Amritsar, the ‘Spiritual Capital of Punjab’ is one of themost important Sikh pilgrim centres in the country. It was founded in 1577, by Guru Ram Das and was later named as Amristar, after the sacred pond – Amrit Sarovar or the ‘Pool of Nectar’.
Amritsar (pronounced Um-rit-sir) has been the capital of the Sikh religion since the 16th century. Located in the northwestern state of Punjab, a wealthy and prosperous region and home to the majority of India’s Sikhs, Amritsar is also home to India’s most dazzling temple. A shimmering monument in marble, bronze, and gold leaf, and a vivid architectural celebration of Sikhism’s devotion (a faith that actively preaches unity and equality among all religions), The Golden Temple is both fascinating and spiritually invigorating, combining sheer physical beauty with a truly sacred atmosphere. The way in which its devotees worship is enough to hold your attention—and your heart—completely captive.
Popularly believed to have been founded in 1574, the city of Amritsar is both the center of the Sikh religion and a major city of Punjab and is also home to Sikhism's holiest shrine the Golden Temple. The city got its name from the sacred tank around which the Golden Temple is built. The existence of many religious sites makes Amritsar, one of the most visited tourist destinations in India.
Amritsar is located in the northwestern part of India in the state of Punjab. It is only 16 miles from wagha, on outpost of the Indo-Pakistan border.
The climate of Amristar is warm with temperatures rising up to 43°C in summer and in winter; the temperatures may go down up to 4° to 10°C.
The history of Amritsar is fascinating. The city has been famous for puissant Sikhs and has legends attached to it. According to the legend, when the fourth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Ram Das heard about the healing powers of the pool beside which the golden temple is located, he ordered his son, Guru Arjan Dev to erect a temple at the site. In 1588, the foundations of cities were laid which later on became an emblem of Sikh culture and history. The city came to be known as Ramdaspur or Guru Ram Das di nagri.
The temple compound was completed in 1601. Historians say that Mughal Emperor Akbar also donated the land close to the temple after paying off the local Jat farmers. After the completion of the temple, Guru Granth Sahib, also called as the Adi Granth, the holy book of the Sikhs was installed in the temple. The temple became popular as Harmandir or the 'Temple of God'.
Amritsar Tourism Information
Amritsar, the holy city of the Sikhs, is the second largest town of Punjab and a premier tourist destination. The city has been famous for puissant Sikhs and has legends attached to it.
Golden Temple Complex
The magnificent temple complex set in the ‘hear’ of Amritsar is the holiest shrie of the Sikhs. Its foundation was laid in 1588, by the fifth Sikh Guru Arjan Dev ji on a small island in the waters of Amrit Sarovar and was consecrated on August 16, 1604. The temple was virtually destroyed in 1761, by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a great Sikh ruler. The gurudwara complex is a fine blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture and is regarded as one of the most tastefully decorated shrines of the world. Darshani Deorim the northern gateway with two splendidly carved silver doors is the main entrance. It also houses the Central Sikh Museum. The main shrine called as Harmandar or Dabar Sahib is set in the middle of sacred Amrit Sarovar pond. The original copy of Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs is kept covered under a jewelled canopy at the Darbar Sahib during the day and is returned ceremoniously to the Akal Takht at night. Maharaja Ranjit Singh covered the dome of the shrine in gold and embellished the interiors with lavish decorations.
True to the Sikhism's comprehensive nature, all are welcome, regardless of caste or creed, at its holiest shrine, which is also called Sri Hamandir Sahib. The temples, standing in the middle of a tank, exhibits tremendous architectural brilliance and are a blend of both the Hindu and Muslim styles of architecture. Pilgrims and visitors most remove their shoes, wash their feet and cover their heads with scarves. A causeway leads to the two-storey marble temple, Hari Mandir Sahib that stands majestically in the middle of the sacred pool Amirt Sarovar (Pool of Nectar). The original copy of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, is kept under a pink shroud in the Hari Mandir Sahib during the day and is brought back to the Akal Takhat at night. The Akal Takhat is the traditional meeting place of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, or the Sikh Parliament.
