The place that has my heart: Amritsar, Punjab
From war cries to temple bells, Amritsar has heard it all. The first thing that the name Amritsar brings in our minds is a vivid imagination of the Golden Temple. You’ve heard stories of its glory and might, stories of how the place has the power to bring peace in our minds and stories of the magnetic power it beholds that you cannot stop yourself by visiting this place just once.
My story of Amritsar is the same. I went there once, but it called me again. The first time I went there was for a badminton tournament. I was there for a purpose but the place cast a spell on me. I went there again and spent most of my time watching sunrises and sunsets at the Golden Temple. The idea of spending my days watching the sunrise and set might sound simple but it has an enchanting effect that words might fail to explain.
Amritsar is so dear to everyone who stays or visits here that it has been given a lot of nicknames. Few of those are “The Golden City”, “The Holy City”, “Pool of Nectar” and “Guru ki Nagri”.
I will guide you on how to reach Amritsar and explain in detail about how you will feel being at this place that has my heart.
How to reach Amritsar?
By flight: Amritsar has an international airport making it the fastest way to reach Amritsar. The Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport is well connected to other cities in India and places abroad.
By Train: You can take a train from any city to Amritsar.
By Road: There are both Local and Luxury buses that you can take to reach Amritsar. You can drive to this place as well. This city is located on the historic Grand Trunk Road.
Things I did at Amritsar:
Amritsar, like I already mentioned is a very special place for me. I spent most of my time at the Golden Temple. I will elaborate on things that happen at the Golden Temple and how it feels to be there for you.
The Golden Temple, Amritsar:
This is considered a very holy shrine for the Sikhs. There are many reasons as to why so many others, apart from the Sikhs want to visit this temple.
1. The architecture- The architecture of the temple is derived from Indian, Islamic, Rajput and Hindu designs and thus appeals to anyone who visits this temple. The carvings and the scriptures that are written on the arches are deeply rooted in Sikhism.
2. The location- The construction of the Gurdwara around a man-made pool with its glistening gold foil covering is very attractive. The location of the Gurdwara makes it a serene place to be at.
3. The history- history says that this temple stood strong against a lot of destruction and war by the armies of the Mughal Empire. It did have to be rebuilt but the Sikh Gurus never gave up and today we have this beautiful temple to visit.
4. The vibes- Your mind is in a state of tranquillity. You automatically get the peacefulness and happy vibes.
What is done at the Golden Temple?
Actively participating in the rituals, even though you aren’t a Sikh will surely be interesting. The Sikh Guru Granth is brought to the Gurdwara around 3:30 a.m in a Palanquin with joy and celebration every morning. This is called the Prakash. If you are up for the Prakash, you will automatically be up when the sun rises and witness the beauty of it.
They have Kirtan, commonly understood and Bhajans in praise of their Guru and it is very pleasing to be watching or sitting there while the devotees praise their Guru with so much love and respect.
A very interesting thing you will notice here is that the Sikh temple community serve food to everyone who comes there. This is called Langar. Delicious and nutritious vegetarian food is served. There is no bias in religion or in any other way. No one goes back hungry once they have visited here. And anyone is free to volunteer. This concept makes the place more heart-warming. It’s all smiles at this place.
In the evening, around sunset, Guru Granth is taken back to the room and this event is enchanting to watch. At nights, the reflection of the golden hue of the temple falls on the water and makes it a spectacular view.
To watch the entire sequence of events from morning till night at the Golden Temple, you can get permission to stay at the temple itself. They have accommodation facilities. You can go and talk to the authorities in charge and get yourself a room to stay at.
You can say that these Gurdwaras are the most welcoming places in India. Just like the temple, the people have a heart of Gold.
This place has a historical story from the days when we fighting for our freedom. It is considered as a memorial of national importance. The historical event took place on the festival day of Vaisakhi, very sacred festivals to the Sikhs. There is a museum and gallery here too. The bullet holes from the incident are still preserved on the walls.
This place lies at the border between India and Pakistan. People go there to see the border ceremony that is performed in unison and so flawlessly. Watching this at the border brings feelings of pride and patriotism for the country.
The other places you can visit at Amritsar are:
Partition museum- It holds the documents and stories related to the riots that took place after the partition of the country into India and Pakistan.
Akal Takht- A spiritual centre for the Sikhs.
Food in Amritsar:
Amritsar is an embodiment of the best food in the world. Let me mention to you what you SHOULD have while you are at Amritsar.
1. Langar & the Kara Prashad: When you visit the Golden Temple, they serve you food and a sweet delicacy at the end. However, crowded it is you should not miss out on this when you visit Amritsar.
2. Kulcha: Amritsar is known for their butter Kulchas served with potato or cauliflower stuffings. You could always depend on these for breakfast or lunch. The reason I haven’t mentioned dinner is that these are so much in demand that the restaurants run out of Kulchas by 2 or 3 pm.
3. Kabab & Chicken: The Punjabis dwell on kabab and chicken. This place definitely serves you mouth-watering Kabab, mutton tikka and tandoori chicken. Their style of cooking is different and that is why you definitely have to try this here.
4. Kheema Paratha, Lachcha Paratha, Palak Paneer, Baigan bharta are the meals you should not and cannot miss in Amritsar. The city is known to have the best of these.
5. Lassi: One wouldn’t miss having Lassi in the land of Punjab. You ought to have this drink served in tall glasses here otherwise your food experience in Amritsar would be incomplete.
Things to buy at Amritsar:
The clothes and dressing of Amritsar have its own charm. Everything is very colourful and attractive. You could buy shawls, clothes of embroidery work, sarees, lamps, jewellery, churidar dress materials, sweaters and handicrafts. The things made here are one of its kinds. You will have happy and satisfied with shopping here.
Places to stay at Amritsar:
1. The Golden Temple- Free or might cost Rs. 100 for a night
2. goStops Amritsar- has dorms and private rooms at Rs. 540 for a night.
3. Sukhmani Homestay- This would cost you close to Rs. 1000 for a night.
4. Nutz Backpackers – A backpacker’s stay that costs Rs. 300 for a night
Best time to visit Amritsar:
Considering the weather factor, the ideal time to visit Amritsar would be between November and March. Winters have a temperature below zero here.
I am mentioning an approximate cost that is most likely to be your expenditure for a 3 day stay at Amritsar excluding your flight or train costs as they vary from place to place.
My rough estimation is Rs. 5000-7000 as total expenditure in Amritsar. Considering Rs. 1500-2000 for food, Rs. 1000-2000 for shopping and Rs. 3000 for both travel and stay in the city.
Amritsar is a city where you will feel loved. Everyone around has happy faces and the place keeps no space for any kind of insecurity in the mind. The language, their culture, their kindness and their smiles are intoxicating. I mentioned this earlier and I’m mentioning it again that you cannot be at Amritsar just once.