Amritsar ((31.62°n 74.8765°e) 31°38'N, 74°53'E) (literally "pool of nectar") was originally called Ramdaspur - Guru Ramdas's City (literally the City of God's Servant). This is now the name of a district and a Sikh holy city located in the northern Indian state of Punjab, in which the Harimandir Sahib complex is located. This is the current principal holy city of the Sikhs and is the headquarters of the district (Amritsar) in the Punjab.
The foundation of the town was laid in 1577 by Guru Ram Das (1534-81) when he inaugurated the digging of the holy tank Amritsar (amrit = nectar, sar = pool) on a piece of land which, according to some sources, was purchased from the residents of the neighbouring village of Tung during the time of Guru Amar Das (1479-1574).
According to other sources, the land was a gift from the Mughal Emperor Akbar (1542-1605) to Guru Amar Das's daughter, Bibi Bhani, married to (Guru) Ram Das. The name "Amritsar" was originally given to this holy pool created by the fourth Sikh Guru. Amritsar is one of five holy sarovars (sacred pools) in this city.
Growth of the city
The habitation that grew around the sacred pool (sarovar) Amritsar was initially called Ramdaspur, or Chakk Ramdas, or simply Chakk Guru. Guru Ram Das encouraged people from various trades and professions to take up residence here. The town expanded further under his son and successor, Guru Arjan (1563-1606), who completed and lined the tank and constructed in its middle the holy shrine, Harimandar, now famous as the Golden Temple and also had two more tanks, Santokhsar and Ramsar, excavated near by.
It was on the bank of Ramsar that the fifth Guru carried out the compilation of the Adi Granth (later Guru Granth Sahib). With the installation on 16 August 1604 of the Granth Sahib in the Harimandar, the shrine and the sarovar Amritsar surrounding it together became the central attraction of the town and a site for pilgrimage by the Sikhs from far and near.
The Harmindar,s first foundation stone was, according to Sikh tradition, laid by the Sufi Sant Hazrat Mian Mir and was designed by Guru Arjan so that people of any religion and Caste would have a door or direction through which all worshipper could enter.
The rear of the Harmandar Sahib faces the rising Sun and the Guru Granth Sahib is also seated in that direction, but the Granthi reading the Bani faces the West. The Harmandar has succeeded in fullfilling Guru Arjan's intentions, for while it is daily visited by thousands of Sikhs, it is also visited daily by people of Ingia and the World's other major religions.
- Main article: Kitchen that feeds 100,000 daily
It is also by design that the tradition of Langar serves food (vegetarian) that allows almost anyone (save those of many cults who drink only from wells dug by members of their own religion and eat food prepared by members of their own religion) to sit among his 'brothers' - fellow children of the same Kartar (Creator) and enjoy a meal in fellowship.
By all measures, the free kitchen (called Langar in Punjabi ) is one of the largest free kitchens to be run anywhere in the world. The concept of langar was initiated centuries ago by Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion.
At the Langar, no one goes hungry - and everybody gets a hot meal regardless of caste, creed and religion. All Sikh Gurdwaras (places of worship) have Langar, but the one at Golden Temple - Sikhs' holiest shrine - has little parallel.
Two hundred thousand Rotis - Chapattis (Indian flat bread), 1.5 tons of Daal (lentil soup) and free food served to 100,000 people every single day are what makes the free kitchen run at the Golden Temple in the western Indian city of Amritsar stand apart.
The kitchen is run by 450 staff, helped by hundreds of other volunteers. Sanjay Arora, 46, from New Delhi, comes to volunteer at the langar two days every month. “This is KAR-SEVA (do-service) for me. I feel happy after doing this service. It’s is not just free food, here you forget all the differences that separates humans from each other,” he says.
Volunteers also wash the 300,000 plates, spoons and bowls used in feeding the people. The food is vegetarian and the expenses are managed through donations from all over the world. The yearly budget of the langar runs into hundreds of millions. One has to see it to believe.
As well as Sikhs, Hindus, Jains, Christians and Buddhists from around the World daily visit the Complex and its shrines. One shrine - the Ath-sath Tirath was so named to allow Hindu visitors or those Sikhs who had been raised as Hindus to complete the arduous pilgrimage to Hinduism 68 Holiest shrines in one visit.