Guru-ka-Langar, the massive community kitchen overlooking the eastern entrance of the temple complex is a must visit site.
The Golden Temple or 'Hari Mandir', situated in Amritsar, Punjab, is the most sacred temple of the Sikhs. The site of the temple was sacred to the Sikhs since the time of the 4th Guru, Ram Das. It is a symbol of the magnificence and strength of the Sikhs people all over the world. All Sikhs people try to make a visit to the temple and take bath in the holy tank of the temple.
Prepare to be humbled by the most tangibly spiritual place in the country, one that, in its status as a living monument, even has the edge on the Taj Mahal. Arrive with a few good hours set aside and get lost in its magical beauty. Leave your shoes at the free facility near the entrance, cover your head (bandanas are provided, or you can purchase a “Golden Temple” souvenir bandana from a vendor), and wash your feet by wading through the shallow pool before entering. The most sacred part of the complex is Hari Mandir Sahib (Divine Temple) or Darbar Sahib (Court of the Lord), which you’ll instantly recognize as the marbleand- gold sanctuary at the center of a large body of water within the temple complex. The name “Golden Temple” comes from this gold-plated building, which features copper cupolas and white marble walls encrusted with precious stones arranged in decorative floral patterns that show strong Islamic influence. Four chattris flank the structure, which is decorated inside and out with verses from the Granth Sahib (the Sikh Holy Book). Construction of the temple began in 1574, with ongoing restoration and embellishment over the years, including the addition in the 19th century of 100 kilograms (220 lb.) of gold to cover the inverted lotus-shaped dome. To reach the temple, follow the parikrama (walkway), which circumscribes the sacred water tank—known as Amrit Sarovar, or the Pool of Nectar—in a clockwise direction. You’ll need to cross a marble causeway, Guru’s Bridge, which symbolizes the journey of the soul after death, in order to reach the bangaldar pavilion on which the temple stands. Access to the bridge is through marvelous Darshani Deorhi, a gateway marked by magnificent silver doors. Here, you will join the many devotees who, especially early and late in the day, pass through the temple to pay their respects (and give a donation) to their Holy Book. Within Hari Mandir, the scene—which is almost constantly being televised for Sikh viewers around India—is fascinating. Beneath a canopy studded with jewels, scriptures from the Holy Book are sung, while a crowd of fervent yet solemn devotees immerse themselves in the moment. A chauri, or whisk, is repeatedly waved dramatically in the air above the Book, while new musicians and singers continually join the ensemble after another participant has paid his respects. Like an organic human machine, lines of Sikhs pay their respects by touching their foreheads to the temple floor and walls, continuing in a clockwise direction at a moderate pace. Being among such gracious devotion will fill you with a sense of inner calm. Once you’ve passed through Hari Mandir, taking your time to drink in the atmosphere, head back along Guru’s Bridge. It is along this bridge that the Granth Sahib is carried between Hari Mandir and Akal Takht (see “Spiritual Weightlifting,” below), the seat of the Sikh parliament, built in 1609 and located directly across from Hari Mandir. Don’t miss Guru-ka-Langar, a community kitchen where each day around 35,000 people are fed by temple volunteers. In an act that symbolizes the Sikh belief in equality of all people, irrespective of caste or creed, anyone and everyone is welcomed and invited to join the communal breaking of bread. Guest quarters are also available for international Sikh visitors (for a nominal fee), and at least 400 simple rooms are provided free of charge to pilgrims. In the Central Sikh Museum at the main entrance, galleries display images and remembrances of Sikh gurus, warriors, and saints; note that it includes some graphic portraits of gurus being tortured and executed in terrifying ways. Unlike in many other temples in India, here you feel genuinely welcome and not at all pressured to take out your wallet. In fact, so proud of their religion, culture, history, and temple are the local Sikhs that you will almost certainly be offered enthusiastic conversation and valuable information by one of the regular devotees—in return for nothing more than your attention. The welcoming information office to the left of the main gate gives helpful advice and information, as well as free guides and booklets on Sikhism.
