If one is looking for a weekend getaway from Delhi, Amritsar is certainly a must destination. We took the Swarna Shatabdi Express which leaves at 07:20 a.m. from New Delhi Railway Station and reached exactly at 13:25 hours to straight away proceed to the hotel we stayed for 2 days (Hotel Hongkong Inn). One can also opt to drive from Delhi (appx. 8 hrs). Being rainy days in the north, we decided to carry umbrellas with us. But things turned upside down when we reached our destination. It was hot and humid with all four of us drenched with sweat! But it was worth the visit! We decided to visit the Wagah Border the very same day as we had only two days in hand and had to cover the most possible and popular destinations. We hired the hotel cab and proceeded to Wagah Border. It is the only road border crossing between India and Pakistan. Wagah, in Pakistan is a village through which the controversial Radcliffe Line, the boundary demarcation line dividing India and Pakistan upon the partition of India was drawn. The village was divided in 1947 by gaining Independence. Today, the eastern half of village lies in the Republic of India and the western half lies in Pakistan.
If one really wants to catch the glimpse of the flag raising and delivering ceremony without much interruptions, one should arrange for the VIP pass that is made available only by the BSF authorities. The VIP seats are nothing but the seats closest to the gates, and the seats - plastic chairs or maybe even on the ground. A separate VIP area/ seating arrangement is given only to the foreigners. We reached the border at 16:15 hrs and we thought we were too early for the same. But we were relieved when we saw the crowd dying and waiting to enter the border gate going through a number of formalities. As we had the VIP pass, we were lucky enough to skip the formalities. We got the topmost seat which we thought otherwise is the best place to view the ceremony. The ceremony involves tall, I mean really tall soldiers or jawans as we may call in massive turbans goose stepping and slamming gates. In addition, before the actual ceremony starts, the crowd waiting performs to the tunes organized by the BSF. The Indian side can gather more than 2000 people and it is worse during public holidays and weekends.
Please note there is no crowd management by the BSF resulting in extreme chaos . There are no sheds in the seating area resulting in rivers of sweat soaking you all over. Make sure you don't carry any bags, any kind of bags, including ladies purses and handbags. Only men's wallet and water and milk for infants is allowed. I knew this, because I had an infant then. Not at all advisable to go on hot days. After much wait, the ceremony started. The ceremony started after the chaos was finally brought down a bit. Jawans from both the sides synchronize their parade and the entire event is supposed to create a patriotic feeling within oneself called the beating retreat ceremony. Both sides, the jawans were treating the other side as the lower side. Wished if the Indian side behaved as foreigners and maintained discipline, thus avoiding any type of chaos! After the ceremony, on the way, we proceeded to the famous "Kesar da Dhaba" for dinner. It has been running since nine decades and there are many mouth watering dishes with the traditional Punjabi flavour one could ask for! The list of celebrities dropping down to this place is many! if you want to taste the real flavours of Punjabi cuisine, no matter where you are, how much time you have, step down to this place for the authentic cuisine! After the heavy, tummy-full dinner, we had just one thing in our mind and that is sleep!
The next day we had to cover the other places and so cut short our itinerary. More places and of course shopping! Our journey began in the morning by our visit to the Golden Temple. The Golden Temple, also referred as The Harmandir Sahib and the Darbar Sahib is a prominent Sikh Gurudwara in the city of Amritsar. Completed in 1604, Guru Arjan, installed the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs and appointed Baba Buddha as the first Granthi of it on August1604. Unlike any other temple, there are four doors at the Harmandir Sahib which symbolize the openness of Sikhs towards all people and religion. Harmandir Sahib literally means "Temple of God".
The temple is surrounded by a Sarovar, which consists of "Amrit", as believed which means holy water. Before visiting the temple, the visitors, generally Sikhs bathe in the holy water. The fishes in the holy water is a mesmerizing sight and they do not hurt you.
Truly , the temple is so pure that you wouldn't wish to leave the premise and meditate for your own good. However, there are few things you would like to keep in mind before visiting the temple:
The temple is so pure that one is not allowed to carry any eatables in the premise.
Big or small, you need to cover your head with dupatta(for ladies), kerchief(for gents). For those who do not have either of any, do not worry - The Gurudwara provides scarves for the visitor. Also, there are many sellers for the same outside the Gurudwara each costing Rs. 10/-. Do not even once forget to drop off the covering as the Sikh authorities are on the rounds to remind you of the same. Covering the head is a sign of respect.