In the Ramagharia Bunga one can view the massive stone on which the Great Mughal Emperors were crowned. Taken from the Laal Kila (Red Fort) of Delhi the massive stone is the same stone from which the orders to kill Guru Tejh Bahadur were given by Aurangzeb.
After gaining the right to build many Gurdwaras connected with the all too often Mughal attempts to wipe the Sikh Religion and its followers from the face of India (and building those Gurdwaras) the massive stone was removed by the victorious Sikh conquerors of Delhi and carted to Amritsar, where like the Elgin Marbles of the British Museum, it has found its new and permanant home.
Over the many years in which the Harmandar Sahib survived numerous attempts to destroy and defile it, the town itself gradually came to be called Amritsar.
Guru Hargobind (1595-1644) constructed near the pool and opposite the Harimandar, the Akal Takht, literally Throne of the Eternal, where he sat in state dispensing the secular business of the community. He also gave two more tanks, Kaulsar and Bibeksar, to the town.
Guru Hargobind constructed a fortress, Lohgarh (literally, steel fort) on the western outskirts of the town. He soon came into conflict with the Mughal authority and was involved in a succession of skirmishes in and around the town.
Guru moves to Kiratpur
He decided to leave Amritsar early in 1635 and shift to Kiratpur, a town in the Sivalik foothills founded at his bidding by his son, Baba Gurditta, a few years earlier. None of the later Gurus resided or even visited Amritsar (Guru Tegh Bahadur was not allowed entry).
Amritsar was controlled during the rest of the seventeenth century by Guru Hargobind's cousin, Miharban, and the latter's son, Harji, who headed the schismatic Mina sect. It was only after the creation of the Khalsa in 1699 that Guru Gobind Singh deputed Bhai Mani Singh with a few other Sikhs to go to Amritsar and resume control of the town and manage the holy shrines there on behalf of the Khalsa Panth.
Attack on Amritsar
During the eighteenth century, Amritsar, like the Sikh community as a whole, witnessed many vicissitudes of history. It suffered repeatedly desecration and destruction until it was finally liberated upon the establishment of sovereign authority of the Sikh misls, principalities, over the Punjab in 1765.
The town was thereafter under the control of several misl chiefs although its surrounding district was held by Sardar Hari Singh of the Bhangi Misl. Different sardars or chiefs constructed their own bungas or residential houses around the principal sarovar and also their respective katras or wards encouraging traders and craftsmen to reside in them and over which each exercised exclusive control.
Joint control of Gurdwara
The sacred shrines were however administered by a joint council comprising representatives of the chiefs who had made endowments in land for their maintenance. Even prior to the time of Sikh ascendancy, joint councils, known as sarbatt khalsa (literally, the entire Sikh Panth), had been held at Amritsar to make crucial decisions on political matters.
Now again with all misl chiefs having their bungas there, it became the common capital of the Khalsa. Devotees from far and near, free to visit the holy city after six decades of the severest persecution, flocked to the city that was also called Guru ki Nagari (the Guru's town).
So did businessmen and tradesmen to take advantage of the increasing pilgrim and resident population. Trade, commerce and crafts flourished in different katras each having its own markets and manufactories.
By the end of the eighteenth century, Amritsar had already become Punjab's major trading centre. Yet the town with its multiple command setup remained a confederated rather than a composite habitation until Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) rose to power and consolidated the whole of the Punjab into one sovereign State.
- Main article: Five sarovars of Amritsar
Many sacred Sikh shrines can be found in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar. Of particular importance are the five sacred pools in this city. These are called sarovars and it is the practice of some Sikhs to have a dip in all five of these holy pools. The ritual, apart from being good exercise, acquaints one with the importance of these five sites.
These five holy Sarovars are:
- Amritsar (1586) (the name is now used more to refer to the city rather then the sarovar)
- Santokhsar (1587-88)
- Ramsar (1602-03)
- Kaulsar (1627)
- Bibeksar (1628) This sarovar is located to south/south-east of the most important landmark for the Sikhs, the Harimandir Sahib.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh
Ranjit Singh, chief of the Sukkarchakkia misl, who first occupied Lahore (1799), the traditional capital of the Punjab, declaring himself Maharaja in 1801, extended his hegemony to Amritsar in 1805 when he took over the town from his traditional rivals, the Bhangi chiefs. Including their fort with its mint striking the Nanakshahi rupee and the famous trophy of war the Zamzama gun.
