Amritsar, the holy city of Sikhs, is the spiritual and cultural centre of the Sikh Religion and the home to the Harmandir Sahib, also known as the Golden Temple. The city gets its name from the pool-Amritsar (Pool of Nectar), which was constructed by Guru Ramdas, the fourth Guru of Sikhs. Amritsar is one of the most ancient and fascinating cities of India. Being the gateway for travellers coming to India on the overland route from central Asia it soon became the centre of various commercial activities.
Amritsar can be accessed by air, Rail and road. It is connected to Delhi and Srinagar By air. Many express trains connect Amritsar to Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay and Varanasi and by road with Ambala, Chandigarh, Delhi, Ferozepur, and Jammu and many other major centres of the country.
Harmandir Sahib, also know as the Golden Temple in Amritsar City is the holiest shrine of the Sikh religion. Also known as the Shri Darbar Shaib, it is in the center of the old part of Amritsar. The Golden Temple sits on a rectangular platform, surrounded by a pool of water called the Amrit Sarovar from which the City is named. The entrance to the Golden Temple complex is through an ornate archway with intricate inlay work.
During Maharaja Ranjit Singh's reign the lower half of the temple was decorated with marble while the entire upper half was inlaid with copper and gold plated. Its four gates symbolically invite everyone from all directions. Built in a blend of Hindu and Muslim styles, the Golden Temple is a two story marble structure and the interior of the temple is decorated with semi precious stones, frescoes and glass work.
Harmandir Sahib, situated inside the Golden Temple complex is a 52-meter, square-based structure and enshrines the Holy Book of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib. The Guru Granth Sahib is placed on a palanquin set with emeralds, rubies and diamonds with silver poles and a golden canopy. The fifth Guru, Guru Arjun Dev (1563 - 1606) began the construction of Harmindar Sahib, and construction of the temple was completed in the late 16th century.,/p>
Akal Takht is the seat of Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, the Sikh religious authority. It is also the place where Guru Granth Sahib is kept during the night. Established by the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind (1595 -1644), it is also the repository of ancient weapons, used by the Sikh warriors and Gurus.
The summer palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is situated in the middle of a beautiful garden. Intersected by water channels fitted with fountains and golden fish, rare coniferous trees and herbal plants, this garden is laid out in line with Shalimar garden at Lahore. This is the best Garden in Punjab. The palace houses a museum and the exhibits include weapons dating back to Mughal times and certain portraits of the ruling houses of Punjab.
Situated outside the Lohgarh Gate, the temple is built in the 1920s. Not built in the traditional Hindu style, the architecture resembles that of the Golden temple and, in a similar manner rises from the midst of a tank and has canopies and the central dome in the style of the Sikh temple. It is a well-known repository of Hindu scriptures.
Tower of Baba Atal
Not far from the golden temple is the tower of Baba Atal. This nine-storey tower is built in the memory of Baba Atal Rai, son of Guru Hargobind. This 50m high tower has several beautiful frescos on its walls, depicting the life of Guru Nanak.
The Sikh Central Museum is upstairs in the clock tower. The gallery in the museum exhibits paintings depicting the lives of Sikhs and their martyrs.
Jallaianwala Bagh, situated 400 meters north of the Golden Temple, is where the most notorious massacre under the British rule took place. In the afternoon of 13 April, 1919, thousands of people gathered at Jallianwala Bagh for a peaceful demonstration on the Baisakhi day. The ground is surrounded by high walls on all sides and has only a narrow alley for access.
General Dyer personally led his troops to the site. Standing on the only access way, he ordered his men to open fire without any warning resulting in the death of 337men, 41 boys and one baby and injuring more than 1200. A section of the wall with visible bullet marks is preserved, as is the well that some people jumped into to escape the bullets. 120 bodies were recovered from the well. Today this ground has been changed to a memorial park. At the entrance there is a memorial plaque which recounts the history.
