Amritsar – A Golden Gate
A road trip through the green pastures and sarso farms, a sumptuous meal and bharavan da dhaba, a walk into cluttered and congested by lanes to reach the golden gate, and an irresistible aroma of piping hot kadha (halwa), prasad… these were some of my favourite childhood memories that keep me connected to Amritsar: the land of the golden gate, Harminder Sahib.
Having Sikh neighbours throughout my childhood invariably introduced me to the religion, the many stories and the holy shrine of Golden Temple. I had heard much about the beautiful and serene Harmandir Sahib and so it topped my list of must-see destinations. However, it was not until one of my professional assignment that I got to visit this spiritual and cultural hub of Sikh religion.
Though Amritsar is most popular as a religious site but there is much more to it. This holy city is home to many forts, museums, is a must stop street food destination and has bustling markets for shopping.
I started exploring this city with none other than visiting the Golden Temple which is built on a man-made lake and is the holiest place of worship for the Sikhs across the world. I had heard that the temple is open 24×7 and hence decided to visit it both during the night and early morning, as my hotel was nearby. The night view was mesmerising with lighting all around and the temple looking lovely emerging from the lake. It was pure serenity and I felt quite calm and at peace with myself. After spending some time I returned to the hotel to come back early morning. The next day I reached the Golden Temple at around 7 am. Though I wanted to take a dip in the holy sarovar but decided to just sprinkle some water on myself as I had work commitments. I quickly headed for the inner sanctorum covering my head properly (which is a must in any Gurudwara). Inside there was Gurbani being recited and people praying. I got Ardas done and then sat in a corner for 5-10 minutes. It was bliss! While heading out got the ‘kada prashad‘ which was awesomely delicious and I just couldn’t resist asking for some more. Quickly heading out of the temple I called my taxi and headed to my work place. on my way I saw that the streets were quite abuzz and could spot many girls riding two wheelers. The driver was quite friendly and asked me if I was here for the first time and what all I can do in the city. He told me to finish off my work quickly so that he could take me to the famous Amritsari Naan shop where I could savour the lip smacking kulchchas stuffed with potatoes and chole. And here I was ready by 12:45 pm sharp and headed out to have my meal with one of my colleagues. Both of us ate to our heart’s contentment, the kulchchas with oodles of white butter and of course the lassi. Though after having such a wholesome meal, we didn’t want to come back to work, but alas! there wasn’t a choice. After wrapping up the day’s work, I headed back to my hotel when the driver asked me “Aapko shopping nahin karni hai. Pehli baar aisi kudi vekhi hai jisne shopping da zikar nahi kitta.“ I was amused and asked, what will I get in Amritsar to buy. And my smart driver retorted “Tussi phulkari, Punjabi jutti da naam nahi sunaya?“ Of course I have, was my instant reply and I asked him to take me to the market. He took me to the main bazaar which had a huge variety of phulkari suits, stoles, dupattas, shops of Punjabi juttis and much more. I purchased a lot of suits for my sister, mom and myself and sitting at the shop figured out that there are tailors who could stitch the world-famous Patiala salwars in no time. I immediately bought fabric in red, white and black colours and gave them for stitching. Since I was there for another day and a half, I told the tailor to give them to me the next day. After buying a few pairs of juttis I headed back to the hotel and crashed as I was exhausted after a long day.
The next day I decided to reach office early as I wanted to visit the Wagah border in the evening. I left for Wagah border around 3 pm as the beating retreat ceremony starts sharp at 5:15 pm. And one needs to be there before that. The 45 minutes ceremony was a complete treat with fully choreographed ritual, music, pomp, well-coordinated movements and a lot of galore. It’s such a patriotic feeling to be here. On my way back I picked up me stuff from the market and came back to the hotel.
The last day in Amritsar was actually half a day that I had since I had to catch my train in the evening. After quickly eating my breakfast I checked out and headed to office to complete the last leg of my work. The driver that day had told me to take me to Jalian wala Bagh and museum of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who is also known as the ‘Lion of Punjab‘. Jalian wala Bagh is almost in the centre of the city and gives you goose bumps thinking of the mass massacre. After spending sometime there, I headed to the museum as there was some time at hand. The museum was originally the summer palace of the Maharaja and houses many of his belongings like coins, armor, paintings, weapons, etc. there is also a beautiful depiction of his major battles and the museum gives one a peek into the Sikh history and culture.
After visiting the museum, I left for the railway station. On my way bought some Amritsari vadi and papads and reached the station well in time to catch my train back to Delhi. It was a great action-packed trip but had a lot of fun. And I must add, my driver was really nice and helped me get the feel of the complete city in a such a short span of time. I couldn’t thank him enough for a great time I had in the city.