The fort of the Ramgarhia misl was occupied in 1815 and with the possessions of Rani Sada Kaur of Kanhaiya Misl and Fateh Singh Ahluwalia in Amritsar during the early 1820's, Ranjit Singh's occupation of Amritsar was complete. He then constructed a double wall and a moat around the city with twelve gates and their corresponding bridges over the moat.
Contruction of Gobindgarh
Already in 1809 he had constructed the Gobindgarh Fort outside Lahauri Gate complete with a formidable moat, three lines of defence and several bastions and emplacements for heavy guns. Amritsar thus had already become his second capital.
The royal toshakhana or treasury was kept in Gobindgarh Fort which was also used as the royal residence during the Maharaja's frequent visits to the city before his palace in the city, Ram Bagh, was completed in 1831. Several members of the nobility also raised palatial houses and beautiful gardens in and around the city.
Lavish treatment to the shrine
Ranjit Singh devoutly provided liberal funds to have the dome and exterior of the holy Harimandar goldplated and to have the interior ornamented with fine filigree and enamel work and with decorative murals and panels in marble inlaid with coloured stone.
Sardar Desa Singh Majithia (d. 1832), who had been appointed manager of the holy shrines in the city since its occupation by Ranjit Singh, donated gold for gilding the top of Baba Atal.
During Sikh rule, Amritsar grew into a leading industrial and commercial city. The most important industry was textiles, particularly shawl and fine cotton cloth called susi. The shawl making industry received an impetus after a famine in Kashmir in 1833, which led to the migration of a large number of skilled Kashmiri weavers to the city.
The raw material, Pashmina wool, came from the transHimalayan regions of Ladakh, Tibet and Central Asia. Other important industries included silkweaving, carpetmaking, brass and copper ware and ivory goods.
Under the British
Amritsar continued to enjoy its precedence as the holiest city of the Sikhs as well as the most important commercial and industrial centre in the northwest India even after the annexation of the Punjab to the British empire in 1849. According to the first ever official census in the Punjab conducted in 1855, Amritsar had a population of 112,186 against 94,143 of Lahore. Its population increased by 30,000 during the next thirty years.
In 1890, with its population of 152.000, it was the 13th largest city in India. It was connected by rail to Lahore in 1862 and to Delhi in 1870. Both circumstances provided further boost to its industry, trade and commerce.
For textiles and shawl-making, there were in 1883-84 nearly 4,000 looms in the city. As for commerce, here is a quotation from W.S. Caine, Picturesque India (1891):
"The serai at Amritsar is one of the most interesting sights in India.... It is a great open space, surrounded by small houses, in which are lodged the travelling merchants from Central Asia.... Here are white-skinned Kashmiris, stout Nepalese, sturdy little Baluchis, stately but filthy Afghans, Persians, Bokharans and Tartars, and even the ubiquitous Chinaman....
These people bring to Amritsar the raw material for the great staple manufacture of the city, the soft down, or underwools of goats of the Great Tibet plateau and Kashmir, from which Kashmir shawls are woven.... Besides the shawls of home manufacture, Amritsar is the chief emporium for those of a similar kind made in Kashmir...."
Amritsar made great strides in the field of education after annexation. According to the Settlement Report of 1852 for Amritsar Khas (i.e. the town proper), there were (besides the centres of Sikh religious learning in various bungas and deras) 18 schools, 6 run by Muhammadan teachers and 12 by Brahmans, imparting instruction to 1,050 students.
By 1882, there were in the city 132 maktabs and madarsas, 65 patbshalas, 63 Gurmukhi schools and 24 Mahajani schools with a total number of 4,860 pupils on their rolls. The first English school, the Zila School Amritsar, was opened in 1851 under a European headmaster with an annual government grant of Rs 5,000. Christian missionaries opened other schools, the first of them in 1853.
