Amritsar, the pilgrim city of Punjab, is named after Amrit Sarovar, the sacred pool that surrounds Sikhism’s holiest site in the world, the Golden Temple. To witness the morning prayers, as the gilded doors are opened, hymns are chanted and devotees volunteer in the world’s largest free community kitchen where nearly 100,000 people of all religions and backgrounds sit together in rows on the floor and eat every day. The evening prayers, as the sun glints on the temple’s imposing pure gold dome, stir the spiritual inside everyone present. The old walled city around it was built in the 16th century and a walk through its narrow streets with shops selling Punjabi delicacies, textiles and ornate balconied brick havelis conjures its tumultuous past. But the gregarious spirit of its people has never bowed down. Punjabis with their upbeat music, dancing and lip smacking cuisine have a knack of finding joy in life as can be seen at the nearby Wagah city where the daily closure of the border between India and Pakistan takes place with great pomp and ceremony. The best time to visit Amritsar is between the months of November and March when a number of important festivals are celebrated in the city.
The city is scattered with buildings of historic and architectural importance; the Khalsa college whose architect Ram Singh was heavily influenced by the Indo-Sarcenic style, the public garden Jallianwallah Bagh which has a memorial of massacre that took place on the site on the festival of Baisakhi in 1919 and the colonial Town Hall which has now been turned into the Partition Museum, a repository of stories, materials, and documents related to the partition of India and Pakistan. As much as Amritsar is famous for its dhabas, restaurants that serve authentic North Indian Food, it is known for its textile industry, particularly tweed and woolen fabrics.
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.
Features in the following itineraries
- Mr David Wallace, North India
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
- Anonymous, India
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Leslie Siben, India
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India