Wash your hands and feet before entering the sacred place.
One must also sit on the ground crossed-leg while in the Darbar Sahib.
After queuing up for at least one hour, we got the chance to enter the main premise. It was so heavenly. Listening to the hymns and surrounded by people reading the holy granth (copy) was making you feel more spiritual and divine. At the exist is offered Kada prasad, not to be missed which is full of dripping ghee. My younger one did not mind it having for the second time. This place definitely teaches you discipline. It is best if you leave for the temple as early as possible in the morning! the temple is open from 03:00 hrs. So plan accordingly ! After the darshan, we directly proceeded to the langar area, a free meal seva to all the visitors. Not thousands, but ten of thousands odd visitors. All cooking and maintenance of the Golden Temple complex is carried out by the worshipers who volunteer their services. We were been served with the famous Dal Makhni, Kala Chana, Kheer, Roti and Water. All divine, pure and blessed! We then not wasting any time, proceeded to the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial.
Jallianwala Bagh is a garden in the city of Amritsar. Jallianwala Bagh reminds us of the great tragedy and the cruel massacre in the history of Indian freedom struggle which took place in the year 1919. The memorial was built to pay tribute to all those who lost their lives in this cruel incident in which almost thousands of people were dead (Official British Indian sources gave a figure of 379 identified dead). General Dyer without warning the crowd to disperse blocked the main exits thereby saying that this act was not to disperse the meeting but to punish the Indians for disobedience. Dyer ordered his troops to shoot towards the densest sections of the crowd . The firing lasted for app. 10 minutes in which many people lay dead. Also, to escape from firing, many people jumped into the solitary well on the compound out of which 120 bodies were taken out. One can still witness the bullet marks on the wall. A 5 minute walk from the Golden Temple, this place is worth going to personally pay tribute to the Indians who lost their lives! A sad and a gruesome attack which should be remembered by all!
For more history, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jallianwala_Bagh_massacre
By the time, we were out of the Jallianwala Bagh, our tired bodies did not allow to venture out anymore! We decided to go back to hotel, take some rest and head back again to Durgiana temple. We had lunch at the hotel. Butter Chapatis. Butter Paneer Punjabi, Dal Tadka and accompaniments. The hotel food was too good and the hunger in our stomach, inspite of having langar at the Gurudwara was filled to the satisfaction. On the way back from the Jallianwala Bagh, we hired an auto, whose driver , Satnam Singh was very helpful.
After due rest, we boarded the auto. The auto driver on the way, was kind enough to make us have a sip of the famous Gyan Chand lassi (estd:1937). I bet, we had never had such a lassi in our lifetime with so much malai (cream) floating on top of it making it more rich. I would recommend this place to one and all visiting Amritsar. We then proceeded to Durgiana Temple, situated in the city. It derives the name from Goddess Durga and also called as Lakshmi Narayana Temple. The temple was constructed by Harsai Mal Kapoor in 1908 similar to the pattern of the Golden temple, It is located near the Lohgarh gate. Some may call the temple as Silver temple because of its silver carved doors.
The temple complex also has other deity - Sita Mata and Bara Hanuman (in a peculiar sitting position). Like the Golden temple, this temple offers langar to the pilgrims and needy people for free. All costs are borne by the donations recieved by devotees. This temple is also surrounded by the Sarovar. Now you may recall as to why we say that it is a replica of Golden temple.
After visiting Amritsar thoroughly, we then decided to shop - ladies favourite thing on the earth! We straight away landed to "Sandeep di Hatti"(located at Katra Kanhaiya) to shop the famous Phulkari dress material. Thanks to my sister because of whom we did not bother to hunt , explore any other wholesale cloth shop available. This shop carries out stitching of the dress and also courier the parcel to the respective place. So all you guys, if you are in look out of an actual patiala style dress, check out the place, get it stitched there itself and you will not be disappointed. Amritsar is known for its wholesale textile business! The saying "Shop till you drop" perfectly suits at this place! After a long day visiting places, eating and shopping, we called off for the day and bid adios to the city of Amritsar to board our next train back to Delhi at 05:00 hrs in the morning. Best time to visit: October to March. Don't even think of going in summers. Amritsar, as a city, is very crowded, polluted with narrow lanes allowing only a car to go at a time. The city is congested with shops, traffics and tourists all over. As far as possible, hire an A/c car instead of an auto.
This place is worth visiting once in your lifetime. So pack your bags and be ready to put yourself in the hands of Waheguru!