In 1870, the Christian Vernacular Education Society opened a Normal School for the training of teachers. It was a declaration in 1873 by four Sikh students of the Amritsar Mission School of their intention to embrace Christianity which led to the rise of a Sikh movement to promote rediscovery of the essentials of the teachings of the faith and education among the Sikh masses. It was at Amritsar that the first Sri Guru Singh Sabha subscribing to these twin objectives was formed on 1 October 1873.
The efforts of the Singh Sabha leaders culminated in the establishment in 1892 of the Sikhs' premier educational institution, the Khalsa College at Amritsar. At present the city claims a dozen colleges, including a medical college, as also the Guru Nanak Dev University, established in 1969 in honour of quinquecentennial of Guru Nanak Dev's birth.
Besides, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, a statutory body representing the entire Sikh community, is running the Shahid Sikh Missionary College here imparting instruction in Sikh religion and history.
Post Jallianvala Bagh massacre
- Main article: Jallianvala Bagh massacre
In addition to incidents during the Kuka uprise of the 1870's, what made Amritsar politically alive was the Jallianvala Bagh massacre of 1919 (q.v.). The Indian National Congress held its annual session of 1919 in Amritsar. October 1920 saw the rise of the Akali or the Gurdwara reform movement when the Sikh sangat led by Akali leaders, Kartar Singh Jhabbar and Teja Singh Bhuchchar, occupied on behalf of the reformers the Akal Takht, the pujaris or officiants and the sarbarah, i.e. manager, appointed by the government, fleeing the holy precincts.
With the formation of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee during the following month, Amritsar once again became the political headquarters of the Sikhs. Since then almost all morchas or agitations connected with the political struggle of the Panth have been launched and conducted from the Darbar Sahib complex where the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and its political counterpart, the Shiromani Akali Dal, have their main offices.
The growth of the city, population-wise, was irregular up to 1921. In fact, it was negative during the decades 1881-91 (9.96%) and 1901-11 (5.96%), the reason being the frequent epidemics and a decline in shawl trade caused by a change in fashions in Paris and in Europe as a whole. But the decades 1921-31 and 1931-41 saw a rapid increase (+65.30 and +47.64 per cent, respectively).
The following decade again had a steep decline (16.69%), this time owing to the partition of the Punjab, resulting in the emigration from the city of almost the entire Muslim population to what became Pakistan after the independence of India.
Muslims leave the city
The loss of Muslim population was scarcely compensated by immigrating Hindus and Sikhs who preferred the security of the interior to settling down in a disturbed frontier city which Amritsar had then become. With the restoration of normal conditions, however, the population began to increase. The number recorded during 1991 Census was 7,09,456 including persons living in the cantonment area.
Although Amritsar was founded by the Sikh Gurus and continued to be the most important sacred city of the Sikhs, Sikhs formed only a minority of its population. Before partition Sikhs in Amritsar were, according to the Census of 1931, only 12.09% against 49.98% Muslims and 36.94% Hindus. Even after the partition of 1947 with almost the entire Muslim population having emigrated, the Sikhs were 34.18% against Hindus 64.21% (last known figures of 1971 Census).
Other Important landmarks
Population percentages notwithstanding, Amritsar still remains the holy city of Sikhism dotted with Sikh shrines honouring the memory of Gurus, martyrs and heroes. They are:
SRI HARIMANDAR SAHIB. See SRI DARBAR SAHIB
AKAL BUNGA housing Sri Akal Takht Sahib. See AKAL TAKHT
GURDWARA LACHI BER, a small, domed structure raised upon a marblepaved platform near the gateway to the Harimandar, is named after the ben (jujube) tree by its side which yields small (lachi or cardamomsize) berries. According to tradition, Guru Arjan used to sit under this tree and watch the digging of the sarovar, the sacred tank. Bhai Salho, a prominent Sikh of that time, also used to relax here after the day's labour at the tank. It is said that when Mahitab Singh Mirankotia and Sukkha Singh arrived here to have the Harimandar liberated from the control of Masse Khan Ranghar, and chastised the desecrator of the holy shrine, they fastened their horses to this jujube tree before entering the building.
