AMRITSAR

                             An Enchanting Journey

This is the story of a city which was founded by Guru Ram Das and developed methodically by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Invitation was extended by this visionary king  to a  varied lot of people from 22 different vocations to set up shop, and start a modern city around the Golden Temple . Each set of entrepreneurs and traders were provided a designated area of operation. The Namak Mandi, the Majith Mandi, the Atta Mandi are evidence of his Master Plan for the old Ram Dass Pur. A prosperous commercial center ensued, a link between traders from across the Khyber Pass to the Sub Continent. Trade encouraged Industry. Woollen fabric weaving to foundries, handicrafts to engineering, rice milling to agriculture and smuggling, all grew in unison.

 

The nucleus of this City, the Harimandir Sahib, widely known as the Golden temple, today is on the threshold of being designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It has already been acknowledged by popular BBC Holidays poll as the fifth most desired to be visited places in the world-much above the Taj Mahal and Great Wall of China . Apart from the beauty and grandeur of this temple, it is the spirit of secularism, the voluntary service and the sweet vibrations of divinity that draw over 100,000 tourists every day to this place of worship.

 

Ten miles from the civil lines lies another spiritual center. The historic import of Ram Tirath has largely been ignored for too long. Its recognition as a pilgrimage and its management on the lines of Sri Vaishno Devi Shrine needs to be done sooner than later. It is the place where Sri Ram’s sons Luv and Kush were borne to Sita. It also the place where Ramayan was written by Rishi Balmiki. Closer home is the Durgiana temple which affords a striking resemblance to the Golden Temple and is a must see for all VIP’s coming to the City.

 

But this border town has much more on offer. The lip smacking culinary delights at Kesar ka Dhaba, the famous Kulfi shops, Bira Chicken House are few of the many uniproduct enterprises that make the Amritsar food experience unique. The warmth and hospitality of a gregarious Punjabi community, the sites and sounds of this historic City, the great shopping experience and the wondrous smells of its spice markets makes a week long tour to Amritsar worth your while.

 

 Among the heritage sites of the city, Jallianwala Bagh stands tall as the edifice of sacrifice for the freedom of this great nation. Another beautiful monument, today an educational institution of repute, is the Khalsa College . Not many people know that this college stands on the grounds where the first Mughal-Sikh battle was fought. Gobindgarh fort, Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s impressive fortress now languishes in disrepair with the army, and is not open to the public. These are sites that form an integral part of the historic wealth of the nation, and can draw many more people with just a little care. Each of these places can have sound and light shows that tell the story of valor of a brave community.

A 40-minute drive through Tarntaran takes you to Harike Patan, perhaps one of the finest virgin Bird Sanctuaries in the country. At this meeting point of the Beas and Sutlej rivers one can see millions of migratory birds as well as 24 species of wild animals in their natural habitat. During one trip to this wetland, which is an internationally acclaimed Ramsar site, one even saw a group of seagulls flying into the horizon. The grace and beauty of the Siberian cranes and other fauna is in abundant evidence here. This is also the conservatory that supports the famous Fish Amritsari, a delicacy well known the world over. Kanjli, another wetland towards the historic Kapurthala town, showcases a glorious eco system of its own which is real pretty to the eye. Within the city, Ram Bagh gardens, the summer palace to the Maharaja now doubles up as perhaps the only lung of the city. An interesting museum in this garden tells tales of the bygone era of a great Emperor.

 

No visit to the city is complete without a pilgrimage to the legendary Gurudwaras on the periphery of the city. Khadur Sahib where concept of Sati was stopped, and Govindwal Sahib where Concept of Langar (24*7 free community kitchen) was started are, among others, places to go to in search of peace and tranquility. Legend has it that one could get Moksha, through a specific prayer routine in one day, at The Govindwal Sahib..

 

Within an hour’s drive from Amritsar , are Hargobindpur, Dera Baba Nanak,  Beas , Qadian, Pul Kanjri-heritage masterpieces worth a visit. Sri Hargobindpur is a clear picture of the secular vision of the Sikh Gurus. The sixth Guru constructed a masjid here for the Muslims known as Guru ki Maseet. Also in evidence are temples made by him in the vicinity.

 

Jagdev Kalan, Famous poet Hashim Shah’s village is of much interest to all. In an era of Indo Pak brotherhood this could be a hotspot for mutual meeting grounds of interest. Preet Nagar-A village of and for poets, is now a Ghost Village and but still worth a visit. And of course last but not the least is the big draw-The energetic Retreat Ceremony at the Indo Pak border at Attari. That this is great fun to watch is obvious as big numbers gather each evening to watch the security forces of the two countries trying to outdo each other’s prowess in the show.

  Amritsar can soon emerge as a global healthcare center as well. With Escorts, Fortis, Ranbaxy Labs, a world famous Ophthalmology center and wellness packages now established, the infrastructure is already in place.

 

Touched by many international flights daily, a number likely to grow swiftly with BMI, Comtel et al waiting in the wings, Amritsar today is well connected indeed.

 

With superb road and rail links to match, this city requires very little effort to make it a truly international tourist destination. Perhaps an infrastructural push forward, an empowered nodal civic authority, an Eco green and clean temperament of administrators and citizens alike, sangats and revenues should pour in rapid abandon. All this, ofcourse, with the blessings of the founding fathers, the Guru Sahibs themselves!!!