Travel Diaries: Amritsar

By Soumya Gupta, Batch of 2017

Amritsar is a city famous for four things- The Golden Temple, the Wagah Border, the Jallianwala bagh and the butter chicken. The affable people and the slow-paced life add to its raw charm. The name ‘Amritsar’ is derived from the words ‘amrit’ and ‘sarovar’ meaning ‘a river of nectar’, where the phrase symbolises the Gurbani at Harmandir Sahib (i.e. the Golden Temple).

How to get there:
Take a bus, car or a train. The easiest way is the train route plying from the New Delhi Railway station. The journey via the road is somewhat exhaustive and takes about two hours more than the train route, though it’s easier on one’s pockets! There are Volvo buses as well as local buses available, though the latter choice is recommended if one is willing to take up a hitchhiking adventure.

Places to visit:
1. Wagah Border
The Wagah Border is located on the famous Grand Trunk road, also commonly known as G.T road, which was made by Sher Shah Suri. It is the busiest border connecting India and Pakistan. Every evening, a ‘lowering of flags’ ceremony is performed involving participation from both the nations. This ritual has been in existence since 1959 and has gained a lot of popularity lately. The essence of the ceremony is a show of power between soldiers of both sides. The Punjabi machismo, the pretend contempt and the melodrama (with kicks flying high enough to put ballerinas to shame) form a part of a healthy bonhomie between the two sides. The ceremony is preceded and followed by a number of patriotic Bollywood songs played at a decibel high enough to make one follow the soldiers in their forward march.

2. Golden Temple
The Golden Temple is an oasis of peace in the middle of the vibrant city. The lilting tunes of the Gurbani erase all worries. The general atmosphere of camaraderie is contagious, and the desire to live more simply is heightened. It’s recommended to put one’s phone (and other technologies) aside and delve into some deep introspection. Besides the inherent peace that the place exudes, the place is a wonder to watch. From the exuberance of the gold to the fishes in the lake, everything is brilliantly maintained. Another highlight of the place is the langar; it’s a very simple meal with a dose of equality. People from all straits of life sit down for a free, communal meal; only, the experience it imparts is priceless.

3. Jallianwala Bagh
Our history books have more than engraved the incident into our minds. But the actual imagery is much too vivid than anything that’s been written. The Museum, the bullet-ridden walls and the well, all bring a rather gruesome image to mind. But this seriousness is complemented by the upkeep of the place as a picnic spot as hundreds of tourists visit this memorial every day. The Museum also commemorates the memory of the little known Udham Singh, who went all the way to London to avenge the death of his countrymen by murdering General Dyer.

What to Eat?
Amritsar’s real charm lies in its dhabas, not in its restaurants. The palette is wide enough to satiate both vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian appetites. The butter chicken and the Amritsari Fish are the must have(s) here for every non-vegetarian. The best of this dish can be sampled at Beera’s chicken house and Makhan’s Fish shop respectively. As for the vegetarians, the Amritsari Kulche, the Lassi and a visit to the Bharawan da Dhaba (in the town hall area) are the ultimate dishes to savour and reminisce. (Word of caution though, the Amritsari Lassi is touted to be equal to be seven times heavier than its Delhi counterpart). Also, the papads which are a product of the local industries here are a great, tasty buy. Amritsar is a city with a happy-go-lucky attitude, fervent patriotism, a love for the good life and a beautiful culture. The Golden Temple, the Wagah Border and the sumptuous food (especially Butter Chicken) give Amritsar its unique identity, making it one of the best of the weekend getaways from Delhi.

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