A visit to the border is an interesting experience, especially at sun-set, when the retreat ceremony takes place with the Border Security Force (B.S.F.) on the Indian side and The Sutlej Rangers on the Pakistan side putting up a well co-ordinated and spectacular display which compares very favorably with the changing of royal guard in London.
The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, also known as the Amritsar Massacre, was named after the Jallianwala Bagh (Garden) in Amritsar, where, on April 13, 1919, British Indian Army soldiers under the command of Brigadier Reginald Dyer opened fire on an unarmed gathering of men, women and children. The firing lasted about 10 minutes and 1650 rounds were fired, or 33 rounds per soldier. Official (Raj) sources placed the casualties at 379. According to private sources, the number was over 1000, with more than 2000 wounded, and Civil Surgeon Dr. Smith indicated that they were over 1800.
Wagah is the border checkpost between India and Pakistan. It is maintained by the Border
Security Force (BSF) and it is their responsibility to man the Indian borders, especially
in peace time. Every evening as the sun sets, the officers on either side ceremoniously
lower the respective flags. This is the Retreat ceremony and visitors are allowed at this
time into the complex to witness the event.
The sound from the bugles blown together from both sides paints past on the canvas when India and Pakistan were one, simultaneously Flags of the two nations are ceremoniously retrieved and lights are switched on marking the end of the day amidst thunderous applause. Today this point is only land route to approach Pakistan and central Asia.
The Durgiana Temple Complex was built in the 16th century and closely resembles the nearby
Golden Temple. This is a very peaceful temple, dedicated to Goddess Durga. The temple closes
at 1 in the afternoon so make sure you are there early.
Take time to walk around the pathway, and enjoy the stillness of the surrounding
pool. It is truly a worth visit when in Amritsar
The Goldent Temple is the spiritual and holy epicenter of the Sikh religion. The Golden Temple is the best known Gurdwara (Sikh Temple). The building which is gold plated is over 400 years old. The Golden Temple houses the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib.
The Golden Temple has entrances from every direction: north, south, east and west. Its doors are open to people of all religions and backgrounds.
Prashad is served as a sacrament symbolizing the Sikh spirit of service and equality.
You are permitted to soak your hands or feet or even take a dip in the natural reservoir that surrounds the Temple. The water is said to have healing properties and cleanses you of your sins.
One visit to the Golden temple and I was convinced that this was the most evocativesacred place in India.one experiences a particular serinity with the singing of Sikh Hymsfloating across the lake in which the Golden temple stands ,the steady stream of pilgrims flowing around the marble pavements that surround the lake, the lederly sikh preists with their long white beards singing from the Guru Granth Sahib and the shining white marble of the Akhal takht, th eshrine opposite the Golden temple.One noticeable thing is that pilgrims form an orderly Queue-No pushing, shoving and loud talk that the common feature of most Hindu shrines in india.(Mind You I am a Hindu my self)
Gurudwara Taran Taranis located at a distance of 25 kilometers south of Amritsar. Just like Dukh Bhanjani Beri in Golden Temple, the Sarovar in this Gurudwara also possess healing powers. As the folklore goes, it is believed that any Leper who can swim across the Tank will be miraculously cured. The Tank is large so Parikrama (walking along the tank or pool with incantation) takes some time.
Gurudwara Taran Taran has a yellow building next to the west entrance that provides free accommodation to the pilgrims. Every half-hour from the main bus stand you can get bus to Tarn Taran.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh got a temple erected in the town of Tarn Taran. Every Amavas (night with no moon) fairs are held at the Temple
Jallianwala Bagh is one of the most historical spots of India. April 13, 1919 was Baisakhi when Sikhs celebrated both the first day of the new year and the anniversary of the founding of the khalsa in 1699. Some 20,000 Indians had gathered to peacefully protest the Rowlatt Act, a British legislation that allowed British authorities to arrest any Indian suspected of sedition without trial .
Upon seeing the crowd and acting on his own, British General Reginald Dyer positioned his troops inside the narrow entrance (and only exit) of the garden. He then ordered them to open fire. People scrambled, some jumped in a well and some tried to climb the high surrounding walls to escape the flying bullets. Within minutes 1,200 people were wounded and hundreds were dead including women and children.
This horrific event was one of the defining moments in India's fight for independence. Public anger and acts of violence followed the massacre. Mahatma Gandhi's non co-operation movement (mass civil disobedience) quickly followed, with Gandhi declaring that "cooperation in any shape or form with this satanic government is sinful". He encouraged various boycotts including the boycott of British (and other) foreign goods and advocated that khadi (homespun cloth) be worn by all Indians. It would still take India another 2 1/2 decades to get its independence.
