The Holy City of the Sikh community, Amritsar, in the state of Punjab, is a must visit for any India tourist seriously seeking important world pilgrimage destinations. Located in the heart of the city, the beautiful, overwhelming Golden Temple is one of the most visited tourist attractions of India. The sacred city is about 465 km from Delhi. Amritsar literally means 'the holy pool of nectar' referring to the pool around which the Golden Temple is built. The entire temple complex is pervaded with immense serenity. Nurtured by divine sanctity, Amritsar is a place of miracles and triumphs, a land where people are warm and friendly.
Amritsar is where Sage Valmiki wrote the epic Ramayana and where Lord Ram and Sita spent a brief period of their 14-year exile. It is also the spot where Lord Buddha proclaimed, "This spot is best for Bhikshu (Buddhist Monks) to attain their Nirvana (Salvation) and is far superior in that respect to other places so far visited."
Most significantly, it is the home of Sri Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. Guru Ram Dass enlarged the lake and converted it into a tank. Guru Arjan Dev built the Hari Mandir (Temple) at the center of this tank. The foundation of Hari Mandir was laid in 1589 by a Muslim Saint Mian Mir and was completed in 1601.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh got the domes of the structure richly ornamented with marble sculptures, golden gilding and large quantities of precious stones. Thereafter, Hari Mandir was known as Swarn Mandir (Golden Temple). The Golden Temple is an interesting blend of Hindu and Muslim style of architecture.
The stunning sanctum of the Temple and the shimmering sacred waters are flanked by spotlessly clean marble walkways and pavements making it breathtakingly beautiful. The temple is three story high and crowned with a Golden Dome of pure gold. The temple has four entrances instead of the usual single entry, symbolic of the openness of Sikhism and that followers of all faiths are welcome here. The walls within are adorned with carved wooden panels and elaborate inlay work in silver and gold. The holy book of the Sikhs, the Adi Granth, rests on a throne beneath a jewel-encrusted canopy. Priests continuously recite verses from the holy book.
Visitors must cover their heads before entering the Temple complex. The sacred city is about 465 km from Delhi. There are excellent transportation facilities from Delhi. There are nearly 30 daily trains from Delhi to Amritsar and luxury buses as well, with the entire journey taking several hours by train. Accommodation is never a problem. If you're flying down, then its just 10 km from the Raja Sansi Airport and taxis are easily available. Amritsar is well connected by rail to almost every city of the country.
Once you are settled into your hotel, you will automatically head for the Golden Temple; you can later visit the other interesting spots at leisure. Other attractions are : the legendary site of Jallianwala Bagh, the Durgiana Mandir, the imposing Maharaja Ranjit Singh museum (former Royal Palace) and the Pakistan-India Wagah Border.
Durgiana Mandir : a pilgrimage center for many Indians, this temple is a place of worship of Goddess Durga, Laxmi and Lord Narayana. Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya laid the foundation in 1924.
Jallianwala Bagh : known for the gruesome massacre by General Dyer during British rule involving endless bullet shots and blood shed on the day of Baishakhi on 13 April, 1919 - hundreds of unarmed Indian men, women and children were shot without warning. It is located near the Golden Temple and you can still see the marks of bullets on the walls.
Baba Atal Rai Tower : A pilgrimage spot, Guru Hargovind breathed his last here. This beautiful building is nine storied and has very fine architecture.
Ranjit Singh museum : Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the 'Lion of Punjab', played a decisive role in Indian history. Having established a vast kingdom, he was the only Sikh ruler who raised the flag of freedom when entire India was occupied by the East India Company except Punjab. His Royal Palace in Amritsar, is now a Museum, the most important and cultural pride of the Punjab. It is famous for its rare and priceless collections, particularly Paintings, Weapons and Armour, Manuscripts and Coins and other valuable 18th and 19th century antiquities and art objects.
A garden was laid out in 1818 in the north of the city, enclosed by a masonry wall with fourteen feet high ramparts and a gate capable of carrying guns ; outside the wall a moat was filled with water from the Hasli canal. At each of the corners of the garden a small ornamental burj or Kiosk (Tower) was built. In the center of the garden stands the double storied Palace in red sandstone built with a basement as a cool underground chamber.
Pakistan-India Wagah Border : is just 28 km away. Its Retreat ceremony at sun-set involves a display of retrieval of flags, cheering spectators and synchronization of bugles blown together at both sides!
Golden Temple is situated in the state of Punjab (Amritsar). The sacred city is about 465 km from Delhi