Friday, May 25, 2012

City of the Golden Temple- Amritsar

Think of Amritsar and what comes to mind is the Golden Temple. My wife and I visited Amritsar for a couple of days in April 2012(16th and 17th).

The temple is extremely clean and volunteers ensure that it is kept that way by regularly washing the marble floors. People stand in queue to gain entry to the “Harmandir sahib”(the sanctum sanctorum) but there is hardly any jostling for position. Chanting of prayers by the priests goes on the whole day but the noise level is minimal.  I am not a very religious person but no temple has evoked so much of inner peace and tranquility in me as the Golden temple. There is orderliness in every activity inside the temple.
Majestic temple-180 kgm gold used.

Clean temple

After landing in the Airport, we got into a free bus pick up to the Golden temple. The moment one approaches near the temple complex, one can see the difference in attitude. People are friendly and very helpful. We were taken to the baggage room and left our luggage in the locker. Everything is free inside the temple, be it the baggage locker room, the shoe-stand, water or the food they serve (called “Langar”). A lot of planning by the temple management has gone into ensuring tourist friendly arrangements. Every detail like baggage trolley and wheel chairs for the physically challenged are provided free right at the point where the bus delivers the visitors. Small things like a foot rest to unlace ones shoes are provided.

Wheel chairs and baggage trolley
Lakshmi using the foot rest.

We were so impressed that we visited the temple on both the days of our stay and had “Langar” there. The food was simple but tasty with chapatti, daal and kheer. The free food is served 24x7 and caters to 20000 people a day.
Lakshmi partaking in the "Langar".

People waiting for the free lunch to be served

Chalk marks showing the bullet marks.

Jallianwala Bagh- the site of the massacre by Brigadier Dyer on April 13,1919, the Punjabi new year day- is situated very near the temple. 389 innocent citizens died and more than 2000 wounded during the indiscriminate firing. The scenes from the movie "Gandhi" showing this incident flashed through my mind and i felt so terrible standing where the firing took place. People were shot when they were trying to escape by climbing the wall and there were others who jumped into the well and lost their lives. The chalk marks in the walls capture the bullet marks.  

View of the crowd in the Wagha border ceremony.
The much hyped Attari-Wagha border was our next visit. This is about 23 kms from Amritsar and is the border between india-Pakistan. Every day evening they conduct a flag lowering ceremony with March past by the Border security forces (BSF). Similar function happens simultaneously on the Pakistan side by their army. This function is more of grandstanding and dramatization by the military and i did not feel any patriotic fervor by this exercise.Also, they have separate enclosure for men and women and when the gates were opened for entry to the venue, people rush in pushing others almost causing a stampede. We also visited the Attari Railway station which is the last station in the Indian side before the Pakistan border.   

The nest visit was the Rambagh museum. This houses the paintings on Maharaja Ranjith Singh who was called the Lion of Punjab.
Ista hotel with Alpha one mall.

We stayed in Hotel Ista (  which is a business hotel right next to the Alpha one city center Mall in the main G.T Road.The hotel is famous for its spa and Ayurveda massage. This is the only hotel where they offer a "pillow menu" where in one can choose from a variety of pillows to suit ones preference. I had one of the most wonderful sleeps with the cozy pillow. A console box is kept near the bedside table from where one can control all the electrical functions of the room. No wonder they pride themselves in calling a hi-tech hotel. However, a major drawback was in not providing a health faucet in the toilet.

As a city, Amritsar is quite dirty. The approach road to the temple is so narrow and it was a miracle how our bus maneuvered through these. These streets also form the shopping center and one can imagine how crowded the narrow streets would be. However, it really was fun to go through shopping among the crowds. Amritsar is famous for its Phulkari dress material and Patiala salwars. But, the thing that captured Lakshmi's taste buds was the "Kulfi" she had in a road side shop. It was probably one of the best kulfi we have had.

Delicious kulfi with rose syrup.

Lakshmi in a cycle rickshaw.
We tried all forms of transportation during this visit. We came by flight from Delhi and then boarded the bus to go to the temple. After the temple visit, we took a car to the Wagha border and back to the hotel. The next day we took an Auto rickshaw to the temple and wound up taking a cycle rickshaw to go to the museum and our shopping visits. That is vehicular variety at its best.

A wonderful trip and would surely like to come back another time to visit the temple and of course to try the kulfi.



Unknown said...

Nice travellogue dad... especially liked the last paragraph where you have described the modes of transport you took ... nice... :)

- arch

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Divya Shankar said...

Nice travelogue entry, Uncle. Its' been really long since I logged into my blogger account, therefore missed all recent articles on your blog too. In most TV shows on Amritsar, I too have found the city pretty unclean but the Golden temple stands in stark contrast in that aspect. What seemed most interesting to me is the "pillow menu" :)
Wishing you more such interesting travel and hoping to read more such articles.