The beautiful walled garden near the Golden Temple complex is a major landmark in the history of India’s struggle for independence. The Martyr’s memorial built in the shape of an eternal flame of liberty has become a pilgrim site for every Indian. This place is noted for its most notorious massacre under the British rule. It is 400m north of the Golden Temple. The British General Dyer was the Lieutenant Governor of the province in 1919. He banned all meetings and demonstrations led by Indians against the economical set back by World War I. On 13th April 1919, pilgrims poured into Amritsar to celebrate the Baisakhi festival, a holiday in the Sikh calendar. In the afternoon, thousands of people gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh to celebrate Baisakhi. This ground is surrounded by high walls in all sides has only a narrow alley for access. General Dyer personally led the troops to the sight and ordered his men to open fire without any warning. This resulted in the death of about 379 and injured more than 1200. India was outraged by Dyer's massacre. Gandhiji, called for a nationwide strike and started the non-cooperation Movement, which became an important milestone in the struggle for India's Independence. Today, this ground has been changed to a park and it has a pleasant garden. There is a narrow path between the houses, which leads the lawn of the park. At the entrance, there is a memorial plaque, which recounts the history. There is a well on the northern side of the Jallianwala Bagh in which many people who tried to escape from the bullets of the British were drowned, and remnants of walls have been preserved to show the bullet holes. At the east end of the garden, there is a large memorial built in memory of those who died here.
Durgiana Mandir or lakshmi Narain Temple
The temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga and dates back to the 16th century. This Hindu temple also draws its share of visitors. A large temple is dedicated to Hindu deities such as, Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth and Narayana, (The Preserver of Universe). All dignitaries visiting the Golden Temple make it a point to visit the Durgiana Temple also. It is just a 15-minute walk from the Golden Temple.
Ram Bagh Garden
This beautiful garden located in the new part of town also houses a museum in the small palace built by Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It ouses a museum displaying weapons dating back to Mughals and portraits of various dynasties of Punjab.
Ram Tirth (11km)
It is believed to be the site of the Ashram of maharishi Balmiki, the legendary sage who composed the great epic Ramyana. Sita, the consort of Lord Rama is said to have stayed here and gave birth to the twin sons, Luv and Kush. The pilgrim centre has an ancient tank and many temples.
Tara Taran (22km)
The famous golden domed Gurudwara at Tarn Taran was built by Sri Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth Sikh Guru. The water of the holy pool is said to possess miraculous powers, especially for those suffering from leprosy. It is an important Sikh tank about 25km south of Amritsar. There's a temple, which predated Amritsar, and a tower on the east side of the tank, which was also constructed by Ranjit Singh. It is said that any leper who can swim across the tank will be miraculously cured.
Wagah Border (28 km)
The spectacular ceremony of “Beating the Retreat” held every evening at Wagah border near Attari has become an important tourist attraction on both sides of the Indo-Pak border. A number of buses ply between Amritsar and Attari. One of the world’s oddest spectator activities, this pompous display of military bravado is a major drawing card for Indian tourists who travel long distances to watch the “Retreat,” a high-kicking, toe-stepping,quick-marching ceremony wherein the Indian and Pakistani flags are lowered on either side of the only border that remains open between the two more-often-than-not hostile countries. A number of officers from each team puts on a raised-eyebrow performance to the satisfaction of the cheering, chanting crowds, seated on concrete grandstands on either side. The pointless exercise ends with the furious slamming of the border gates, at which time each side’s flag is urgently carried to a room for overnight safekeeping. For anyone interested in unbridled nationalist pride, the Flag Ceremony is a memorable outing (only half an hour from Amritsar). Arrive well ahead of the crowds in order to get a close-up seat—the grimaces of the mighty military men in their rooster caps add to the fun, and you’ll get a better look at the Pakistani delegation. Alternatively, find a way of organizing a VIP spot across the road from the crowd; a friendly call to a local politician might do the trick.
