Amritsar: Golden memories

February 9, 2009 by Neha Dewan Source: economictimes.indiatimes.com

Amritsar had been on my mind for a very long time. I was curious to experience the city which is known not just for historical monuments, but also for its sheer fun-loving spirit and bonhomie.

Amritsar essentially means the holy pool of nectar. The city is a significant tourist destination and a Sikh pilgrimage attracting domestic as well as foreign tourists who flock there every year.

The train journey started early in the morning and took around 5.5 hours from Delhi. The good thing is that there are no big distances to cover within the city. So after relaxing a little at the hotel, we decided to head straight for the famous ‘Change of Guard’ ceremony at the Wagah border.

Located at a distance of around 30 km from Amritsar, Wagah is the boundary between India and Pakistan. As you reach the Wagah border, you cannot help but sense the patriotic fervour in the air. The stands are filled with curious onlookers shouting slogans with nationalist pride. The half-an-hour ceremony that involves military officers marching on the two sides and hoisting their respective national flags is grand to say the least.

I was rather impressed with my first stop, and soon started off to visit the next obvious destination. Harminder Sahib — more popularly known as The Golden Temple — is a must visit in Amritsar. Especially at night, The Golden Temple looks mesmerising. Its reflection in the sarovar, the chanting of prayers and kirtans and the stupendous architecture leaves little doubt on why it is one of the most visited shrines.

Constructed with white marble coated with gold leaf, it’s beauty is extraordinary. I couldn’t help but gaze in awe at the Gurdwara. Every section narrated a heroic story of Sikh religion and culture. Entrances to the temple are open from all four sides showing acceptance to people of any faith, creed or colour.

Langar or the community kitchen serves food daily to the people visiting the temple. All around one can also see volunteers cleaning the temple premises, serving food or helping with any other maintenance chores at the Gurdwara, all symbolic of paying respect.

Harmony and reverence is what I experienced after my two-hour visit here. My long standing desire to see The Golden Temple was finally fulfilled. Located very near to the Gurdwara is the Jallianwala Bagh memorial site which is a visible reminder of the atrocities perpetrated on innocent Indians by Britishers under the Rowlatt Act.

There is also a Martyrs’ Well, into which people had jumped in a bid to escape the many round of bullets. The bullet holes on the walls tell the horrific story of shots fired at thousands of innocent people that day. It was akin to revisiting the past with every corner describing vividly the manner in which tragedy struck.

The day was coming to an end but the memories were to remain. They say that your visit to Amritsar is incomplete if you do not gorge on the local dhaba food. We stopped at one of the famous dhabas in the city and were served delicious paranthas. And yes the dhaba stop is a must to experience Amritsari food and hospitality.

It was a brief visit but I learnt a lot from it. There is a lot that the Sikh religion has taught me. The universal message of benevolence and acceptance echoed in my mind. I knew that the ‘Amritsari experience’ was going to be cherished for a long, long time to come.  

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