Amritsar is a city I want to speak of today, on the 75th Independence Day as we celebrate ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’. The city exudes ‘Indianness’ in every possible way; historically,geographically, socially, culturally and spiritually. As I go ahead with the list of things to do in Amritsar, slowly the reason will unfold as to why I chose to write about Amritsar today.
Visit the Historical Site of Jallianwala Bagh
Close to the Golden Temple Complex stands the Jallianwala Bagh which is a ‘memorial of national importance. At this garden the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre occurred on the festival of Baisakhi, on 13th April, 1919. The memory of thousand unarmed Indians- men, women and children, brutally killed and wounded by 1650 rounds of firing under the command of General Dyer still haunts one. The bullet marks are preserved and the well in which frightened people plunged in is still there. Visiting Jallianwala Bagh and the museum and gallery to honour our history, in remembrance to all those who gave their lives for the Indian freedom movement is one of the major things to do in Amritsar. There are several memorial structures, the ‘Martyr’s Memorial’ being the most significant one and more have been added with the recent renovation. The tricolour flying high here brings tears to the eyes, reminding us of the great martyrs. Ashes of Sardar Udham Singh is preserved here and the entrance has his statue too. Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood in condemnation of the Jallianwala tragedy.
Visit India’s Most Popular Border, the Wagah-Attari Border
Visiting the Wagah-Attari Border for the ceremonious military display by India’s Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistan Rangers is a must in your list of things to do in Amritsar. The military drills, described as ‘colourful’, is a symbol of both country’s display of brotherhood and cooperation amidst rivalry and tensions. There is a slot for the common audience to jump and rejoice and dance to the beats of patriotic songs. This ceremony is active since 1959. I found the energy and vibe of the audience amazing. Huge number of people from both the nations visit to witness this remarkable ceremony. Some civilians at that time even cross the borders with due papers and prior permission. It is a part of the ceremony. The high marches of the military personnel with legs raised as high as possible, women members of the force and the military dogs amazed me. The iron gates of both the nations open during sunset as the flags are folded marking the end of the ceremony and then the gates close with a handshake between soldiers from either side.
Visit the Golden Temple
Golden Temple is the first thing that comes to mind when we speak of Amritsar. Visiting the Golden Temple is the most important of all the things to do in Amritsar. It is a Gurdwara called ‘Harmandir Sahib or Durbar Sahib’, the most prominent spiritual site of the Sikhs. This temple is at the heart of the city and it is beyond narrow shackles of religion. One must visit this to see the alluring beauty of the temple; the dazzling gold tomb, the holy pool and the sparkling white marble. There’s no speck of dust and this temple is an epitome of community service where people are serving other people. It houses one of world’s largest kitchens, the langar. Free vegetarian meals are cooked in this community kitchen and served to thousands of visitors and devotees daily without any discrimination. Neither your faith nor your bank balance play a role here. One must have the prasad from the langar; it is blissful and tasty. Kara Prasad (ghee laden halwa) should not be missed too. One must visit the temple complex at least twice, once in the morning and once in the evening. In the evening I found the Golden Temple breath-taking. Visiting the temple soothes the mind, body and soul.
Eat Amritsari Delicacies
When you eat at Amritsar, you must go absolutely desi with your taste buds. Amritsari kulcha with chholey and a generous dollop of butter, Amritsari machhi, tikkas, kebabs and tandooris, lassi and kulfi are the ones you just can’t leave out. Even milk tea at Amritsar is special and don’t miss ‘aam papad’. Eating out is among the most significant things to do in Amritsar as this city is a pilgrimage for foodies. The taste buds will enjoy the plethora of Indian spices.
Don’t Miss Shopping at Amritsar
Don’t think twice about shopping at Amritsar. Markets in Amritsar is every girl’s favourite when it comes to ethnics like phulkaris, juttis, gorgeous jewellery and clutches and bags. Phulkari is Punjab’s traditional embroidery and carries the GI (Geographical Indications) tag. One can explore from budget friendly items to extremely lush and expensive items here. So exploring the markets in Amritsar is one of the major things to do in Amritsar.
Explore Folk Arts at Amritsar
Folk dances like Giddha and Bhangra are world famous because of their rhythm, energy and vivid dressing up. These dances are not only entertaining but represent scenes from daily life of a local. Then there is Gatka, a form of martial art presented very rhythmically. These folk dances and music are so indigenous, representing India at the very core.
Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav and Amritsar
So now you definitely know why I chose to speak of Amritsar today on ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’. Everything about the city; its history, geography, art and culture; is extraordinarily original; extraordinarily Indian.
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