The news of the massacre was hushed up and it took 6 months for the British Government in London to even hear of it. The incident was eventually investigated. Although there was international outrage, some thought Dyer a hero. His comments from the investigation, such as this one, "It was no longer a question of merely dispersing the crowd, but one of producing a sufficient moral effect" did nothing to lessen the outrage and General Dyer was eventually asked to resign.
Today the park is accessed by the same narrow path that Dyer's troops blocked. Trees and flowers fill the quiet park and if you didn't know the history you would think it was a wonderful place to escape the city. There is a large memorial at the far end of the park but the most moving places are the Martyr's Well and the sections of walls (on opposite sides of the park), all with visible bullet marks.
A few days before our trip to Amritsar we happened to catch the movie "Gandhi". The massacre scenes were chilling and it made our visit to Jallianwala Bagh so much more real. I recommend seeing the movie before visiting.
The park is open from dawn until dusk.
No admission fee.
The Golden Temple - also known as the Hari Mandir or "Temple of God" - is the holiest shrine of the Sikh faith. All Sikh temples have four entrances to symbolize an egalitarian welcome to all castes. The main entrance to the Golden Temple complex is through the Hall Bazaar which takes you to the clock-tower - or "Darshani Darwaza" - gate. From the top of the gateway stairs you will have your first glimpse of the temple, which will look every bit as beautiful as any photo of it. (It is at this gate that you will also find the Central Sikh Museum.)
The temple, which is part of a complex of buildings and historic and holy shrines that form a large square around the Golden Temple, is located in the middle of the Amrit Sarovar ("Pool of Nectar"). The water of the pool is said to have healing powers and you will see many people taking a bath in the water. A Parikrama - marble pathway - surrounds the pool. Each side of the pool is 510 feet long. Start your walk going clockwise around the complex.
The temple itself is a mix of Islam and Hindu styles of architecture. After entering the Darshani Deorhi ("gateway of vision") - with silver doors and sacred verses carved on the walls - the temple is reached by crossing a 60m long marble causeway. The line on the causeway moves pretty quickly as you are ushered into the temple. You will first hear the ragis - musicians who sing verses from the Holy Book. Priests are collecting offerings/donations. You will have little time to take in the beautiful surroundings before being ushered out of the small inner sanctum. When you cross back over the causeway, you will be given a small bit of sweet prasad (holy offering). Be sure to receive this with your right hand.
Temple details: the temple dome is covered in 100kg of gold and is shaped like an inverted lotus. The lower wall is made of white marble. The highlights of the temple include the Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) on the top floor, the marble walls with pietra dura inlay on the first floor, and the Durbar Sahib ("Court of the Lord") where the Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Book) sits during the day covered by a jewelled canopy. When the evening prayers are over, as part of a daily ritual, the Guru Granth Sahib is moved back to the Akal Takht (building) where it stays until daybreak when it is moved back to the temple. After the Guru Granth Sahib is removed from the temple, the floors are washed with milk and water, and the doors of the Darshani Deorhi are closed until the next morning.
Enter through the clock-tower gate entrance. Leave your shoes in the cloak room just to the left and down a few stairs from the entrance. Walking towards the entrance you'll need to wash your hands in the large public basin and then walk through a very shallow pool of water to wash your feet. ALL men and women must cover their heads (kerchiefs, hats, etc. are available at shops across from the cloak room if you haven't brought one). Dress appropriately as well.
Alcohol and tobacco products are not permitted within the complex. Photos may be taken freely within the complex (although you should try and avoid taking photos of worshippers) but you should check inside any building to see if you are allowed to take photos (you are not allowed to take any photos inside the Golden Temple).
There is an Information Office near the main entrance. It is helpful to have a map of the complex. It is best not to go in the afternoon - there is alot of glare and heat.
The Golden Temple is without a doubt the most beautiful building within the temple complex. However, there are several other important - and beautiful - buildings and shrines within the complex.
Guru Ram Das Langar - The building under the 2 minarets is the temple's communal dining hall and kitchen. Langar is both the name of the place (all Sikh temples have one) as well as the free meal that is served here. The kitchen can feed 10,000 people a day, 3,000 people at a time. The simple meal consists of chapatis/rotis (bread) and dal (lentils). Everyone is welcome. Lunch is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 7:00 p.m. onwards.
