For many, this place is unknown but for those that have travelled extensively throughout India, Amritsar is one of the most significant cities in Northern India. Shine the spot light here…NOW.
“The largest and most culturally significant city in northern India, Amritsar lies 25km east of the Pakistan border on the Grand Trunk Road, the ancient gateway to India. Fought over by Mughal, Persian, Afghan and British Raj invaders, all have stamped their ethnic mark on Amritsar”.
India’s well-worn Golden Triangle has always been popular with Australian travellers flocking to Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Now, the northern city of Amritsar can be added to India’s ‘must see’ destinations. India’s northern Punjab region has opened up with the inaugural flight of AirAsia into Amristar from Kuala Lumpur last month. A perennially popular destination for India’s domestic travellers who visit the Golden Temple, India’s holy city of Amritsar has much to offer Australian’s intrigued by India.
Here’s our guide to the best ‘must see’ sights and events at Amritsar.
THE GOLDEN TEMPLE
The city of Amritsar, which translates literally into the tank of nectar of immortality, rose from the dirt in the 1500’s as a place of worship for people of all religions. Sikhs consider the Golden Temple, which is clad in gold foil, to be the holiest of shrines in India. Devotees bathe in the waters surrounding the temple before visiting the Guru. A community kitchen, called the Langar, is manned by volunteers and serves free meals to over 100,000 pilgrims every day. The Jubi Tree which dominates one corner of the concourse is over 450 years old.
WAGAH BORDER CEREMONIAL PARADE
India’s Flag Code decrees that the national flag shall only be flown between sunrise and sunset, resulting in ceremonial lowering at dusk each day. At the historic Wagah Border between India and Pakistan a ceremony known as Beating the Retreat is performed in front of tens of thousands of patriotic Indians and Pakistani’s. Either side of the border, boisterous crowds face each other across guarded gates chanting, cheering and waving flags, erupting into song in good-natured jeering akin to a day/night cricket match without the bat and ball. It’s quite some spectacle.
#Didyouknow: #TownHall housing the #PartitionMuseum also served as a police station. As some rooms were cells for prisoners,the gates were bolted using a bar longer than the door & the end was fastened by a lock in the wall which made it difficult to pick. #heritageMW @MuseumWeek pic.twitter.com/O8aqNAEskX
— The Partition Museum (@PartitionMuseum) April 25, 2018
Housed within the aged walls of the Town Hall, the Partition Museum documents India and Pakistan’s Partition when British India was divided into two countries in 1947. The Radcliffe Line divided east and west Punjab on religious lines resulting in almost 1.5m people becoming overnight refugees and approx. 800,000 Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus killed when they found themselves on the wrong side of the new border.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh holds legendary status in Punjab with Gobindgarh Fort headquarters for his army. Now a museum, within the towering mud brick walls of the historic fort an entertainment precinct showcases traditional culture, dance and artefacts along with craft shops and food stalls. The central performance arena utilises as a backdrop the curving staircase and turrets of the Toshakhana building to great effect in a laser light show.
Heavily influenced by local agriculture and farming, Punjabi cuisine has made its way around the globe. Classic Punjab favourites are tandoori and tikka style meat or vegetarian dishes accompanied by daal, lassi and naan bread. A local delicacy is roti bread stuffed with potato and cheese dipped into a delicious bowl of curry to soak up the flavours. A typical restaurant meal is a thali plate which includes naan, basmati rice and small bowls of daal, chick peas and curried mustard greens.
POPULAR AMRITSAR EVENTS
International Bhangra Festival (Oct/Nov) An energetic festival celebrating folk dances of the Punjab
Amritsar Heritage Festival (Nov) – Five festival days showcasing Punjab cultural and spiritual heritage in art, craft and performance
Ram Tirath Mela (Nov) – Women outnumber men at the five-day long festival thanks to a belief that dipping in holy waters beneath a full moon will help conception.
Lohri Festival (Jan) – Dedicated to fire and the Sun God, people give thanks for a good harvest with a bonfire the culmination of festivities
Baisakhi (Apr) – One of the most significant Sikh events and harvest festivals celebrated with flowers, offerings and energetic dance performances
Getting to Amritsar
AirAisa flies from Kuala Lumpur to Amritsar (with Australian connections) four times per week, offering Premium Flatbed and economy fares. www.airasia.com
Punjab Tourism www.punjabtourism.gov.in
Best time to visit Amritsar
Outside the monsoon season, November to March is the best time to visit India’s Punjab region.
Fiona Harper travelled to Amritsar as a guest of AirAsia and Punjab Tourism
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