Amritsar, also known as the "Ambarsar" is a city located in the northwestern part of India. With a rich cultural and religious heritage, Amritsar has become a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims alike. The city is renowned for its magnificent Golden Temple, which is considered the holiest place of worship for Sikhs worldwide. However, the history of Amritsar extends far beyond the construction of this iconic structure.
The Origins of Amritsar:
Amritsar's history can be traced back to the 16th century when Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru, founded the city in 1577. The city was built around a small pool, which was named "Amritsar" or "Pool of Nectar" after the legendary incident where the pool's water was infused with healing properties by the blessing of the third Sikh Guru, Guru Amar Das. Over time, the pool became a central point of worship for Sikhs and was later expanded into the Golden Temple, which remains the centerpiece of the city.
The Rise of Sikh Empire:
Amritsar's prominence grew significantly in the early 19th century when the Sikh Empire under Maharaja Ranjit Singh took control of the region. Singh recognized the strategic importance of the city and invested heavily in fortifying its defenses, including the construction of the Ramgarhia Bunga fortress.
Singh also expanded the city's infrastructure and patronized art, literature, and music, making Amritsar a hub of cultural and artistic activity. During his reign, the city became a major trading center, attracting merchants and traders from all over the world.
The Tragedy of Jallianwala Bagh:
One of the darkest moments in Amritsar's history occurred on April 13, 1919, when British troops opened fire on a peaceful crowd of Indian protesters gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh public garden. The incident, known as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent people, including women and children.
The massacre became a defining moment in India's struggle for independence, igniting a wave of protest across the country and intensifying the push for self-rule. The Jallianwala Bagh Memorial was later built in the garden to commemorate the victims of the tragedy.
Amritsar played a significant role in India's struggle for independence, and after the country gained independence in 1947, the city became part of the state of Punjab. However, the partition of India and Pakistan resulted in widespread violence and mass migration, with thousands of people losing their lives and millions forced to flee their homes.
Amritsar's proximity to the border with Pakistan has made it a sensitive region in the years since independence, with several conflicts between India and Pakistan occurring in the region. Despite this, the city has continued to thrive, with its vibrant culture and religious significance drawing millions of tourists and pilgrims from around the world every year.
Points of Interest in Amritsar.
1. Golden Temple or Harmandir Sahib.
The Golden Temple, also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib, is the holiest place of worship for Sikhs worldwide. Located in the heart of Amritsar, Punjab, India, it is a magnificent structure that attracts millions of devotees and tourists every year. The temple is not only a religious site but also an architectural marvel, a symbol of peace, and a beacon of unity and brotherhood.
History of the Golden Temple:
The construction of the Golden Temple was initiated by the fourth Sikh Guru, Guru Ram Das, in the late 16th century. The temple was designed by the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev, who wanted to create a central place of worship for the Sikh community.
The construction of the temple was completed in 1604, and the holy scripture of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib, was installed in the temple. The temple was rebuilt several times due to damage caused by invading forces, including the Afghan invader Ahmed Shah Abdali, who destroyed the temple in 1762.
The temple's present form dates back to the early 19th century when Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the ruler of the Sikh Empire, renovated the temple and covered its upper floors with gold plates, giving it the name Golden Temple.
Architecture of the Golden Temple:
The Golden Temple is a fusion of Hindu and Islamic architectural styles, with a unique blend of marble, gold, and copper. The temple is built on a platform, surrounded by a pool of water called the Amrit Sarovar, which is said to have healing properties. The temple has four entrances, symbolizing the universality of the Sikh faith, and the doors are adorned with intricate carvings and inlaid with silver and gold.
The main sanctum, where the Guru Granth Sahib is kept, is covered in gold leaf and decorated with precious stones. The temple has several other buildings, including the Akal Takht, which is the highest temporal seat of the Sikh religion, and the Guru Ram Das Niwas, a pilgrim hostel that accommodates devotees.
Significance of the Golden Temple:
The Golden Temple is not only a place of worship for Sikhs but also a symbol of communal harmony and brotherhood. The temple's langar, a community kitchen that serves free vegetarian meals to all visitors, regardless of their caste or religion, is a testament to the Sikh belief in equality and service to humanity.
The temple is also a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the world, who come to witness the temple's stunning beauty and experience its peaceful ambiance. The temple's spectacular lighting at night adds to its allure, and the reflecting pool creates a beautiful mirror image of the temple's gleaming facade.
2. Jallianwala Bagh.
Jallianwala Bagh is a public garden located in the heart of Amritsar, Punjab, India. It is known worldwide for the tragic event that took place on April 13, 1919, known as the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. The incident is one of the darkest chapters in India's colonial history and a poignant reminder of the struggle for India's freedom.
History of Jallianwala Bagh:
Jallianwala Bagh was a peaceful garden and a popular gathering place for locals and visitors. However, on April 13, 1919, the British colonial authorities banned all public gatherings without prior permission, under the pretext of maintaining law and order.