Located 11Kilometres west of Amritsar on Chogawan road, Ram Tirth, Rishi Valmiki's hermitage, dates back to the period of Ramayana. The place has an ancient tank and many temples. A hut marks the site where Sita, the consort of Lord Ram, gave birth to Luv & Kush. A four day fair, starting on the full moon night in November is held here.
Anandpur Sahib (the holy City of Bliss) is one of the holiest places of the Sikhs, second only to Amritsar. Located about 95kms north-west of Chandigarh, Anandpur is framed between the Shivalik hills to the east and the Sutlej River farther away in the west, with vast green expanses and profound tranquillity all around. It is closely linked with Sikh religious traditions and history. The ninth Guru, Guru Teg Bahadur, purchased the site from the ruler of Bilaspur in the year 1665 and founded Anandpur Sahib near the ruins of ancient Makhowa. He called it Chak Nanki after the name of his mother. The town became prosperous and reached its zenith in the times of Guru Gobind Singh, who spent 25 years of his life here.
On March 30,1689 Guru Sahib laid the foundation of a new town and named it Aanandpur Sahib. To Defend Anandpur from external threats, Guru Gobind Singh constructed five forts around the town and joined them with earthworks and underground tunnels. The construction began in 1689 and took over ten years to complete. It was here that Guru Gobind Singh baptised the first five Sikhs called the Panch Pyaras, the five beloved ones, who had offered him their heads to uphold Dharma, thus creating the nucleus of the Khalsa. Chak Nanki and Anandpur Sahib as well as some adjoining villages form the present city of Anandpur Sahib.
Anandpur Sahib is accessed by Rail and Road. Nearest airport is at Chandigarh, about 75km away. The nearest railhead is at Nangal. Free accommodation is available at the gurudwara. Presently no regular hotel accommodations are available at Anandpur Sahib. One can stay in standard hotels at Nangal or Ropar.
Takht Keshgarh Sahib
Takht Keshgarh Sahib, Anandpur Sahib Keshgarh Sahib is the central place of Anandpur Sahib. It is also known as Takht Keshgarh Sahib and is the principal shrine at Anandpur. Kesgarh Sahib Fort was built in 1699. In 1705 the army of Ajmer Chand almost destroyed the fort. The present Gurudwara complex was constructed during 1936-44. On the lower level is the imposing two-storey gateway, offices and a 30-meter square courtyard. The sanctum is located in the 16-meter square hall. Some old weapons preserved as sacred relics from the time of Guru Gobind Singh are displayed in a room. The Guru Granth Sahib is seated under a canopy outside the sanctum. Guru ka Langar is on the lower level behind the central building.
Situated about 800 meters southeast of Takht Kesgarh Sahib, this was the first fort of Anandpur Sahib. Anandgarh was a very strong fort. Guru Gobind Singh Sahib spent about sixteen years in this fort. Anandgarh fort was the central place of Anandpur Sahib from military point of view. In 1705 the army of Ajmer Chand almost destroyed the fort. Several years later, the Sikhs built a Gurdwara at the site of Anandgarh fort. Arms and ammunitions of the Khalsa army were stored here. The present Gurdwara has been built in place of the fort, in 1970.
Gurudwara Qila Lohgarh Sahib is located about 1500m southwest of Takht Kesgarh Sahib. It was one of the five forts built by Guru Gobind Singh to protect the Anandpur Sahib from outsiders. It was here that Bhai Bachittar Singh faced and turned back a drunken elephant sent to batter down the gate of this fort during the siege of Anandpur in 1700. The present three-storey Gurudwara building, octagonal in shape and high with a dome on top, was constructed during the late 1980's.
Fatehgarh Fort is situated on the northern outskirts of the town of Anandpur Sahib. Gurudwara Qila Fatehgarh Sahib has the present building constructed during the late 1980's. The Gurdwara is a two-storey domed building. In front of it is an old well which once served the needs of Fatehgarh Fort.