Fort Gobind Garh
The south-western part of the city, has been taken over by the Indian army and is now off limits. It was built in 1805-09 by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who also constricted the city walls of Amritsar.
This beautiful garden is named as a tribute to Guru Ram Das, the founder of the city of Amritsar. It is situated in the new part of the town and has a museum in the summer palace built by the Sikh Maharaja, Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), the 'Lion of Punjab'. The museum contains weapons dating back to the Mughal times and some portraits of the ruling houses of Punjab, including a replica of the diamond, 'Kohinoor'. To commemorate the memory of his valour, Ram Bagh has a lively statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh saddled on a horse. However, this remains closed on Wednesdays.
This Hindu temple situated at Rani Ka Bagh is similar to the Mata Vaishno Devi temple at Katra(Jammu). The temple draws a large number of devotees from far and near.
The place gets special mention in the great Hindu epic, 'Ramayana'. It is the place where Maharishi Valmiki gave shelter to Sita, the wife of Rama when she was abandoned after the victory of Rama in Lanka. It was here that she gave birth to the twins, Lava and Kusha. There is a temple built there in the memory of Sita and her twin sons.
Basant Panchami is celebrated with great enthusiasm at Gurudwara Chheharta Sahib on the fifth day of the bright half of the month of Magh. People start pouring in a day earlier than the Basant Panchami and participate in the celebrations, which begin the same evening, continue throughout the night, and last till late in the afternoon, the next day when the congregation breaks up. Flying of kites is a peculiar feature of Basant Panchami. It is very interesting to watch when two players entangle their kites in the fair with a view to cut the twines.
Ram Tirath Fair
Ram Tirath is located about 11km to the west of Amritsar city on the Amritsar Lopoke road. It is an ancient pilgrimage centre associated with the period of Ramayana. It is said that Sita spent her period of exile at this place in the cottage of Rishi Valmiki. It was here that the twins of Sita were born who were named as Lava and Kusha. A big fair is held here about a fortnight after Diwali, for a duration of five days. Great importance is given to the tank which is believed to have been dug by Hanuman. The circumference of the tank is about 3km and there are temples on its sides. A majority of the pilgrims consider it auspicious to have a dip in the sacred tank in the early hours of the Puranmashi (full moon) night. A 30ft. wide path of circumambulation or parikrama runs a round the tank. After the holy dip, the pilgrims take a round of the tank while chanting mantras and exchanging salutations, 'Ram Ram'.
Diwali at Golden Temple
Diwali, is celebrated at the Golden Temple with great enthusiasm for three consecutive days. The celebrations begin a day earlier than the three Diwali and come to a close, one day after Diwali. This festival generally falls during the second half of October or in early November.
A free bus service is available from the railway station and the bus stand to the Golden Temple every 45 minutes from 4.30am to 9.30pm. Visitors can also reach the Golden Temple, hiring a cycle-rickshaw or an auto-rickshaw also available.
How to get there
The Grand Trunk Karnal Road connects Delhi to Amritsar. Regular bus services connect the city to most North Indian towns, like Chandigarh, New Delhi, Shimla and Jammu. Direct trains to major Indian cities also connect Amritsar. The bi-weekly train Samjhauta Express links Amritsar to Lahore in Pakistan. The Raja Sansi International airport is about 11km from the town.
By Rail: Punjab is linked well to other parts of India by the railways. Amritsar, Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Ludhiana and Pathankot are some of the rail contres from where trains are available to most parts of the country.
By Road: the Grand Trunk road connects the state with most of east India and north. Ludhiana Airport, popularly known as the Sahnewal Airport, is located 5km from the main city center.
Amritsar Distance Guide
|Amritsar||to||Dera Baba Nanak||47 Km|
|Amritsar||to||Rup Nagar||178 Km|