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 has become the centre of various commercial activities. The essential spirit of the city is found not only in its gurudwaras & temples, mosques & churches, takias & khankahs but also in its theatres & galleries, parks & gardens, archives & libraries, art & architecture, museums & memorials, havelis & forts, fairs & festivals, vibrant folk dances & scintillating taans, narrow lanes & winding alleys, parlours & boutiques, clubs & pubs, traditional bustling markets & lip-smacking cuisine. The most dominating asset, however, is its people who are friendly, god-fearing, hospitable, hard working, informal, robust and with a tremendous zest for living.
Geography of Amritsar
Amritsar lies amidst River Beas (to the east) separating Amritsar from Kapurthala and River Ravi (to the west). It is located in the lower part of Upper Bari Doab. It is very interesting that river Beas joins Satluj River at the confluence of Lahore (Pakistan), Firozpur, Amritsar and Kapurthala. As Punjab plain is a part of Indo-Gangetic system, Amritsar also has alluvial deposits brought by Beas and Ravi Rivers. The soil in Amritsar is a light reddish-yellow loam (colloquially called maira) that becomes somewhat stiffer at the doab, finally deteriorating into sandy and slightly uneven soil (colloquially called tibba). Amritsar has a levelled plain and is situated at an elevation of 200 metres in the northeast to about 175 metres in the southwest. The terrain of Amritsar can be put under three categories: The Upland Plain, Bluff along the Beas and Flood plain of Satluj. (Interactive map of Amritsar)
History of Amritsar
The original plan of the city was chalked out by Guru Amardas and conveyed to Ram Das for execution. The foundation was laid by Guru Ram Das and the village was named Ram Das Pura. The construction of the new centre was started with great enthusiasm. Some huts and houses were built and then excavation of the tank was startad. When a portion of the project was completed, Bhai Jetha went to Goindwal to report the progress of the work. This time Guru Amar Das directed Ram Das to dig another tank at the low level area near the site of the tank under construction. On his return, Guru Ram Das selected the site for the second tank surrounded by a large number of Jujube trees. Many Sikh devotees came to participate in the Sewa. Simultaneously with the construction of the tank all care was taken to develop the village Chak. A market called Guru ka bazar which exists now also was established. A number of rich bankers and traders also settled down in the town.
The tank acquired a reputation of sanctity and became the head-quarters of the Sikhs.The Amrit Sarowar remained un-bricked till Guru Arjan Dev ascended the Gur Gaddi in 1581.The tank was made pacca and its side stairs were bricked. The tank was named as Amar sarowar or Amritsar. Gradually the fame of the sacred tank led to its identity with the latter appellation and the city got its final name of Amritsar.Guru Arjan Dev also settled in the new city.
Places of Interest in Amritsar
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.
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.
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.
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 337 men, 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.
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.
Located 11 Kilometres to the 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. 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. 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.
Takht Keshgarh 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.
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