The Golden Temple in Amritsar, high in the Punjab near the border with Pakistan, is the most important site in the world for Sikhs. A two-storey marble structure with an imposing dome of pure gold, reflected in a surrounding sacred pool, it is a stunning sight. Founded in 1577 by Ram Das, it is always busy with thousands of pilgrims and tourists. Pubjab is India’s only Sikh-majority state, and it is best known for the Golden Temple, but it also has some interesting and little-visited princely palaces.
Originally founded in the 16th Century by the forth Sikh guru, Ram Das, the name Amritsar means “lake of nectar”, referring to the water surrounding the Golden Temple. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, the city was repeatedly attacked over and pillaged as the Sikhs battled against Mughal and then Afghan forces. In the 19th Century it was ruled over by Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Sikh Empire until it came under British rule in the 1840s. It became part of the Indian state of Punjab in 1947 during Partition.
Amritsar is the nearest major city to the Pakistani border and it is an easy drive from Wagah, a village divided in two at Partition, where the daily closure of the border takes place with great pomp and ceremony. Indian border guards in khaki and Pakistani border guards in dark green march, bark orders and lower their respective national flags in a symbolic stand-off, watched by orderly crowds of thousands waving national flags. There is much partisan cheering in the grandstands as the gates clang shut for the night, to be formally opened again the next day.
>> Read our blog: Insider India: Meeting Mallika Ahluwalia, Co-founder of the Partition Museum Amritsar
Features in the following itineraries
- Leslie Siben, India
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Mr David Wallace, North India
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka