May 072014

Amritsar literally translates as ‘amrit ka sar-ovar’, the lake of the holy nectar. It was founded by Guru Ram Das in 1574. Situated on the north-west edge of Punjab (the land of five rivers), it was declared a holy city by the British during their rule in 1915. It is most famous for the Golden Temple, the Sikh community’s holiest shrine and the temple complex is actually a city within a city. This is India’s most visited landmark attracting thousands of pilgrims and visitors every day. As well as admiring the supreme beauty of the Golden Temple, the complex is very much a functioning community and the vast communal kitchens producing around 10,000 meals per day to feed the hungry are fascinating. Other points of interest in and around Amritsar are Jallianwala Bagh, site of the infamous massacre that took place in 1919, and the bizarre border ceremony at Wagah just 29km from Amritsar.

  • Golden Temple

    Golden Temple

  • Golden Temple Complex

    Golden Temple Complex

  • Sikh Pilgrims

    Sikh Pilgrims

  • Visitors come from all over India

    Visitors come from all over India

  • Feeding the hungry

    Feeding the hungry

  • Holy Dip

    Holy Dip

  • Volunteers preparing chapati

    Volunteers preparing chapati

  • Chapati making

    Chapati making

  • Holy Guy

    Holy Guy

  • Golden Temple

    Golden Temple

  • Colourful cart

    Colourful cart

  • The Golden Temple is the centre of the Sikh community

    The Golden Temple is the centre of the Sikh community

  • Entrance to Durgiana Temple

    Entrance to Durgiana Temple

  • Golden Temple

    Golden Temple

  • Jalliawala Bagh

    Jalliawala Bagh

  • Headscarves for sale

    Headscarves for sale

Key Facts

Location: Amritsar is located in the state of Punjab, North West India

Getting there: Amritsar has a small, modern airport and can be reached by direct international flight with Gulf Air or a 50 minutes domestic flight from Delhi.

Landscape: The vast plains and plentiful supply of water thanks to the 5 rivers that flow through the Punjab, make this region extremely fertile. The principle crops are wheat in the winter and rice in the summer, producing more than half the supply grown in India.

Food: Amritsar is famous for kulcha, a local thin bread made with chick pea flour resembling puff pastry and stuffed with a variety of fillings. We had chole kulcha, a mix of potato and onions, served with chick pea gravy and tamarind chili chutney. All washed down with sweet lassi – delicous!

Festivals: April sees the celebration of harvest festival known as Baisakhi.

When to go: The best time to visit is from October to March when temperatures are cooler. During the hot summer months, sightseeing will be organised to avoid the hottest part of the day. This normally entails early morning and late afternoon excursions, allowing time for rest during the middle of the day. The evening temperature during the summer is very pleasant.

Things to see

Golden Temple

Golden TempleHarmandir Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, is the most important and sacred shrine of the Sikh faith. It is the only place of worship in the world where the sanctum is located in a tank. Its four doors open in four directions signifying that it is open to everyone without any distinction made on caste, colour, creed or community. The temple walls are aesthetically decorated with wall paintings and its upper floor, Sheesh Mahal, has exquisite ceiling inlaid with small pieces of mirror and precious stones. The Golden Temple exhibits a harmonious blend of Mughal and Rajput traditions of architecture.
The ‘night palki’ ceremony is worth a mention where the Granth Sahib, the holy book, is carried across on a palaquin from the shrine to the Akal Takht. The reflection of the gold on the water, the heavenly chanting and the blowing of trumpets and beating of drums is quite an experience.

Jallianwala Bagh

P1020508About 200 meters from the Golden Temple is the historic icon Jallianwala Bagh. It is here that India’s freedom struggle reached a turning point on April 13, 1919. General Reginald Dyer with his troop of soldiers stormed a peaceful ground and opened fire on 2,000 unarmed civilians causing a massacre. A section of the wall marked with bullets has been preserved as also has the shallow well in which many people jumped to escape the firing. At the farthest end of the Bagh lies the Martyr’s Memorial built in the shape of an eternal flame.

