An evening at Golden Temple, Amritsar

20141004_221413For a long time, I was planning to go to Amritsar in Punjab to do Darshan at Harminder Sahib (Golden temple). It was one of the places which had been in my list of places I must see before I die. I and my wife finally decided to travel to Amritsar in Oct 2014. We decided to travel by road. I decided to cover the distance between Delhi and Amritsar in two stages with a night stop at a small town called Roop Nagar. It is also famously known as Ropar. This place is the nearest town from Anandpur Sahib which is the holiest place of Sikhism. We started from Delhi at 8 am and reached Ropar by evening little late than planned due to an unexpected break down of the car near Kurukshetra.

On reaching Ropar we checked-in a hotel called Sahil Palace which provided us with an excellent accommodation. One interesting thing with our room was that it was near a busy railway line so we could hear the sounds of all passing trains. It was quite interesting and different from the busy life of Delhi. After check in we immediately proceeded to Ananadpur Sahib. After making a Darshan and enjoying the beautiful and large complex, we roamed around the late evening Bazar on the periphery of the complex. We also revered the newly opened museum of Sikh heritage called Virasat e Khalsa one of its only kind in the world and most beautifully designed complex, constructed at an estimated cost of INR 300 Crore. Although we could not see the museum from inside as it was closed that day due to scheduled holiday. Afterwards we went back to Ropar having our lunch at a mid way Dhaba. This Dhaba was a very special one hosting a village like surrounding displaying Punjab heritage through a series of clay mannequins and sculptures. Food was very tasty.

In the morning next day we proceeded to the Ropar Museum of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) which is one of the most important museums of India, displaying a series of antique artifacts of Harappan (also called Indus Valley Civilization) period excavated from Ropar itself from the place near the museum itself. These artifacts which include pottery burial artifacts, simple tools, semi precious jewellery, coins and others are meticulously displayed along with others from nearby sites and excavated during last 60 years. The artifacts belong to period as old as 3300 BC and depict the importance of the place as an old civilization with a rich culture. The artifacts are displayed according to period of the history. The artifacts are well-preserved and well documented.

After the museum we proceeded to one of Asia’s best and largest manmade wetland at the banks of river Satluj one of the most important of five rivers of Punjab. During the winters this is the place of first stop over for migratory birds coming to India. Some of the most important and rare birds have been sighted in this area in recent times. We also enjoyed rowing boat over the river and witnessed the unmatched natural beauty of the place. The banks of the river are worth watching at different places. Actually the water in this part of river is down stream of nearby Bhakra and Nangal dam and has water almost throughout the year. It is also possible to ride motor boat here.

After enjoying the natural beauty of Satluj River at Ropar we proceeded towards Amritsar at around noon. Taking the Mohali Jalandhar expressway we were soon at national highway no 1 towards Jalandhar city. At Jalandhar we took the bypass road towards Amritsar and made a stopover at Haveli a heritage Punjabi restaurant near Jalandhar and had a delicious lunch. It is amazing to observe the meticulous management of this eating cum entertainment zone owned by Mr. Satish Jain. This place is a world-class five-star style zone offering food and experience at affordable prices. The place also has a theme zone (Rangla Punjab) depicting Punjab culture and Punjab life along with a buffet Punjabi lunch and dinner again at unbelievably reasonable prices. It is interesting to note that such places like Haveli restaurant and Rangla Punjab at Jalandhar are doing a great service to the nation’s tourism industry by providing world-class attractions comparable to the best attractions in typical global destinations. It is a must visit zone in this part of India where you will not miss several photo opportunities for you and your family. Parking management, climate control, ambiance management, and cleanliness is impeccable, world-class and exemplary here.

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After spending an hour at Haveli we proceeded towards Amritsar where we were short of time to catch up with the 6 pm Wagah border closing parade by BSF personnel. By the time we reached Amritsar bypass towards Wagah border we were clear that we will be facing a large flood of tourists all heading towards Wagah border for the ceremony. We just made it to Wagah. It was really crowded there. BSF is having a herculean task of managing such unexpected rush of tourists during long weekends like this. One interesting thing I noticed there was the absence of even a small crowd on the other side of border in Pakistan. Wagah border visit is a lovely experience to enjoy the patriotic feeling and Aman Ki Asha. Chanting of Vande Matarm was in the air.

