Punjab is one Indian state that has made an impact globally. When the west thinks of India, they often associate Punjab or Punjabis and that’s because the entire state is full of history, culture and life. The city that seems to represent best what Punjab is all about is the capital Amritsar and having recently spent time exploring I can happily say that Amritsar is a fantastic city to visit. It’s a bit of a stretch for us in Mumbai with a two hour flight but it’s an ideal Weekend getaways near Delhi. It’s not a difficult trip to plan specially if you live in India but even so there are plenty of Holiday Packages to help you should you need it. The city has much to offer its guests and even if you’re hard pressed for time or just making a quick trip, these are a few things you should consider doing to give you a super taste of Amritsar!
Clothes and Shoe Shopping – I didn’t realise it till about a hundred people kept messaging me with recommendations but it seems Amritsar has its own trendy fashion which folks are crazy about. While there is plenty for you to shop for, the real treasure is their own brand of material with work on it called Phulkari which locals adore and visitors seem to buy in hordes. The most convenient purchase is the Phulkari duppatas but you can get material for entire salwar suit or even a sari. The other trendy purchase is their jootis or hand woven shoes that come in an array of colours. The uniqueness in these shoes is that there is no designated left or right shoe, you can wear them on either foot and it fits!
Food Food and more Food – It is impossible to come to this city and not indulge in some calorific treats. Everything in Amritsar is delicious and while many folks have their favourite joints, the truth really is that they’re all fantastic and you need a serious appetite to do justice to any meal here. It’s a little tricky trying to pick specific joints but my recommendations will include a joint called Kulcha Land for the most ridiculously tasty Kulcha and Chole and another place called Kanha Sweets again for this delectable treat but more for their stunning sweet lassi which quite frankly is a meal in itself. For folks with a sweet tooth, try and find Gurudas Ram Jalebi who I’m told is the most famous Jalebi maker in all of Amritsar. I’m not surprise, his jalebis are beautiful and best served hot first thing in the morning.
The Golden Temple – The food and shopping is always alluring but the real reason people come to Amritsar is to visit the Golden Temple. The most sacred and revered temple for the Sikh community, the Golden Temple is serene, stunning and the perfect place for some solace. It does get crowded and that is to be expected at any place of worship in India but it is manageable. Sikh temples or Gurudwaras are known to feed people and you could wait in line to experience the Langar or even walk around and explore their community kitchen. The temple is open 24 hours a day 365 days of the year and you can visit anytime. The most glorious of course is in the early hours of the morning when the sun rises and the rays hit the temple and it actually lights up.
Jallianwala Baug – A stone’s throw away from the temple is the site of what was once the most brutal massacre in Indian history. Jallianwala Baug was once an open ground where the British soldiers opened fire on locals killing and injuring thousands. The site is still a memorial ground and you can see some bullet marks as well as the well in which people jumped in, desperately trying to escape the firing. You can spend as little or as much time as you want there, it is now green lush with gardens and trees to lift the somberness from the past.
The Wagah Border – A lot of Indians visit the Wagah Border which is the closest gateway to Pakistan to experience the Flag ceremony every evening. Amritsar is a relatively small city and the border is a 30 minute drive away. Security is tight but you can expect a pack audience, plenty of patriotism in the air, enthusiastic crowds cheering on our Indian soldiers and both Indian and Pakistani soldiers marching back and forth before ultimately lowering their respective flags for the day. The gates open only for this for a grand total of 10 minutes and then they are shut again. Interestingly there is a lot of border crossing that happens during the day with of course valid visa and paper work but everything stops by afternoon to make room for this daily ceremony.
The Partition Museum – I’m told this is a new addition to the city in a bid to make Amritsar more tourist friendly and to shed light on our history. The Partition Museum is a small space but efficient enough that is houses many tales from survivors during the India Pakistan Partition period. There are videos, newspaper cuttings, documentaries and plenty of photographs as well as installations to throw light on what is considered the darkest time in our history. Photography is not allowed inside but it’s a very interesting place and one that seems to be popular with locals and tourists alike.
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