BERBABA BUDDHA Ji, is an oldjujube tree standing in the parikrama or circumambulatory terrace along the northern bank of the sacred pool. It is here that the celebrated Baba Buddha, entrusted with the supervision of the digging of the tank, used to sit with his piles of digging tools and implements and other materials used for bricklining the sarovar and later for the construction of the Harimandar. A marble platform now surrounds the tree trunk.
GURDWARA DUKH BHANJANI BERI Stands on the eastern flank of the sarovar by the side of yet another jujube tree known as Dukh Bhanjani (lit. eradicator of suffering) Beri. The place is associated with the legend of Bibi Rajani whose leper husband is said to have been cured of his malady by having a dip in the old pond which had existed here since ancient times. Guru Ram Das, hearing the report of this miracle, decided to develop the reservoir into a proper bathing tank. He is himself said to have given the tree the name Dukh Bhanjani. People have a strong faith that water in this portion of the tank will heal their ailments.
GURDWARA THARHA SAHIB, situated in a narrow street called Bazar Tharha Sahib, a little way north of the Akal Takht, commemorates Guru Tegh Bahadur's visit to Amritsar in 1664. Soon after assuming office as Guru, he had come from Bakala to pay homage at the Harimandar, but the priests in charge who belonged to the rival Mina sect shut the doors of the holy shrine in his face. Guru Tegh Bahadur then sat praying for some time at the spot now marked by Gurdwara Tharha (lit. platform) Sahib and then went back towards the village of Valla. The Gurdwara is a twostoreyed domed structure. The Guru Granth Sahib is seated on the first floor. The ground floor which gives the look of a basement cellar has a platform and the stump of an old tree believed to be the one under which Guru Tegh Bahadur had sat.
GURDWARA MANJI SAHIB, adjacent to the eastern boundary of the compound housing the Harimandar and the sarovar, is situated in what was formerly known as Guru ka Bagh (the Guru's garden). This'was the place where Guru Arjan used to hold the daily divan. A marbled platform marks the spot where the Guru used to sit on a manji (cot) with the Sikhs squatting on the ground in front. The Guru Granth Sahib is seated in an adjoining room. A vast divan hall constructed in front of Manji Sahib during recent decades now covers the whole of the former Guru ka Bagh.
GURDWARA GURU KE MAHAL, as the name signifies, marks the residential house of the Gurus. It is situated west of the Akal Takht across Guru ka Bazar street. Originally constructed as a modest hut by Guru Ram Das in 1573, it was enlarged and beautified by Guru Arjan Dev and Guru Hargobind. The old house has since been converted into a gurdwara with the Guru Granth Sahib seated in a large rectangular hall. Besides the daily services, a special divan and Guru ka Langar are held on every Sunday following the first of a Bikrami month. The most important event of the year is the celebration of the birth anniversary of Guru Tegh Bahadur who was born here on Baisakh vadf5, 1678 Bk/1 April 1621.
GURDWARA BABA ATAL SAHIB, a 9storey octagonal tower, over 45 metres high, standing close to the Kaulsar pool about 200 metres southeast of the Harimandar, marks the spot where Baba Atal Rai, 9yearold son of Guru Hargobind, passed away on 9 Assu 1685 Bk/ 13 September 1628. See ATAL RAI, BABA. A simple memorial in honour of Baba Atal was raised on the site originally. The construction of the present edifice commenced after the Sikh misis had established their authority in the Punjab. The cornerstone was laid in 1770 and the first three storeys had been completed by 1784. The upper floors were raised by Maharaja Ranjit Singh during the 1820's. Sardar Desa Singh Majithia contributed gold for gilding the dome at the top. The Guru Granth Sahib is seated in a small inner room on the ground floor. The first six storeys are larger than the upper ones which rise above the central sanctum. The doors on the ground floor, four in number, are decorated with embossed designs, on brass and silver sheets. Interior walls and the ceiling are covered with murals depicting scenes from the lives of Guru Nanak, his two sons and nine successors, Guru Gobind Singh's four sons and Baba Buddha.
In olden days, the surroundings of Baba Atal Sahib (as the building is popularly called) were used as a cremation ground and the area was dotted with samadhs (memorial shrines) raised for eminent sardars (chiefs), saints (holy men), and warriors. The shrine was taken over by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in August 1921. During the process of widening the parikrama, most of the samadhs were demolished. Those surviving include the ones commemorating Jassa Singh Ahluvalia and Nawab Kapur Singh.