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After spending some hours at Wagah, we rushed towards Amritsar to check in the hotel as we could not inform about this unexpected delay to the hotel. However we had no difficulty in checking in at hotel Shiraaj Castle which we found to be well-managed and professionally served hotel with all modern amenities and spacious rooms. Just after the check in we proceeded towards Bharawan da Dhaba a very famous 90 years old eating joint in Amritsar, for a delicious dinner. It took some waiting to get a proper seat there due to sudden tourist rush. After enjoying the Punjabi food with Kheer and Phirni we walked down to Golden temple. Although there was rush of devotees moving to the temple we did not have any problem to enter the complex as it is so well-managed. The evening look of the temple in midst of the Sarovar is awesome. I took a few pics there. I realized that Golden temple as it looks in the evening can easily compete with Taj Mahal as the one among most beautiful buildings on earth and as among select wonders of the world. We did Darshan and Parikarma had Prashad and strolled back to our hotel. Tired we retired as soon as we reached our hotel.

Next day we proceeded for a heritage walk in the Ahluwalia Katra which is very near to Harminder Sahib. Here we enjoyed old Jharokhas, did shopping of Phulkari textile items. Also visited Jalianwala Bagh. Our visit to Jalianwalan Bagh turned out to be an emotional one. Passion ran high seeing the marks of bullets on the old walls and to see the Well where freedom fighters jumped to save themselves during freedom struggle. In all around 150 martyrs were extracted from this well after the unprovoked firing by Britishers.

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After the heritage walk we moved to Hall bazaar for shopping. It is interesting to note that most shops in Hall bazaar have fixed price policy. One can get very good footwear, Phulkari textile items, hand bags etc from this market.  Also this place has some good sweets shops. Amritsar is famous for its mouth-watering Patisa best available at a sweet shop in front of Longowal Devi Temple near Bharawan da Dhaba. One can also try Samosa, Rasgoola and Phirni here which are really delicious and fairly priced.

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After the shopping we started our journey to Morni Hills near Chandigarh. Om way we had buffet lunch at Rangla Punjab near Jalandhar. An interesting thing we noticed in Punjab villages that people love to have clay figurines on the top of their village houses. These figures can be of certain animals, birds or even depicting village life of people.

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There was some traffic jam as we approached Chandigarh. However we reached Morni hills by late evening. On reaching Morni village which is located near Morni Hills and at a good height we descended to a valley as we had booked our hotel room near Tikkar Taal in the Morni hills valley. This place has another picturesque lake near the main Tikkar Lake. Our hotel was just facing this smaller lake. This Lake is more natural and view from the room was awesome.

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Next day after having the breakfast we moved back to Morni hills and Morni village on the higher hilly reaches. In fact we explored the Morni hills on the other side of Morni village. This part of Morni hills is least commercialized. I saw some tree platform normally made for drying up agriculture produce and also to protect the produce from wild animals. I guessed there are certain wild animals frequenting the area. I checked with a few locals there and came to know that area around that place has witnessed several wild animals including tigers. This fact added to the aura and natural beauty of that place. I also noticed certain village trek paths starting from major junction on the road. I came to know that one can trek there up 2 km to reach a local village in high reaches. We tried to trek for 1 km but due to lack of time did not go further. The trek was even suitable for village 2 wheel vehicles. In all it was an interesting and natural trek. Another interesting thing we noticed in this small village area that Indian Namkeen Snacks being sold in the brand names like – ‘Chalu Bhujia‘, ‘Babaji Ka Thullu‘ sold in small packets for just INR 1 or 2 only.

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After coming back to our car we proceeded back to Morni village and thereafter took a descent towards Raipur Rani which again is in the lower plain adjacent to Morni hills and take on a short route to Karnal. This well made route connects to national highway 1 somewhere between Kurukshetra and Karnal. We had our lunch at famous Jhilmil Dhaba near Karnal and proceeded back to Delhi.

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