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[ Travel date : December 2022 ]

Having crossed the Punjab border countless times on my journeys northward, I finally seized the opportunity to delve into AMRITSAR—the quintessence of Punjab's culture and spirituality! A captivating haven for travelers eager to delve into Punjabi culture, with its rich history, vibrant traditions, and tantalizing cuisine.

Before I begin, let me share the journey that brought me here. It was the month of December when I embarked on a four-day trip to Dalhousie (click here to read the blog), and on my way back to Delhi, I made a planned visit to the Golden Temple.

Winters in Punjab brings the vibrant celebration of Lohri, a harvest festival. It's the perfect time to savor traditional Punjabi delicacies, among which sarson ka saag and makki di roti are personal favorites. I'd always envisioned experiencing this season in Punjab, so when the opportunity arose, I eagerly embraced it. What better way to kick off the new year than with a visit to the renowned Golden Temple?

Embarking on a drive from Dalhousie to Amritsar via Pathankot, I enjoyed the sunlit day with clear skies and comforting warmth as we drove through charming mountain villages. As we entered Punjab, the weather swiftly shifted, cloaking everything in thick fog and reducing visibility. I rolled down the car window, letting the fresh cold breeze brush against my face as we drove through the picturesque mustard fields, or as we call it 'sarson ke khet'.

We were going to stay for the next 24 hours in this city and our plan was simple: visit the Golden Temple twice, once at night and once in the morning (and you'll know why after reading this blog). After checking into our Airbnb, we head out for lunch. Later in the evening, we set off to visit the temple.

The way to Golden Temple is through narrow lanes and bustling local bazaars, typical of ancient Indian cities. Surrounding the Golden Temple, the streets are adorned with an array of shops offering a diverse range of goods, from traditional Punjabi clothing to souvenirs and religious artifacts. This vibrant area is renowned for its street food, featuring delicious specialties such as kulchas, parathas, and lassi. At night, you can see the temple's beautiful reflections in the water surrounding it, as well as the illuminated temple complex. Thousands of lights brighten the temple premises, crafting a magical and tranquil ambiance.

I was fascinated by the way this place is built. It combines the Sikh and Mughal styles of architecture, and it's covered in gold, making it look unique. There's a peaceful pool of water around it called Amrit Sarovar, making it even more beautiful. To reach the temple, you walk through the bridge called the Guru's Bridge, symbolizing the soul's journey to enlightenment.

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The Golden Temple

The main highlight of the city and an iconic landmark in India. It is the holiest shrine of Sikhism, and is considered the spiritual and cultural center of the Sikh religion. It is visited by millions of devotees from around the world who come to offer their prayers and seek blessings.

The schedule for the next day was already planned. And as I said, first and foremost we visited the Golden temple to join the morning prayer. During this time, you will be able to hear the beautiful hymns and prayers sung by the Sikh community, as well as witness the people's devotion and spirituality. Post our temple visit, we took a casual stroll along the lively streets, bought souvenirs and enjoyed eating chaat and rabdi.

Beyond its spiritual importance, this city holds a somber historical event in its memory—the tragic incident known as the Amritsar massacre at Jallianwala Bagh in 1919. This event stands as a dark chapter in British colonial history, where British troops opened fire on a peaceful gathering of unarmed Indian civilians who had assembled in this public garden to protest against oppressive policies.

Jallianwala Bagh is at a walking distance from the Golden Temple. We visited this memorial museum which displays a collection of exhibits and artifacts related to the massacre, including photographs, newspaper articles, and personal belongings of some of the victims.

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Next, we proceeded to a place that I was particularly looking forward to. We were going to attend the famous closing ceremony at Wagah Border, a thrilling experience just 45 minutes away from the city.

Wagah Border is a crossing between India and Pakistan and is known for its daily flag-lowering ceremony, which is performed by the Border Security Force of both countries.

And I must tell you, if you ever plan to visit this city, DO NOT miss this event. It features a display of synchronized marching and high-kicking by the border security forces, as well as the lowering of the national flags of both countries. The ceremony concludes with a handshake between the border security personnel of India and Pakistan, signaling the end of another day of tension and conflict between the two nations.

It was quite an emotional and powerful experience, stirring feelings of pride, patriotism, and unity. The music and chants added to the excitement and energy of the moment.

It was raining the entire time, and the front seats lacked shelter. However, it didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the people during the ceremony, as you can see in the video clip below. Some who had umbrellas used them, while others like us paid little heed to the rain, completely engrossed in the parade and the electrifying atmosphere.

Definitely going to visit here and watch it again whenever I travel to Amritsar.

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