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IN PICS: The amazing city of Amritsar

Last updated on: September 12, 2012 17:05 IST

IN PICS: The amazing city of Amritsar

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Harnoor Channi-Tiwary

Harnoor Channi-Tiwary writes about the stuff you can do (and eat) in the city of the Golden Temple.

Amritsar, the holy city of the Sikhs is 6 hours away from Delhi by train and is one journey you must make. Visit Amritsar for its food if not for its religion or history.

Punjabis in general are known to be very passionate about their food and quite like their Gujarati brethren, they love eating out. So it isn't uncommon to find crowds outside famous dhabas at all odd hours.

How to reach

Though it is 450kms away from Delhi and connected by the GT Road, the road journey can take up to 9-10 hours and be exhausting.

The best way to reach Amritsar is the Shatabdi Express from New Delhi railway station. It leaves at 7:20am and puts you in the heart of the city by 1:30pm, with enough time to spare in the day for sightseeing.


Image: A morning in Amritsar
Photographs: PP Yoonus/Wikimedia Creative Commons

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What to do in Amritsar:

The Golden Temple and Amritsar are synonymous with each other. And for good reason. The Gurudwara, covered in real gold, glistens like a shiny jewel. Neither gaudy nor ostentatious, the architecture is such that whatever time of the day you visit, you get to see a new aspect of the Golden Temple.

It isn't a place of worship for just the Sikhs. Visitors to the Golden Temple belong to all religions and communities in part perhaps because there is something strangely serene about this place. Strange because serenity is not something you expect in a place thronged by millions of people every day. Yet, as you sit on the banks of the sarovar (lake), the ripples in the water, the chant of the granthi and the sight of Golden Temple's reflection all mesmerise you.


Image: The Golden Temple
Photographs: Vinish K Saini/Wikimedia Creative Commons

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Historically, Amritsar is infamous for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre during the British rule. On April 13, 1919 General Dyer ordered 50 riflemen to shoot at a peaceful gathering of civilians as they attempted to celebrate Baisakhi.

The massacre that left more than 2000 people dead or injured and sparked a revolution that ultimately inflamed the entire country. One of the notable reactions to the same was Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore renouncing his knighthood in protest.

The memorial erected here is a must visit for history buffs. There is still a piece of the original wall preserved with bullet holes marked out and a sound and light show that recreates the awful tragedy.


Image: Jallianwala Bagh
Photographs: Rohan Tiwary/for Rediff.com

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IN PICS: The amazing city of Amritsar

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You would probably have seen the Wagah Border ceremony on TV multiple times. Yet, the real thing never fails to inspire. It is a show wherein thousands gather each evening on both sides of the border and cheer as the guards make a show of ferociously shutting the Gates between India and Pakistan.

The time of the year you go must be taken into account though, as this is an open air seating. Sitting in the sun with a crowd of people may not be very enjoyable in the peak of summer.


Image: Wagah border ceremony
Photographs: Giridhar Appaji Nag Y/Wikimedia Creative Commons

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If you still have some time on hand, take a rickshaw and go visit Khalsa College. Built in 1892, this 300 acre campus is an architectural delight. Stroll in the gardens or admire the buildings, this is a place you can spend a few leisurely hours.

If you are a film buff, you would also be interested to know that the outside court scenes in Veer Zara were filmed in this very campus.


Image: Khalsa College
Photographs: khalsacollegeamritsar.org

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What to eat: 

Wake up early and head straight for Kanha on Lawrence road. The breakfast is a fixed -- puri thali (Rs 60) with absolutely lipsmacking choley and a tangy aalu sabzi.

The pooris are humungous and can easily be mistaken for bhaturas. Wash it all down with a tall glass of lassi and you're set for the day. Also famous for Aalu puri is Kanhaiya on Phoolianwala Chowk.

It may seem strange that a simple kulcha makes this list. But there is nothing simple about the great 'Amritsari Kulcha'.

Nothing like the usual stuffed kulchas you get elsewhere in India, the kulcha here is crispy and flaky and slathered in butter. But as you take a bite, the soft centre of the kulcha plays a different tune altogether.

Served with Choley (which should probably be granted the status of being the state dish of Amritsar), it can be devoured for a mere Rs 25 at the All India Famous Amritsari Kulcha on Maqbool Road.

Daal Makhani or Ma ki daal (as it is known in this part of the world) is best savoured at either of the two dhaabas -- Bhrawan da dhaaba (next to Golden Temple) or Kesar da dhaaba. Both are vegetarian places and are known for their thalis (within Rs 200).


Image: Kulcha-Choley at All India Famous Amritsari Kulcha
Photographs: Rohan Tiwary/for Rediff.com

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A visit to Amritsar is incomplete without Amritsari Fish? Head straight to Makhan Fish and Chicken Corner at Majeetha Road. The marinated sole and singhara fish look appetising enough (have it fried or as tikka at Rs 800 per kg) but don't also forget to try the chicken chop (expensive at Rs 250 a piece).

Butter chicken fans, this is one butter chicken which is miles apart from the one you would have had elsewhere. The gravy is nothing like the orange gravy we're used to, yet the chicken (Rs 550) is cooked perfectly and literally melts in the mouth. Having said that, the menu card doesn't quote any price and the prices mentioned here (which are mighty high) may be 'tourist' rates that we were charged. 

Don't get turned off by the looks of the place. The hole-in-the-wall called Parkash Meat Shop serves up some of the yummiest mutton you will ever find. With no place to sit around and enjoy, this is best ordered as takeaway or eaten in the car. 

If fine(r) dining is your thing, then Crystal is the place to go. An old establishment on Lawrence Road, the food served here is still delicious and hearty.

As you head back home with your buttons bursting, don't forget to pick up a packet of vadi and papad to remember the city by.


Image: The standard breakfast of Puri Thali at Kanha in Amritsar
Photographs: Rohan Tiwary/for Rediff.com

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