GURDWARA MAI KAULAN DA ASTHAN is on the bank of the Kaulsar tank, both the tank as well as the shrine sharing the name Kaulan. Kaulan was, according to tradition, the daughter (slavegirl, according to some sources) ofRustam Khan, Qazi ofMuzang, a suburb of Lahore. She was of a religious bent of mind from the very beginning and, as she grew up, she became acquainted with the teachings of the Gurus and turned a devotee of Guru Hargobind. Her father did not quite approve of this and subjected her to the harshest treatment to dissuade her from the path she seemed to be carving for herself. But she remained adamant and fled home to seek refuge with Guru Hargobind atAmritsar. Gurdwara Mai Kaulan daAsthan, as the name signifies, marks the site of the house where she lived. After a few years she shifted to Kartarpur, nearJalandhar, where she died in 1629. The tank Kaulsar was got excavated by Guru Hargobind for Kaulan's convenience. It was rainfed and remained neglected until desilted, cleaned and renovated in 1872 and connected to the hansli, or water channel bringing waters of the River Ravi to the Amritsar sarovars, in 1884.
GURDWARA RAMSAR stands on the bank of the Ramsar sarovar, near Chativind Gate, on the southeastern side of the walled city. After the completion of the Harimandar, Guru Arjan undertook the compilation of Adi Granth, the Holy Book, now revered as Guru Granth Sahib. For this task, he chose a secluded site. The spot selected was then a shady nook, one km away from the bustle of the town. To make the surroundings more agreeable, he had a tank dug which was named Ramsar after Guru Ram Das. Here, Guru Arjan composed his famous Sukhmani, the Psalm of Peace, and with Bhai Gurdas as his scribe compiled the Adi Granth during 160304. The present Gurdwara Ramsar, a small marblelined hall topped by a gilded, fluted lotus dome built in 1855, marks the site of the Guru's labours.
GURDWARA BIBEKSAR stands on the eastern flank of the tank Bibeksar got dug by Guru Hargobind in 1628 for the convenience of such pilgrims as would prefer seclusion to the hustle and bustle of the immediate environs of the main shrine. The Gurdwara lies northeast ofRamsar between Chativind and Sultanvind gates of the walled city. The Gurdwara was raised by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1833. The building for Guru ka Langar and a well were added in 190506. The Gurdwara was controlled by Niharigs until its management statutorily passed to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in 1925.
GURDWARA TAHLI SAHIB is connected with yet another sarovarSantokhsar close to the Town Hall in the heart of the old city. Santokhsar, 148x110 metres and next only to Amrit sarovar in size, is said to be the first tank the digging of which was commenced by Bhai Jetha (later Guru Ram Das) in 1564 under the direction of Guru Amar Das. But before long Bhai Jetha was called back to Goindval, and Santokhsar remained halfdug until Guru Arjan Dev completed it in 1588. It fell into neglect during the turbulent eighteenth century and was resurrected only in 1903 after the municipal committee of Amritsar had declared it a health hazard and threatened to fill it up. Although in 1824 it had been connected to a canalfed channel, or hansli, to make it independent of the vagaries of rainfall, the channel had become choked with silt and the tank was turned into a receptacle for locality garbage. A complete desilting was carried out in 1919 through karseva (voluntary free service) under Sant Sham Singh and Sant Gurmukh Singh. The Gurdwara derives its name from a tahli tree, Dalbergia sisoo, of which only a stump now remains near the main gateway. It is believed that this was the tree under which Guru Ram Das and after him Guru Arjan stood supervising the excavation of the tank. The Gurdwara comprising a rectangular hall on the western side of Santokhsar sarovar is next to the Tahli Sahib stump as one enters the walled compound enclosing the sarovar and the shrine.
