Amritsar, literally meaning the tank of nectar, is steeped in glorious religious and national traditions. Its temples - Hari Mandir and the Durgiana Mandir are places of pilgrimage for the devout Hindus and the Sikhs, its Jallianwala Bagh is the mecca of freedom-lovers and its busy markets are the haunts of many a trader from India and abroad. Prior to the partition of the country, Amritsar occupied an unrivalled position in the business and commercial life of the undivided Punjab. Situated as it is on important trade routes, its trade even today extends to Kabul, Kashmir and Tibet, although the Partition left it a border town and did away with much of its erstwhile importance as a trade center.Guru Ramdas, the fourth Guru of the Sikhs, who decided to build here a magnificent temple to serve as a central place of pilgrimage for the Sikhs, founded Amritsar in the late sixteenth century. The design of the shrine included the construction of a tank round the proposed temple. The site lay in picturesque surroundings where the congregations met for prayer and contributed voluntary labor to build the tank under the personal guidance of the Guru. Later, a sprawling town was to grow round this sacred spot. It fell to the share of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth in the apostolic line, to develop the shrine and the town on a larger scale. He built a beautiful temple on the spot, in the middle of the sacred tank, where the famous Golden Temple stands today.
Hazrat Sheikh Mian Mir, a Muslim Saint, who was a great friend and admirer of the Guru, laid the foundation stone of this temple. By this time Guru Arjan Dev hand compiled the Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, which was placed in the temple with great reverence. Devotional hymns from the holy book are recited daily and thousands of people come here for spiritual solace. Amritsar lied at a distance of about 280 miles from Delhi and is only 16 miles from Wagha, the outpost of the Indo-Pakistan border. With a population of about 4,00,000 and a number of educational institutions, business markets, industrial concerns, banks, hotels parks and restaurants, Amritsar still remains the most important, the largest and, perhaps, the most picturesque city in the Punjab. The Golden Temple is, by far, the biggest attraction of Amritsar. The Sikhs call it Hari Mandir (The Temple of the Lord) or Darbar Sahib - The Court Divine. The Temple, surrounded by the sacred tank, presents a lovely sight when its glimmering reflection is caught by the myriad ripples dancing around it. At night the Temple and the causeway leading up to it are brightly lit. The temple is a three-storied imposing structure, the top being a canopied gilded dome surrounded by golden turrets. The inside of the Temple contains the filigree and enamel work in gold, which is a rare specimen of its kind. On special occasions such as birthday anniversaries of the Gurus and on the Diwali night, the Golden Temple is attractively illuminated and it presents a feast of color and light. Huge crowds assemble to witness these illuminations.
Among the buildings near the Golden Temple, the Akal Takht or the Immortal Throne and the tower of Baba Atal are of special interest to a visitor. Akal Takhat is the seat of Sikh theocratic authority where all decisions pertaining to the religious and social life of the Sikh are taken. The tower of Baba Atal, an octagonal nine-storied structure, 150 feet high, perpetuates the memory of Baba Atal Rai, son of Guru Hargobind, the sixth Guru. About a quarter of mile from the Golden Temple is the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial which commemorates the sacrifices of hundreds of men, women and children who were victims of a ruthless firing in the dark days of 1919. The incident took place on April 13, 1919, when thousands of people had gathered in Jallianwala Bagh to voice their feelings against the repressive policy of the British Government. General Dyer tried to silence the freedom-lovers with volleys of bullets which, according to official estimates, took a toll of 397 lives and wounded another 1,200 persons. This accentuated political awakening in Indian and brought Mahatma Gandhi to the forefront of the Indian political life. The bullet marks can be seen to this day on the boundary walls of the garden. Jallianwala Bagh has been turned into a spacious and well-laid park where people from all parts of the country come on a political pilgrimage. The historic Rambagh Garden outside the City is a big attraction in the evenings when people throng is green parks to relax and breathe fresh air. Several clubs function in the Garden which also houses the well-known Summer Place of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
Summer Palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh:
The historic Rambagh Garden outside the City is a big attraction in the evenings when people throng its green parks to relax and breathe fresh air. This garden is laid out on the pattern of Shalimar Bagh at Lahore. Only it's architecturally unique 'darshani deorhi' has remained intact. A museum after the name of the Maharaja is set up here displaying oil paintings, miniatures, coins, weapons relating to the Sikh period. Several clubs function in the Garden which also houses the well-known Summer Place of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
A partial replica of the Golden Temple, is situated outside the Lohgarh Gate. It is sacred to the Goddess Durga and is frequented by the devout Hindus. The temple is dedicated to goddess Durga and dates back to 16th century. This Hindu temple also draws its share of visitors. A large temple is dedicated to Hindu deities Laxmi ( The Goddess of wealth) and Narayan. ( The Preserver of Universe ). All dignitaries visiting Golden Temple make it a point to visit Durgiana Temple also.
Khalsa College & Guru Nanak Dev University :
Khalsa College, Amritsar was founded in 1892 and built on grand scale in typical Sikh architecture, its distinguished alumni; sportsmen, servicemen, administrators, professionals, fill up India's compilations of Who's Who. On a part of its land a new University called Guru Nanak Dev University was established at Amritsar. Soon it has become distinguished for starting modern curricula and has etched its name on the sports map of India. Fort Gobind Garh In the south-west of the city, has been taken over by the Indian army and is now off limits. It was built in 1805-09 by Ranjit Singh, who was also responsible for constructing the city walls.
24 Kilometers south of Amritsar is Tarn-Taran a town founded by Sri Guru Arjan Dev in 1590.Fairs are held here on every 'Amavas' dark night of the month, birth anniversaries of the Gurus, Baisakhi and Diwali.
A few kilometers away from Tarn Taran is the town of Goindwal, where Guru Amar Das established a new centre for preaching Sikhism. A 'Baoli', well paved with 84 steps was constructed here. The devout believe that by reciting Japji Sahib, the divine 'Word' revealed to Guru Nanak Devji at each step after taking a bath in the Baoli provides 'Moksh', liberation from 84,000 cycles of life of this world. Khadur Sahib is 32 kms. south-east of Amritsar city and close to Goindwal. During the life of the second Sikh Prophet, Guru Angad Dev, it was the center of Sikhism.
16 Kilometers west of Amritsar on Choganwan road is Ram Tirath, commemorating Maharishi Balmik Ji's hermitage. A big fair now recognised nationally and lasting for four days is held here since times immemorial on every Kartika Puran-mashi (full moon night in November).
The lake formed at the point of confluence of rivers Beas and Sutlej at Harike ford, situated mid way between Amritsar and Ferozepur was declared a national wildlife sanctuary in 1982. It is a welcome winter home to about 350 odd species of birds from far-flung lands of China, Siberia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Situated about 45 kilometers east of Amritsar on the Batala road. Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur ji, revealed himself to Makhan shah labana, a Sikh devotee here. It has a magnificent Gurudwara where people gather in thousands on every amavas (moonless night) annual fair is held on Raksha Bandhan day (night of n August) when about one lakh people visit the place.
Dera Baba Jaimal Singh:
About 54 kilometers of Amritsar is Dera Baba Jaimal Singh,a self-sufficient colony near Beas. It is presided over by a living master.