Gurdwara Baba Atal Sahib And Shahidganj Baba Deep Singh Gurdwara 

Gurdwara Baba Atal Sahib And Shahidganj Baba Deep Singh GurdwaraA little further from the Golden Temple, a beautiful octagonal tower over 45 meters in height, commemorates the birth of the 9 year old son of Guru Hargobind, the sixth Guru. Nine storeys represent the nine years of his life. The doors on the ground floor where Guru Granth Sahib is seated are adorned with impressive designs on silver and brass sheets. It has some beautiful murals on the walls of the second and third floors.

Durgiana Temple

P1020581An interesting smaller replica of the Golden Temple named after the Goddess Durga. The main doors to the temple feature impressive decoration in silver whilst inside, elaborate mirror work adorns the ceiling. You won’t find queues of people here, so worth a quick visit.

Mata Lal Devi

lal-devi-mandirThe temple is to the northwest of the railway station and has shrines featuring Hindu Deities.

Hall Bazaar

P1020576The Walled City or the Old City is popularly known as Hall Bazaar.  Just as the name suggests it is an assortment of shops on the ground floor and homes above. Just as the name suggests it is a bagful of shops on the ground floor and homes above. Lined along the streets, within narrow galis and lanes, each katra (area) has its own speciality. Guru Bazaar, Mai Sewan Bazaar, Katra Jaimal Singh sell a paraphernalia of jewellery, clothes, textiles while Bartan Bazaar sells all sorts of utensils and Katra Sher Singh sells tea. Behind the Golden Temple is the Papad-Wadian market, a blend of wholesale and retail merchandise. The Punjabi jutis (footwear), ladies salwar-kameez (especially the Patiala salwar), shawls & stoles, woollens and the traditional local craft – phulkari are popular buys.

Wagah Border

p1020587Also known as the window to Pakistan, the Wagah Border, along the erstwhile Grand Trunk Road, is a joint Indo-Pak check post located about 29 km from Amritsar at Atari. The Lowering of Flags Ceremony, better known as the Retreat, is like a high energy theatrical production which runs non-stop 365 days a year. The half-an-hour ceremony is a matter of pride and prestige for the armed forces for both the countries. Synchronised foot stamping, gate slamming and the exaggerated fiesta of melodrama displayed is beyond bizarre.


Places to Stay

Ranjit’s Svaasa Heritage Hotel, Amritsar

p1020497A great option in Amritsar if you like your hotels oozing with character and personality. Ranjit’s Svaasa is a family owned 250 year old haveli (mansion) located in the heart of the city and around 4 km from the Golden Temple. No two rooms are alike but all are spacious with antique furnishings and modern bathrooms. A number of pretty outdoor spaces for relaxing and dining add to the charm of the property.

Hyatt, Amritsar

PoolFor those who prefer modern, stylish hotels to heritage properties, this is the best place to stay in Amritsar in our opinion. It is also the closest hotel to the Golden Temple complex which is only 10 minutes drive away. The 5 star Hyatt Amritsar offers luxury accommodation and facilities. I was particularly impressed by the outdoor areas at this hotel; a fabulous swimming and vitality pool area with huge lounging deck and day beds as well as an outdoor dining terrace.

Holiday Inn, Amritsar

Swimming poolIdeally located in the commercial district of Amritsar, the Holiday Inn is very close to a number of restaurants and bars. The fabulous Kulcha Land is also located right opposite the hotel and we recommend you visit here to try Amritsar’s famous kulcha, a warm, thin almost pastry like bread stuffed with a variety of fillings and washed down with lassi. A modern hotel, with stylish rooms and a number of eating options, all at a reasonable price, make this an attractive option for your stay in Amritsar.

Citrus County, Hoshiarpur, Punjab

Inside Luxury TentLocated in the Punjab countryside amidst 75 acres of orchards and plantations, Citrus County is a simple yet stylish rural farmstay comprising of nine luxury tents and three guest suites in the main farmhouse. A great option if you would like to combine a visit to Amritsar with some time in the beautiful Punjab countryside. Join the family in fruit picking during the season (November-February), explore the local village and forests or simply relax by the pool.