Across Amritsar in 48 Hours
The word Amritsar is primarily a combination of two words Amrit and Sar. Roughly translated Amrit is the nectar of immortality and Sar is basically a lake. Thus, Amritsar literally means ‘Lake of the nectar of immortality’.Colloquially also known as Ambarsar, this city in Punjab is most importantly known for the Golden Temple- one of the most revered holy shrines of the Sikhs in India.
Amritsar welcomes you with an unmatched pandemonium and yet manages to exude an unbeatable verve. The streets leading to the Old city is a maze of lanes and bylanes and is crowded by horse pulled tangas which is a rare sight in Indian cities these days. Surrounded by colourful turbans, dazzling markets and the stench of milk and dairy products, Amritsar is a city of numerous amusements. It is wonderful to see how Amritsar still manages to hold on to its old world charm.
How to reach?
I visited Amritsar over a weekend given my proximity to the city from Ludhiana in Punjab. However, if you want to reach Amritsar from any part of the country you can conveniently use the Indian Railways. Amritsar is well connected to the rest of India through railways. From Delhi, you can take the Shatabdi Express.
Amritsar has an airport called Amritsar Raja Sansi International Airport that is served by flights from few countries and almost all major airports in India. Alternatively, you may avail a flight to Chandigarh and then complete the rest of the journey by road.
A road trip to Amritsar surely calls for a treat to the eyes and the tummy, given Punjab’s luscious greenery and the amazing food that is served at the Dhabas all across Punjab.
Things to Do in Amritsar.
Amritsar has a plethora of things that you must experience here. From seeking spirituality at the Golden Temple to exploring the colourful markets for Phulkari to going on an authentic Amritsari food trail, Amritsar has a lot to offer.
1. Visit Golden Temple
I had always been mesmerised by the beauty of Golden Temple in pictures and I desperately wanted to see this marvel laden in gold. Golden Temple is so beautiful that it seems almost unreal. I consider myself lucky to have been able to witness it glimmering under the fair moonlight.
Golden Temple, also known as Harmandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib is one of the most significant holy shrines for the Sikhs in India. The Sanctum sanctorum is a breathtaking piece of architecture adorned in gold. The Akal Takht is an important building that faces the Sanctum and is also the primary seat of the Sikh belief. The entire complex is a specimen of art that bestows spirituality and peace. The four entrances to the Golden Temple signify that any person belonging to any religion Hinduism, Islam, Christianity or Sikhism are all welcome and truly reinforces brotherhood and secularity amongst its visitors.
2. Eat at the Guru ka Langar inside the Golden Temple.
If you are visiting the Golden Temple, it is impossible that the constant clattering of the utensils will not catch your attention. As you walk past by this building located close to the entrance you will see numerous people walking in and out. The Guru ka Langar or the community kitchen within the temple premises is working day and night to provide free food to all. Sikhs believe in Seva or service and if you really want to pay for the meals you can join hands with the volunteers and do your share of Seva. This is one experience that you must not miss while in Amritsar. The Guru ka Langar has also featured in the popular National Geographic documentary series of Mega Kitchens of the world. I had this immensely lucky experience to visit the kitchen and see how amazingly food is prepared day in and day out in huge cooking vessels and in huge quantities to feed everyone.
3. Visit the Jallianwala Bagh
Jallianwallah Bagh is a witness to India’s one of the most saddening massacres ever. On 13th April 1919 under the command of General Dyer, the British troops opened fire against unarmed men, women and children who had gathered at the Jallianwallah Bagh to celebrate Baisakhi and also to peacefully condemn the arrest of two freedom fighters Satya Pal and Dr Saifuddin Kitchlew. The firing killed hundreds of innocent lives and till date is considered one of the most unfortunate incidents of Indian Freedom Struggle.
4. Watch Cultural live shows at the Gobindgarh Fort
Located at the heart of Amritsar, Gobindgarh Fort is a must visit city attraction. The fort has been named after Guru Gobind Singh and at present showcases the diversity of the state while carefully conserving the culture and essence of Punjab.
The main attractions inside the Fort apart from the architecture are the museums that showcase an extensive collection of ancient artefacts. The Toshakhana or the coin museum has an exemplary collection of coins. The Sher-e-Punjab is your opportunity to time travel and explore Punjab that used to be through a 7D show. The cultural shows are a must watch apart from the glittery bazaar and Ambarsari cuisine that you may want to indulge in here.
5. Visit the Durgiana Temple
This might look like an exact replica of the Golden Temple at a first glance but this is a very ancient temple that is of great significance to Hindus in the region. The Durgiana Temple is also called the Prachin Sitla Mata Mandir. The Durgiana Temple is named after Goddess Durga and consists of smaller temples dedicated to other Hindu Gods and Goddesses.
6. Watch the Beating Retreat Ceremony at the Wagah Border
I suggest you do this because honestly speaking, I did not. I had limited time in Amritsar and I couldn’t really accommodate this ceremony in my time-crunched itinerary. But this surely is an experience of a lifetime to be able to watch the fervour with which the soldiers from both sides of India and Pakistan march and display their showmanship and patriotism. I personally didn’t have the courage to brave the crowd or the heat during April to end up seeing the ceremony. I have kept this reserved for the Winter of 2018.
7. Shop for Juttis and Phulkari.
Punjab equates to everything beautiful and glittery. Punjab is probably one of the most colourful states of India after Rajasthan. Phulkari is an exquisite embroidery technique that originally used to be completely handmade. However, now machine made Phulkari fabric has also become popular, though the beauty of handmade Phulkari fabric is unmatched. Amritsar is famous for Mojris or the authentic Punjabi juttis that can be worn with ethnic as well as western wear.
8.Drink Lassi and eat at a Dhaba
Basically, a visit to Punjab is incomplete without eating authentic Punjabi cuisine and drinking Lassi. Sadda Pind near Amritsar offers a complete package of experiencing the Punjabi rustic way of life. Whilst you are travelling to Amritsar there are plenty of Punjabi Dhabas where you can take a halt and indulge in some authentic Punjabi flavours. Speaking about Lassi, you must try the Giani Da Lassi joint which doesn’t have any other branch. Ask a local rickshaw walla to take you here. The Lassi here is probably the richest, creamiest and yummiest drink topped with a thick layer of cream and homemade butter. A glassful of Lassi was enough for half a day’s food requirement for me.
9.Indulge in Ambarsari cuisine
I was strictly forbidden by the time I had for this trip but if you are in Amritsar, don’t forget to dive in deeper into the food scene here. Amritsar is known for a number of food items especially the Amritsari Kulcha which is like the other brother of Naan or any other Tandoor made Indian bread. Fluffy and soft, the Amritsari Kulcha opens up in layers of soft dough and is best eaten with Chhole or chickpea curry. I seriously didn’t get much time to explore the food here but I will definitely come back to eat some more Amritsari cuisine soon.
Amritsar is beautiful and as I had mentioned earlier it has held on to its old world charm. If you have been fascinated by Punjab (like me), thanks to all the Hindi movies that have patronised this state in India, Amritsar could be your wholesome Punjab experience filled with spirituality, history, architecture, glittery bazaars, colourful turbans, beautiful women, amazing food, creamy lassi and the very Punjabi swag. Have you ever been to Amritsar? What is it about this city that has stuck with you? Would you like to revisit Amritsar? If yes, then what is it that you would like to experience again?