Amritsar, in the north-west of India, is located near the Pakistan border in the Indian state of Punjab. It is the spiritual and cultural home of Sikhism.
Amritsar is most famous for its glorious Golden Temple, or Harmandir Sahib, Sikhism’s holiest shrine. Its dome is said to be gilded with 750kg of pure gold.
Amritsar gets it name from the pool of water surrounding the Golden Temple, the Amrit Sarovar, or Pool of Nectar, which was excavated in 1577 by the fourth Sikh Guru Ram Das. It is the combination of the golden dome and its reflection in this stunning pool of water that gives such beauty and elegance to the gurdwara.
As a symbol of the Sikh philosophy of peace and unity among people of all races and religions, everyone is allowed into the Golden Temple, and free meals are also available in the dining hall.
While the lanes of Amritsar’s old city are as frantic and chaotic as anywhere in India, its new city is as slick and modern as New Delhi, with internet cafes, smart shops and international hotels.
Amritsar is a peaceful and hospitable city, welcoming tourists from India and around the world. It has a reputation as a food lover’s paradise and the famous Punjabi exports of butter chicken and bhangra music can be found here in plentiful supply.
When to go:
The best time to visit Amritsar is in the winter months from October to March. Temperatures can reach 49 degrees Celsius from April to June.
- Visit the Golden Temple. Devote a whole day to this – there is plenty to see and do. If you’re not there for the whole day, be sure to see it at least once by day – when the magical reflection is on full display – and once at night, when it’s all lit up. Take advantage of the enthusiastic Sikh volunteers who will be more than happy to tell you the history of the magnificent complex.
- Go to Jallianwala Bagh, which is a short walk from the Golden Temple. The site commemorates more than 2000 protestors who were killed or wounded here by the British in 1919. You can still see bullet holes and the well into which many people jumped to escape the 10 minutes of open fire.
- Don’t miss the Summer Palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Ram Bagh, which houses a collection of painting, coins, weapons and miniatures.
- Take an afternoon trip to Attari to see the fascinating border closing ceremony on the India/Pakistan border.
- Eat in a dhaba, or snack bar, for authentic and cheap Punjabi food.
- Visit the Mata Temple, especially if you want to become pregnant. The fairytale Hindu cave temple is devoted to the female saint Lal Devi.
- Get yourself over to Ram Tirth, where Valmiki is said to have drafted some of the Ramayana. It is known as the birthplace of Luv and Kush, the sons of Lord Rama and Sita.