The glories of Amritsar in an undivided Punjab
Lahore -- the raja, Amritsar -- the wazir, and Ludhiana
-- the Fakir. This is how an aged Amritsar businessman describes
Although Ludhiana is the present commercial capital of Punjab, this status
was enjoyed by Amritsar before Partition.
During those days, Lahore, the capital of the undivided Punjab, had an aura of royalty
associated with it. While Amritsar, the city of the Golden Temple was an
important business centre. Its status was similar to a wazir, in charge of managing the king's finances.
"Lahore, with its prestigious educational institutions and beautiful
gardens, had a grandeur similar to what is enjoyed by Chandigarh
today," says Chota Bhat Patel, the president of the Amritsar Tea
The rich and the famous of those days preferred to settle down
in Lahore, but Amritsar had its attractions for the business community, reveals Patel.
"People from far and wide came to visit the Harminder Sahib at Chandigarh
and strike business deals," says Patel. It was
Maharaja Panjit Singh who
contributed extensively in making Amritsar into an important
Reflecting on those days before 1947, Patel says that traders came all the way from Kabul, Khandhar and Jalalabad in Afghanistan
to purchase tea, spices, woollen clothes, blankets, sewing
matches and a number of other household items. The Pathans came with a heap
of dry fruits and exchanged them for their requirements.
Even today, Amritsar is an important tea trading centre. Green
tea is exported to Afghanistan and dry fruits imported from there by
road through the Wagah border.
Referring to the tea trade, Patel says in those days local traders bought
green and black tea Calcutta and south
India and later transported it to Afghanistan.
According to Ram Ludhiana Ahuja, president of the Amritsar
Saraf Merchants Association, one of the other attractions
of Amritsar were the intricately designed gold ornaments.
Gurubazar, still famous for its ornaments, was frequented by
The city was also a favourite spot for chess pieces which were
carved from ivory and exported to Britain. The chess
pieces are now made from sandalwood and rosewood.
The bulk of the city's exports now takes place through
road and rail links to Pakistan.