ABOUT THE CITY
Amritsar , historically also known as Rāmdāspur, and colloquially as Ambarsar, is the spiritual and cultural centre of the Sikh Religion. Amritsar, literally meaning ‘a Pool of Nectar’ , derives its name from Amrit Sarovar, the holy tank that surrounds the fabulous Golden Temple. The Golden Temple, also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib, is the most visited monument in India. The city is known for its rich cuisine and culture. The city of Amritsar offers a dazzling showcase of composite culture and secular heritage.
HISTORY & ARCHITRCTURE
The city of Amritsar was founded by the fourth Sikh Guru, Guru Ram Das in 1574. Amritsar’s central walled city has narrow zig zag streets mostly developed in the 17th and 18th century. The city is a peculiar example of introverted planning system with unique areas called Katras. The Katras are self styled residential units that provided unique defence system during attacks on the city. The city was attacked numerous times during the 18th century mainly by Afghan invaders, as it was considered the spiritual centre of Sikhs. Also having
been one of the epicentres of the Indian independence movement, the city has a rich history.
If you are ‘doing’ north India, Amritsar is a city you should not miss. It’s easy to travel there from Delhi by road, rail and air. It is fairly convenient to navigate through the city; few guides bother you as tourism is not the most important commercial activity here.
There is more to Amritsar than the Golden Temple – Amongst other sights is Jallianwala Bagh, site of the gruesome massacre of unarmed Indians by British troops. Another major tourist attraction is the Indo-Pakistan border crossing at Wagah, just a short distance from Amritsar, with its elaborate change-of-guards drill with a lot of strutting and intimidatory showing off by both sides.
And if for nothing else you must travel here for the lipsmacking local culinary delights.
Amritsar is the gateway to Punjab and North India with the Raja Sansi International Airport offering a number of domestic and international flights. The Amritsar Junction railway station is one of the busiest on the northern railway circuit, connecting Punjab to all major cities in various parts of the country. The city lies on the main Grand Trunk Road, a well laid medieval highway that runs through the whole of the northern half of the Indian subcontinent from Bangladesh to Delhi then passing through Amritsar connecting it to Lahore in Pakistan and Kabul in Afghanistan. The 8 lane NH1 runs from Delhi to Attari, providing a seamless option for road travel from the capital to the holy city.
CUISINE AND CULTURE
Amritsar, the most important city of Majha(one of Punjab’s four regions) has rightly been called the mukut-mani (Jewel of the crown) of Punjab. A rich repository of spiritual and national heritage, it has been hailed as the home of all virtues (sifti da ghar’). The essential spirit of the city is found not only in its gurudwaras & temples, mosques & churches, takias & khankahs but also in its theatres & galleries, parks & gardens, archives & libraries, art & architecture, museums & memorials, havelis & forts, fairs & festivals, vibrant folk dances & scintillating taans, narrow lanes & winding alleys, parlours & boutiques, clubs & pubs, traditional bustling markets & lip-smacking cuisine.
The most dominating asset, however, is its people who are friendly, hospitable, hard working informal, robust and with a tremendous zest for living. Amritsar is the heart-beat of the Majha region which has provided Punjabi literature with its standard language. A launching pad of several renowned artists, authors and poets, the city has been a home of handloom and carpet industry for more than a century. The city is proud to have the second largest Milk plant in the country (Verka) .
Amritsar is not just bhangra or giddha, sarson ka saag and makki ki roti, it is an attitude and a way of life, despite the winds of change, the city still enshrines and exudes its essential cultural identity.