Amritsar, literally a Pool of Nectar, derives its name from Amrit Sarovar, the holy tank that surrounds the fabulous Golden Temple. First time visitors to Amritsar could be forgiven for the impression that Amritsar is like any other small town in northern India. But Amritsar stands head and shoulders above any other city, its status elevated and sanctified by the presence of the venerable Golden Temple.
Located in the heart of Amritsar, the temple complex is surrounded by a maze of narrow lanes, or katras, that house one of the busiest markets in India. But the Golden Temple is a serene presence, radiating a calm that makes people bow their heads in reverence. The gurudwara, as Sikh temples are called, is the holiest of Sikh shrines. It is not just Sikhs who travel to the Golden Temple to pay homage, the sacred shrine is equally revered by Hindus and people of other faiths who, too, make the pilgrimage to offer prayers at Harmandir Sahib.
There more to Amritsar than that - Amongst other sights is Jallianwala Bagh, site of the gruesome massacre of unarmed Indians by British troops. A major tourist attraction these days 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.
If you are 'doing' north India, Amritsar is a city you should not miss. It's easy to travel there from Delhi by road and by rail. It is easy to navigate through the city; few guides bother you as tourism is not the most important commercial activity here. Ask them in Amritsar, and they will tell you that if for nothing else you must travel here for the roadside chhola-bhaturas.
The Origin of the city of Amritsar lies hidden in the mists of time due to the scanty evidence available in its early history .On the development of the city, the generally accepted view is based on the Amritsar District Gazetteers, the authoritative works of reference on local history.
The various Opinions that the land was granted by emperor Akbar to Guru Amar Das (later on transferred to Guru Ram Das), or was acquired by Guru Ram Das before the grant was actually obtained, or the land was purchased by the Guru on a payment of Rs.700 from the zamindaar of the village at tung at the instance of Emperor Akbar, or presented by the people of village Sultanwind out of regard and reverence for the Guru are all versions based on popular tradition .There are no documentary evidences to support or contradict these views. But the version regarding the purchase of the land by Guru Ram Das is in keeping with the tradition of Sikh Gurus who never took any land grants from the rulers.
It seems that originally the site of Amritsar was a community land lying between the village of Sultanwind, Tung, Gumtala and Gilwali, and later it was acquired by the Sikh Gurus either on payment or was received by them free of cost. Opinions may vary on the question of acquisition of the site, but it is certain that the selection of the site was planned and not accidental. It was the choice of the Gurus themselves, and the site of Amritsar was revenue free land.Even the early name of the city chak Guru,bears testimony to the nature of the settlement as detached or revenue free. Probably, Chak Guru was granted exemption from land revenue by the Mughal government during the reign of Emperor Akbar,Whose policy of religious toleration and religious grants even to non-Muslims centres is a well known fact.
The original plan of the new project was chalked out by Guru Amardas and Conveyed to Ram Das for execution .Guru Ram Das was given guidelines for the location of the site and was instructed to found a village,to build a House for himself, to dig a tank and to develop the centre gradually into a city . Arrangements were made for money and assistance .some intelligent, experienced and elderly Sikhs were instructed to assist Ram Das to implement the project .The project was thus executed by Guru Ram Das.
First of all a boundary line of the settlement was drawn. The foundation was laid by Guru Ram Das and the village was named Ram Das Pura .Opinions vary on the date of the founding of the city. Probably the foundation was laid in 1573 AD but the popular view is that it was done in 1577.
The construction of the new centre was started with great enthusiasm.Some huts and houses were built and then excavation of the tank was startad . when a portion of the project was completed, Bhai Jetha went to Goindwal to report the progress of the work.This time Guru Amar Das directed Ram Das to dig another tank at the low level area near the site of the tank under construction.On his return, Guru Ram Das selected the site for the second tank surrounded by a large number of Jujube trees.
The construction of the second tank commenced on Nov.6,1573 and Guru Ram Das personally supervised it.Many Sikh devotees came to participate in the Sewa. Simultaneously with the construction of the tank all care was taken to develop the village Chak.52 types of caste groups from Patti,Kasur and Kalanaur were called for ensuring regular supply of essential commodities to the settlers. A market called Guru ka bazar which exists now also was established. Some wells were dug for water supply .A number of rich bankers and traders also settled down in the town.
Amritsar - The Cultural Hub of Punjab
The city of Amritsar a dazzling showcase of composite culture and secular heritage .It has a proud past .a glorious present and a promising future .This most important city of Majha has rightly been called the mukut-mani (Jewel of the crown)of the Punjab. A rich repository of spiritual and national heritage, It has been hailed as the home of all virtuesÃ¢ÂÂ(sifti da ghar) .while praying, every devout Sikh longs to be blessed with a pilgrimage to Amritsar and a holy bath at the Golden Temple (Amritsar ke darsan isnan).A visit to Amritsar is believed to wash off all the sins.
A focal point of Sikh faith, a pivot of Punjab politics, a gateway to the Middle-East, a nursery of defence pool, an alert sentinel at the Indo-Pak border, Amritsar is the place where the first Sikh Army was raised by the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind. The city saw the fierce onslaughts of the invading armies of Ahmad Shah Abdali and a reckless carnage at the Jallianwala Bagh. An epicenter of Kooka and Akali movements and a symbol of resistance against the British tyranny, Amritsar had been a favourite place of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It was in Amritsar that the clarion-call for the liberation of India sounded louder and clearer. In the recent times, the has at regular intervals borne the brunt of Indo-Pak conflicts.
Amritsar is like a diamond with many facets. 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, God-fearing, hospitable, hard working informal, robust and with a tremendous zest for living. They are fond of good food, good dress and all the external symbols of life.
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.
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 modern winds blowing, the city still enshrines and exudes its essential cultural identity. Being the only land-route opening to Pakistan the city has become a favourite rendezvous of Track-II diplomacy.
Amritsar Other Attractions
Jagdev Kalan is related with the name of Muslim poet Hasham Shah, the famous author of Sassi-Punnu. In an era of Indo-Pak bonhomie, this village is a hotspot for mutual meeting-ground of interests, secular thinking and composite
Kotli Sultan Singh about 32 kilometers from Amritsar, is the native place of Mohammad Rafi, the legendary singer of the celluloid world.
Serai Amanat Khan is a very charming and elegant structure situated in a small village south west of Amritsar. The Serai has a beautiful gate constructed in a Mughal style of architecture. The tomb of Amanat Khan is surrounded by four minarets. The mosque near the tomb is decorated with Persian verses.