GURDWARA CHAURASTI ATARI, literally, a tall house at a road crossing (chaurasta, in Punjabi) is located by the side of a plaza at the end of Guru ka Bazar in the heart of the old city. It is dedicated to Guru Hargobind who occasionally came here to rest. The plaza was the site of the initial encounter with an imperial force that attacked the Guru in 1629; The original house was demolished under the orders of the British officials soon after the annexation of the Punjab, in order to widen the plaza. The present building, smaller in size, has the Guru Granth Sahib seated on the ground floor. Besides daily prayers, special congregations take place on the first and the fifth day of the light half of every lunar month.
GURDWARA LOHGARH SAHIB, about One km to the northwest of Harimandar, marks the site of a fort of the same name (lit. fort of steel) constructed by Guru Hargobind for the defence of the town. The main battle of Amritsar between the Guru and an imperial force under Mukhlis Khan in May 1629 was fought here. The present Gurdwara stands on the ruined mound of the fort, which was razed by Ahmad Shah Durrani during one of his invasions in the mideighteenth century. The nearby gate in the city wall constructed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh is also known as Lohgarh Gate.
GURDWARA PIPLI SAHIB, about 1.5 km west of Amritsar railway station towards the Khalsa College, marks the spot where a large sangat, column of devotees, coming from Afghanistan and northwestern districts of the Punjab to take part in the excavation of the main Amritsar tank was welcomed by Guru Arjan, who came forward personally to receive them and who subsequently made it into a resting place for sarigats coming to Amritsar from that direction. The Gurdwara is connected by a 150metre link road to the main Sher Shah Suri Marg near Putlighar. It came into prominence again in 1923 when crowds of volunteers for the karseva or desilting operation of the Darbar Sahib tank first assembled here and then proceeded to the work site in a procession on 17 June 1923. The Gurdwara was reconstructed during the 1930's. Besides the daily services, a fair is held here on the occasion ofBasant Panchmi (JanuaryFebruary).
GURDWARA SHAHIDGANJ BABA DIP SINGH near the Chativind Gate of the walled city commemorates the martyrdom ofBaba Dip Singh (q.v.) of the Shahid misi, who, coming from Damdama Sahib (Talvandi Sabo) in Bathinda district to liberate the Darbar Sahib, which had been attacked and desecrated by the Afghan invaders, was mortally wounded here on 11 November 1757. Jassa Singh (d. 1803) of Ramgarhia misi raised a memorial platform on the site which was developed into a gurdwara byAkali Phula Singh (d. 1823). It was managed for long by the descendants of Sardar Karam Singh of Shahid misi, and was handed over to the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in 1924. The surrounding estate owned by the descendants of Jassa Singh Ramgarhia was also donated later to the Gurdwara Shahidganj.
GURDWARA SHAHIDGANJ BABA GURBAKHSH SINGH, a small shrine standing in a narrow bazar behind the Akal Bunga, commemorates the saga of heroism ofBaba Gurbakhsh Singh Nihang and his twentynine comrades who faced a Durrani horde in December 1764 and fell to the last man fighting in defence of the Harimandar.
DHARAMSALA BHAI SALHO Ji, near Gurdwara Guru ke Mahal, commemorates the name of Bhai Salho (d. 1628), a devout Sikh who served Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan, and Guru Hargobind. Entrusted with the general administration of the nascent town, he was popularly called kotwal, the police chief, of Amritsar. The Dharamsala was his residence as well as his place of work. A nearby pond, called Bhai Salho's Tobha (lit. pond), was filled up by the British in 1863. The Dharamsala has since been converted into a gurdwara, a twostoreyed building topped by a gilded dome with ancillary buildings such as Guru ka Langar and residential rooms for officiants.
GURDWARA DARSHANI DIORHI represents the gateway to Amritsar during its infancy built by Guru Arjan. As one entered the new habitation through it, paths led to Guru ke Mahal on the right and the Harimandar on the left with no houses in between to obstruct a glimpse (darshan, in Punjabi) of the two holy places. Hence the name Darshani Diorhi (diorhi= portal or gateway). Converted into a small gurdwara, it now stands amidst the crowded Bazar Mai Sevan, near its junction with Guru ka Bazar.
