Unless you have a friend or relative there, you probably wouldn’t have any other reason to visit Amritsar than the Golden Temple. But while you are there, there’s more you can explore besides the popular tourist sites.
Yes, there is more to Amritsar than Jallianwala Bagh, Wagah Border, little shopping and Amritsari Naan. All you need to have is a little interest in history and a willingness to know something more about this city or interest in clicking less explored Amritsar.
On this trip, I found out about The Heritage Walk started two years ago by Punjab Tourism, which I feel will be a perfect way of knowing the 450-year-old heritage of Amritsar. An hour-long walk starts at 8 am and covers about 3 kms. I recommend taking this walk; alternatively, you can pick from the spots described here…
The walk, starting from Town Hall, covers about 14 sites: the Saragarhi Gurdwara, Fort Ahluwalia, Chowk Jallebiyan Wala, Akhara Sangalwala, Akhara Chitta, the Darshani Deori, Baba Bohar, Thakurdwara Dariana Mal, Chaurasti Attari Chowk, Taksal of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Radha Krishan Mandir and Akhara Brahm Buta.
The Saragarhi Gurdwara is a proof of the Sikh martyrdom. A marble stone fixed on the wall of the Gurdwara has names engraved of the Sikh soldiers who died in the defense of the frontier Fort of Saragarhi in 1897, fighting against the Pathans.
We then moved to walking in the narrow streets of the old city that are abuzz with activities during the peak hours. But early in the morning, history comes alive and you travel back in time. It gives me goose bumps to imagine the gruesome bloodbath that took place in this environment that is now so serene. And just when I was lost in those thoughts, we reached the ‘Crawling Street’ which startled me all the more. It is the street where Indians were made to crawl after the infamous General Dyer got to know that a British missionary was beaten by residents, irked by the arrest of their leaders Dr Saifudeen Kitchlu and Dr Satpal by the British.
A spot that catches my attention is Thakurdwara of Rai Kishan Chand. The marvelous architecture on its walls, the frescos and paintings leave you awestruck. Descendents of Rai Kishan Chand Sapra still own the building. The unfortunate part is that no efforts have been made by the government to restore its glory. An old caretaker tells us how several pleas have just fallen flat.
Another glorious site included in the walk is the Taksal where Sikh regime coins were minted during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Today, it lies as a deserted house with a torn banner hanging outside the building. While you take so much of history in, stop by at the famous Jalebiwala Chowk to enjoy delicious jalebis.
Of course, the walk would be incomplete with a visit to the Harmandir Sahab better known as the Golden Temple. I did not know that the temple has four gates as if welcoming people from all sides, representing the liberal character of Sikhism. The large lake of water, the Sarovar, surrounding it is said to be consisting of amrit, which means holy nectar. This explains the city’s name.
A short walk from the Golden Temple leads you to the site that is reminiscent of the monstrous massacre years ago – Jallianwala Bagh. The narrow path between the houses may not give a hint of the legacy stored inside. There are remnants of walls preserved to show the bullet holes and you can peep into the Martyrs’ Well, where several people jumped in while trying to escape from bullets.
The initiative taken by the tourism board is undoubtedly appreciable but there are certain blanks to be filled. For starters, the streets so rich in heritage and history have been poorly maintained. Thakurdwara, for instance, is in dire need of restoration. Also, it would be a good idea to get a historian to give a context to some of the information provided little mechanically.
However, it is still worth an experience!
Fee: Rs 25/- for Indian visitors and Rs 75/- for foreigners
For More information visit www.discoverpunjab.net