The Mystical Land of Sikhs, Seekh and Shish Kebabs
Today we will take a journey, not only to a place but in time. I fondly remember my time growing up in Amritsar.
Amritsar is in the heart of Punjab, the second largest city in Punjab. Amritsar is about 15 miles east of the border with Pakistan and approx. 267 miles from New Delhi. There are various transportation modes to get to Amritsar. The most famous and common is Raja Sansi International Airport. It is the most convenient way as flights to Delhi are just an hour long. Since most of the population belongs to middle and lower class, other more popular option is by Train. Amritsar Junction Railway Station is a well-connected station to all major cities in India. Shatabdi Express; Shan-e-Punjab Express, Akal-Takht Express among others are considered the busiest trains. Amritsar Bus Terminal provides services to all nearby cities such as Jalandhar, Pathankot, New Delhi, Jammu, Chandigarh etc. From US, you can fly via a stopover in Delhi, Dubai and other major hubs. Some of the airline options include Air India, Lufthansa, Emirates.
Amritsar is the home to the Golden Temple… also known as Harmandir Sahib. It is the most visited and spiritually significant sacred place in Punjab. It’s a stunning complex always full of pilrims all over India and abroad. The main entrance called Ghanta Ghar has small pool of water to wash feet in order to keep the temple clean. The bandannas are offered at the entrance of the Temple as its mandatory to cover your head during the visit. The giant pool of water in the center is known as Amrit Sarovar. Sections of it are marked by ropes for pilgrims to bathe in the holy water. The Gold covered sanctum is the most attractive part whose reflection in water at night creates magic. Golden Temple is the house of sacred Adi Granth scripture that is read aloud during the day. It is the most visited place in Amritsar. Thousands of people volunteer here whether its serving sacred Langar; cleaning the marble polished floor; offering water in hot weather to tourists or distributing Prasad to people. 24hour vegetarian Langar is served to tourists regardless of faith, gender or economic background. As you exit Harminder Sahib, the bustiling bazaars offer tons of shops around to satisfy the eagerness of buying Punjabi stuff. You can get the cheapest and the most durable Punjabi juttis etc. Sikh symbols such as Khandas, Karas, swords, daggers etc can be bought from the shops nearby Golden Temple. If you haven’t gone to Golden Temple, you must.
Apart from this major attraction and not too very far from here, is another significant history landmark known as Jallianwala Bagh. Thousands of civilians were killed on the orders of British offices Edward Harry Dyer. During the massacre, there were no escape routes. The narrow passage was blocked by the army and people either ran towards the walls or jumped in the well. Bullet marks can still be seem on the park premises.
Another place that we used to visit a lot in Amritsar was Wagah Border. Every time we had visitors, they insisted on going to the border to see the flag ceremony. Wagah Border conducts lowering of the flag ceremony that lasts 45 minutes and is carried out before sunset. I remember reaching there before time to always get the good seats in front as the place gets crowded very quickly. Ceremony starts usually at 4 pm but if you want to watch the ceremony, my recommendation is to reach the place no later than 3pm. There are no sheds so it gets pretty hot and sweaty unless you go in winters. Security at the border is very high and there are no covered bags allowed. They do have a reserved section for foreign tourists so make sure to bring your passport if you want to skip the line and get the best seats available. The ceremony begins with a parade from both sides (India and Pakistan) and is perfectly coordinated. The boot thumping, eye to eye stare and cheering Jai Hind in the background, leaves such a patriotic feeling in each and every individual. The two flags are lowered simultaneously. Firm handshakes between the soldiers of both sides followed by closing of iron gates makes this an exciting event that you don’t want to miss.
Other places you can venture off to are:
- Durgiana Mandir
- Khalsa College
- Guru Nanak Dev University
The true spirit of the city is being a local. You know, when in Amritsar, be Amritsaria.
Start with a hearty breakfast of Stuffed Kulcha/ paratha and tea. You are welcome to come to my house, but you can also get your fill at Kulcha King at Ranjit Avenue . For a foodie, Amritsar is heaven. You can visit Kulchey wali gali and try the most delicious stuffed Kulchas with Punjabi choley. Aloo puri is another staple breakfast in Amritsar and you can get the best at Kanhaiya sweets. I fondly remember eating this deliciousness especially during the weekend. Breakfast does not include cereal. No Punjabi can be satisfied without eating a good stuffed parantha along with a cup of tea as the breakfast….its called a Hearty breakfast in Amritsar.
Lunch time…let us go to Kesar da Dhaba. Growing up in Amritsar, I had the privilege to eat the most delicious street food in the town. The Dal makhani with dollop of ghee with crispy baked Lacha parantha is the simplest and yet so delicious food you will ever taste in Amritsar. Served alongside of Achar, onions and yogurt. Don’t forget to visit this place if you want that heart and soul warming food to satisfy your appetite. Along with the meal, having a glass of Lassi is a tradition. Amritraris believe in eating good portions so when you order a glass of Lassi, be sure to prepare for the biggest glass with full of Malai on top.
Golgappa (Puchka), Ice-gola, Chaat papdi and Aloo tikki are very popular evening snacks along with the veggie pakodas that people relish almost every day. Brijwasi Chaat House used to our go-to place to satisfy the snacks cravings.
Next we will go shopping…whether in mood for shopping for your cousin’s wedding or shopping for housewares, or for masalas and aachars, there is a special street for each. E.g for all the fancy clothing, Kaitra Jaimal Singh market is very famous. You can get such a variety of clothes with a huge price range. Guru bazaar is famous for all your jewelry shopping and in Pratap Bazaar you will get all the utensils you will need in your kitchen. Pulkari is very famous form of embroidery and the brightly colored shawls to sarees can be found in Hall Bazaar. Hand embroided ones are the most expensive but don’t be afraid to bargain your heart out. You will get the best deals here !
All this shopping has made us thirsty…get a drink at Empire Lounge or Glassy Junction at Surya Residency.
To see all my friends, I am heading off to Lawrence Road. This is where we would show off latest car or clothes, and meet friends
To end the day, we will head to dinner at any of the following places: mk hotel, quality restaurant, astoria restaurant. The local spots include the Moolchand Fish Shop which is a hole-in-the wall tiny place. You get the most delicious fish here served with spicy green chutney and raw onions. For the most delicious chicken, you can try Surjit Chicken at Lawrence Road. The spice blend is so perfect that you won’t stop eating just one meal. Chicken is served with Naan and chutney.
Don’t forget dessert at Bansal sweets and Novelty sweets. You will get the best Kasatta ice cream here along with Falooda ice-cream, alphonso ice-cream, Fruit cream. While you are there, don’t forget to try Gulab Jamun, Jalebi and boondi ladoos.
Off to bed…but before I go, let me remind you to please come stay with us when you come to Amritsar. Amritsarias are known for their hospitality!
–By Pallavi Gupta