GURDWARA DAMDAMA SAHIB, located between the railway line and the Sher Shah Suri Marg about 3 km east of Amritsar railway station, is dedicated to Guru Tegh Bahadur who halted here for some time on his way from Amritsar to Valla in 1664 (See Gurdwara Tharha Sahib). Damdama means a place for a brief halt. As the news that the Guru had been denied entry into the Harimandar by the Mina priests spread, the Amritsar sangat, mostly women, came out to see him. They went first to the Darbar Sahib and, learning that the Guru had already left, they with a view to atoning for the impudence and folly of the priests, followed him. They caught up with him at this spot and begged his forgiveness for what had happened and entreated him to return and visit the holy shrine with them. Guru Tegh Bahadur declined their request to go back, adding that he had no complaint or rancour against anyone. He pronounced this blessing for the women: maian rabb razaian (Ever blessed by the Lord be the ladies). Construction of the present building of the Gurdwara was started in the beginning of the twentieth century by Sant Singh Kalivale, a trader in limestone.
BURJ AKALI PHULA SINGH,It is a tower situated in Amritsar City (at 31.626N,74.8856E)in memory ofAkali Phula Singh ,a very famous general of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and Jathedar of Sri Akal Takhat Sahib at that time.
Some other sacred spots in Amritsar are Har Ki Pauri, a flight of steps going down to the water level behind the Harimandar;
Athsath Tirath, a gilded kiosk constructed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh along the southern bank of the sarovar, and Tharha Sahib, a small shrine between Athsath Tirath and Ber Baba Buddha Ji commemorating Guru Amar Das and Guru Arjan.
Besides spots and shrines sacred to the Sikhs, Amritsar has many other places of interest, the better known among them being the Durgiana Mandir, a Hindu temple built during the 1930's on the model of the Golden Temple; Jallianvala Bagh , the site of the tragedy of 13 April 1919; Gobindgarh Fort constructed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh;and Ram Bagh gardens and palace where Maharaja Ranjit Singh used to put up during his frequent visits to the city.
Many millions of visitors travel to Amritsar every year, primarily to visit the "Golden Temple". The weather in Amritsar is always warm and acceptable to most travellers who come here. However, the best months to travel to this part of the world is between the months of October and April. Climate of Amritsar is generally warm with daytime temperatures fluctuating about the 30'C mark. Temperatures in the summer rising up to 40'C, peaking in June and in winter the daytime temperatures go down up to anywhere around 15'C.
The night-time temperatures are around 25'C in the summer going down to 3'C in winter. The rainfall also peaks in July and August and so these months may not prove suitable for some travellers. The best season to visit the city is during the months of October till April.
- Above data with thanks to weather.co.uk
- Five sarovars of Amritsar
- Guru Ram Das
- Guru Arjan
- Guru Hargobind
- Gurdwara Mata Kaulan
- 1. Gian Singh, Giani, Twarikh Sri Amritsar [Reprint]. Amritsar, 1977
- 2. Thakar Singh, Giani, Sn Gurduare Darshan. Amritsar, 1923
- 3. Tara Singh, 5n Gur Tirath Sangrahi. Amritsar, n.d.
- 4. Kirpal Singh, Giani, "Sri Amritsar Shahir," in the Gurdwara Gazette, November 1988
- 5. Pratap Singh, Giani, Amritsaru Sifati da Gharu. Amritsar, 1977
- 6. Datta, V.N., Aniritsar Past and Present. Amritsar, 1967
- 7. Madanjit Kaur, The Golden Temple: Past and Presen t. Amritsar, 1983
- 8. Patwant Singh, The Golden Temple. Delhi, 1988
- 9. Arshi, P.S., Sikh Architecture in the Punjab. Delhi, 1986
|Districts of Punjab|
▝ Amritsar (District) ▝ Barnala ▝ Bathinda ▝ Firozpur ▝ Faridkot ▝ Fatehgarh ▝ Gurdaspur ▝ Hoshiarpur ▝ Jalandhar ▝ Kapurthala ▝ Ludhiana ▝ Mansa ▝ Moga ▝ Muktsar ▝ Nawanshahr ▝ Patiala ▝ Rupnagar ▝ Mohali ▝ Sangrur (District) ▝ Tarn Taran ▝
|Five Sarovars of Amritsar|
▝ Amritsar ▝ Kaulsar ▝ Santokhsar ▝ Bibeksar ▝ Ramsar ▝