Amritsar: The Land of Patriotism and Spiritualism

A Disappointed Beginning!

It was a dull foggy morning when I got up in the train on my way to Delhi. The travel dates back to the first week of December when most of the northern part of India is cold and covered in dense fog. I got up when the train stopped suddenly and the first glance through the window scared me. Everything on the outside was completely white. I sat up to realise that it is the fog that has covered up the entire stretch. The train was supposed to reach Delhi at 8 A.M in the morning and it was already 9 A.M, when I got to know that the train is already running 3 hours late. I had set up a full day plan for Delhi before my onward journey to Amritsar by train at 8 PM. The news was a great disappointment. However, a 2 year old kid in the nearby compartment brightened up my mood by starting to play with me. Unfortunately the train got further late and finally reached the Old Delhi railway station at 4 PM. My cousin (also the companion for the trip) was already there to pick me up. I freshened myself up in a nearby hotel before the onward journey.

We were at the Nizamuddin Railway Station sharp at 7.30 PM to realise the train to Amritsar, which was coming in from the Chhattisgarh district is running in 4 hours late. The journey began at 12 PM at the end with full excitement in the heart to visit the sacred Golden Temple.

Reaching Destination & Further Plans

The train reached Amritsar next day, another 6 hours late without surprise. Fog had already ruined a day and half for us. But the happiness of reaching the destination overpowered the disappointment of being late. Nevertheless, we started planning for our visit to the India-Pakistan border at Wagah, a village situated in the Lahore District in Punjab.

Wagah!

The Wagah border is known for its “Flag Lowering” ceremony, which is joint effort by the Border Security Force (BSF) in India and the Pakistani Army. The ceremony takes place every evening and is attended by thousands of spectators both in India and Pakistan. We made our way to Wagah directly from the railway station since it was essential to be there on time to witness the entire ceremony which goes on for more than an  hour. We stopped by at a Dhaba (a restaurant) on the way to enjoy the delicacies of Punjab. The tasty “Sarso-da-Saag” and “Makke-di-Roti” together with a glass full of Lassi amazed us. The food made us do “Balle- Balle” (Hurray) which was indeed the name of the restaurant too!

With the tummy full and heart happy we proceeded to reach Wagah where we went through a tight security check process to enter the seating area for the viewers. Patriotic songs were being played on both the sides and the crowd cheered up for their motherland. The ceremony began with a parade by the soldiers on either sides. As the sun set, the border gates were opened up and the two flags were lowered simultaneously. The soldiers from both the sides had a firm handshake and salute before the gates were closed and the flags were folded to be carried away. Worldwide, this ceremony is also known as the “Beating Retreat”. The soldiers met with the viewers post the ceremony who greeted them with pride. It is at such places when you realize the sacrifice of the soldiers in the Indian Army who give their heart and soul to protect their country. With utmost respect for them, we took leave from Wagah.

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Wagah Border: India-Pakistan Gates

The Divine!

It was late evening by the time we returned. We checked into a hotel close to the Golden Temple. The historic Jallianwalah Bagh memorial was just on the backside of the hotel. We were late and the memorial was closed. But our luck favoured and we had a glance of the place from the hotel window on the backside. We made our way to the Golden Temple after freshening up.

Sri Harmandir Sahib (the abode of God) or Sri Darbar Sahib, informally referred to as the Golden Temple is considered to be the holiest shrine in Sikhism. The temple was designed by the fifth Sikh Guru Arjan who materialised the idea of the third Sikh Guru Amar Das and the execution of fourth Sikh Guru Ram Das to excavate a holy tank (Amritsar or Amrit Sarovar). The temple is built in the centre of the holy tank and is the home to Adi Granth (Holy Scripture) and Akal Takht (throne of the timeless). In early nineteenth century Maharaja Ranjit Singh covered the upper sanctum of the gurudwara with gold which gives the name “Golden Temple”. The four entrances to the temple represent openness of the community towards all religions.

We entered the place at around 9 PM. There were lakhs of people visiting the temple even at such a late hour. One needs to cover their head and take off the shoes before entering the shrine. We cleaned our feet and entered to bow before the divine. The first glance at the place completely mesmerised me. The sanctum was all lightened up and shining in the darkness of night. We made our way inside to witness the final prayer for the day. Sitting there for a few minutes gave me tremendous sense of peace and calmness. You surrender yourself to the eternal.

Once the prayer was over we moved to the “Langar” area. It is said that this Gurudwara is the world’s largest free kitchen. Lakhs of people are served free food on a daily basis. We had chapatti and dal there for a dinner. It is considered that the person who serves the food is bigger and therefore he holds the food basket higher from the ground. Whereas the person on the receiving end takes the food with both the hands as a sign of thankfulness.

While our way out of the temple, we noted lot of people providing “Seva” (help) in all the tasks of the temple. Some of them were cleaning utensils, some cleaning the floor, providing water to the people, taking care of the shoes and other similar tasks. I realised that at this place everyone is equal, no matter from which background or community one belongs. Everyone finds happiness by serving God and humanity in one or the other ways. I also thought of contributing something from my end and went ahead to help with cleaning utensils and serving food. There are no words in which I can explain the happiness you get by just doing a small piece from your side.

With all the wishes come true for the day, we left from the temple with peace and happiness.

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The Golden Temple- Night view

How to Reach

  1. By Train- There are various trains plying to the Amritsar Railway Station. In case you do not have get a direct train to Amritsar, you can travel via Delhi. There are multiple trains running between Delhi and Amritsar.
  2. By Air- Raja Sansi International Airport is the closest airport.
  3. By Road- The distance between Delhi and Amritsar is around 450 Km. Multiple busses ply between these two cities. You can also take the trip by car.

Major Tourist Attractions

  1. Harmandir Sahab or the Golden Temple
  2. Jallianwallah Bagh Memorial
  3. Wagah Border
  4. Sadda Pind Heritage Village
  5. Durgiana Temple

Cuisine

The most popular and must try dishes include Sarso-ka-saag and Makke-ki-roti together with a glass of Lassi. Sarso (Mustard) is locally grown here and is one of the main attractions of Punjab. You may also try various dishes made of Paneer with different Indian Breads like Naan and Kulcha. The food is generally rich in ghee and butter.

Weather

Weather is generally pleasant ranging between 30 to 35C. However if you plan to visit the place during winter in the later part of the year you can expect dense fog during mornings and evenings. Lot of trains, busses and flights get delayed due to fog, so you may want to plan accordingly.

Language

The local language here is Punjabi, but Hindi is also known to a lot of people. English may serve as an alternative in case you do not know Hindi.

By Ruchita Ashara

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