Despite the ban, a large crowd of around 10,000 people, mostly men, women, and children, gathered at Jallianwala Bagh to celebrate the festival of Baisakhi, a harvest festival. The gathering was peaceful and had no political agenda, but the British authorities saw it as a threat to their rule and ordered their troops to fire upon the unarmed crowd.
The massacre resulted in the deaths of at least 379 people, including men, women, and children. The brutal and senseless violence sparked outrage across India and the world, leading to widespread protests and demands for India's independence from British colonial rule.
Legacy of Jallianwala Bagh:
The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre left a deep scar on the Indian psyche and inspired a generation of freedom fighters who fought for India's independence. The tragedy also exposed the brutal and inhuman face of British colonialism and led to the erosion of the legitimacy of British rule in India.
The Jallianwala Bagh site has since been converted into a memorial to commemorate the lives lost in the massacre. The memorial consists of a park, a museum, and a section of the wall that still bears the bullet marks from the massacre.
The park is an oasis of greenery in the midst of the bustling city of Amritsar, and its serene atmosphere stands in stark contrast to the violence and bloodshed that took place there. The museum houses artifacts and displays related to the massacre and serves as a reminder of the horrors of colonialism.
3. Wagah Border or Attari border
The Wagah Border is a popular tourist destination located between India and Pakistan. It is situated on the Grand Trunk Road, which connects the two neighboring countries. The Wagah Border is a symbol of the two nations' history, and it is an excellent place for tourists to experience the culture, traditions, and daily life of the two nations.
History of Wagah Border:
The Wagah Border is a historical border that was drawn up by the British during the partition of India in 1947. It is named after the village of Wagah, which lies on the border. The border served as a primary crossing point between the two nations until the India-Pakistan War of 1965.
After the war, the two nations decided to close the border, but it was reopened in 1999 after a series of diplomatic talks. The border has since become a major tourist destination, and the daily flag-lowering ceremony, also known as the "Beating Retreat Ceremony," has become a significant attraction for visitors.
Beating Retreat Ceremony:
The Beating Retreat Ceremony is a daily military practice that takes place at the Wagah Border. It is a ceremony that involves the lowering of the two nations' flags and the closing of the border gates. The ceremony takes place every evening just before sunset, and it is attended by a large number of people from both India and Pakistan.
The ceremony is a display of military strength and patriotism from both sides. It involves the marching of the soldiers in full military regalia and the hoisting of the two nations' flags. The ceremony culminates with the lowering of the flags, a handshake between the two sides' soldiers, and the closing of the border gates. The entire ceremony is accompanied by patriotic songs and slogans from both sides, creating an electric and vibrant atmosphere.
The Wagah Border attracts a large number of tourists from all over the world. Visitors come to witness the Beating Retreat Ceremony and experience the rich culture and traditions of both nations. The ceremony is an excellent opportunity for visitors to see the military strength and discipline of both nations and to learn about the history of the two nations.
The border is easily accessible from both India and Pakistan, and visitors are advised to arrive early to secure good seats. The ceremony is free of charge, and visitors can expect to be frisked and screened before being allowed to enter the venue.
4. Durgiana Temple
The Durgiana Temple is a famous Hindu temple located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga, also known as Shakti or the Divine Mother, and Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the universe in Hindu mythology. It is a significant religious site and a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the world.
The Durgiana Temple's architecture is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Punjab. The temple is surrounded by a high wall with four entrances, each adorned with intricate carvings and decorations. The main entrance is the Darshani Deori, which leads to the main temple complex. The temple has a central dome and four smaller domes, which are supported by pillars and arches.
The temple's interior is decorated with intricate carvings and paintings, depicting various Hindu deities and scenes from Hindu mythology. The main sanctum has idols of Goddess Durga and Lord Vishnu, which are decorated with gold and precious stones.
The Durgiana Temple is a popular tourist attraction, attracting visitors from all over the world. The temple's serene atmosphere and magnificent architecture provide a sense of peace and tranquility to the visitors. The temple is open to people of all faiths, and visitors are required to remove their shoes and cover their heads before entering the temple.
The temple complex also has several shops selling souvenirs, religious items, and books. The nearby streets are home to several food stalls and shops selling traditional Punjabi clothes and jewelry.
How to Reach Amritsar?
- Airport - Amritsar hosts Sri Guru Ramdasji International Airport. The airport is connected to other parts of India and other countries with direct international flights to cities. The Airport is 12th busiest Airport of India in terms of International Traffic. The Airport serves not only Amritsar, but also many other districts in Punjab and neighbouring states.
- Railways - Amritsar Junction Railway Station is the primary terminus station serving Amritsar. It is the busiest Railway Station in the Indian State of Punjab and one of the highest revenue generating stations of Northern Railways. Due to high traffic at the Amritsar Junction Railway Station, Indian Railways has planned to develop 2 satellite stations-Chheharta and Bhagtanwala, in order to decongest traffic at this station. As many as 6 trains would be shifted to Chheharta Railway Station in the first phase.
- Road - Amritsar has a National Bust station as well which is well connected to All over Punjab as well as other states like Delhi, Jammu and Himachal. Amritsar is situated on NH01.
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