Arjan Dev. It was enough for the devout to visit these shrines and not visit all the original Hindu shrines which are spread all over the country so come visit the Akal takht if you’re seeking a short cut to your journey of spirituality!
Shopping in Amritsar can be very exciting and you will be spoilt with the amount of choice that is available. Famous for its traditional Phulkari Embroidery, Amritsar can be quite a haven for shoppers. Also available are the beautiful Patiala Salwars worn by the women of this region. To team with them get the Punjabi Jutis, the traditional shoes of the people of this region. Considering that Amritsar does got quite chilly during the winters, you can also buy here some fantastic woollen garments, carpets and blankets woven by the people of Punjab.
The old city bazaars are the best places to go for shopping the traditional items. You can try out Guru Bazaar, Mochi Bazaar and Shastri Market to get hold of some elegant Patialas. The market places are abuzz with activity right from 11:00 in morning till 9:00 in the evening.
Last but not the least, no write up of Amritsar could ever be complete without mention of food. Known for their fish fry, lassi, paranthas, puri channa, Kulfi, Sarson ka saag and makki ki roti you are going to need days if not weeks to sample all of it!
Kesar da dhaba in the heart of old city whips up some delicious but also quite heavy food. Surjeet food plaza located in a capacious basement on Lawrence Road is best known for its yellow daal, paneer dishes, and the tandoori fish. KulchaLand located at the District Shopping Complex serves up delicious Amritsari kulchas from morning till evening 4 p.m. The pickles, jams and jellies of Amritsar, made by the rural women are great to carry back home.
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