Sixty Eight-In-One Sacred Place - This sacred place - also known as Athsath Tirath - is located at the water's edge near the dining hall. This 68 Holy Places represents 68 Hindu pilgrimage sites. Since the actual sites are located around the country, Guru Arjan Dev told devotees that is was enough to bathe here rather than go to each site.
Akal Takht - The Akal Takht is a 5 storied building that is directly opposite to the causeway entrance to the Golden Temple. The name Akal Takht means "timeless throne". This is the seat of the Sikh's religious committee where the Sikh Parliament meet and day to day administration is done. It is an interesting and pretty building with a gilt dome that houses the guru's swords and flagstaffs. It is also where the Guru Granth Sahib (holy book) is kept at night. Each morning (at 4 or 5 a.m.) the holy book is moved to the Golden Temple in a special procession. When it is returned at 9 or 10 p.m. at night, a Palki Sahib (night ceremony) takes place. If you would like to see either, confirm the times (they change by season). The Akal Takht is also the building that in 1984 was destroyed by heavy fighting/fire with the Indian Army. It has been rebuilt to what it is today.
Central Sikh Museum - The museum is located upstairs in the clock tower entrance. There are coins, paintings, arms, etc. on display create a vivid picture of the Sikh's struggles against the Mughals, the British, and the Indian Army. (No charge for entry, closes around 7 p.m.)
Jubi Tree - Near the clock tower entrance is a 400+ year old jubi tree. It is believed to be the shaded resting place of the first priest of the temple. Today it is a favorite spot for marriages. Women hoping to be blessed with a son also tie colorful threads to the branches.
Photos of the various buildings and shrines can be viewed in my Golden Temple Complex travelogues.
The best time to visit the Golden Temple is early in the morning on a weekday. Sundays and weekends in general are very crowded.
The Golden Temple has seen religious-political turmoil. The worst in 1984 when the Government set-up a military operation and attacked the temple due to conflict between the Akali Leadership (a movement for Gurdwara reform). This lead to the tragic event of Indira Gandhi being assassinated by her Sikh bodyguard.
Khalsa College is located a short distance from the Golden Temple. Our visit there was personal, since my dad had graduated from here. The architecture of the main buildings is very impressive for its era. If you have time, it’s a nice campus with great architecture.
About 30 kms outside of Amritsar is the only road crossing to Pakistan. It is known by the Pakistan name, Wagah Border. The Indian name is Attari.
Although traffic between the two countries has stopped a couple of hours prior, each day around sunset thousands of Indians, Pakistanis, and foreigners gather to watch the changing of the guards and the ceremonial lowering of the flags with the Indian BSF (Border Security Force) and the Pakistani Sutlej Rangers.
Guards on both sides - in full dress uniforms - display their synchronized marching - in a friendly competition, each side trying to outdo the other with their high-stepping and foot stomping.
Arriving from Amritsar, cars, rickshaws, buses, etc. drop you about a half mile from the entrance. Security officers will check you before you proceed. You are not allowed to bring any bags, backpacks, or even camera cases(!) in with you. If you get to the security point and have any of those things, you can leave them at a small stall nearby for a few rupees. (I would not recommend leaving anything of value here.) They are very strict about this - we were not even allowed to bring in our baby's diaper bag. Once through the security point, you can either take a cycle-rickshaw or walk to the entrance.
Just before the large entrance to the viewing stands on the Indian side are "Welcome to India" and the "India The Largest Democracy In The World Welcomes You" signs, along with a touching memorial monument of two hands shaking with the inscription "Dedicated to 10 Lakh Punjabis Who Died Unsung in 1947". There's a sort of ramshackle Indian Customs booth and a very small BSF Museum which is worth a quick look. It has a small model of the "gate" and how it locks.
If you are elderly or with an elderly person, you can enter through the main gate. You will get a seat (the best seats in the house) on the low walls along the narrowish two lane "road". If you are a foreigner (bring your passport), you can go through the gate (toll booth style gate) on the left side before the entrance. Follow the path around to the VIP section. (Do be nice; I don't think they have to let you into the VIP section.) All others enter up the stairs to the left on the main entrance. The viewing stands on the Indian side hold somewhere over 6,000 people.
The crowds are warming up. There's likely to be Indians dancing in the "road" to some patriotic Bollywood songs. The stands are absolutely overflowing. On the Pakistan side there are separate sections for men and women, with an empty section in between. Behind us in the stands of the VIP section are 4 men waving large Indian flags.
The ceremony starts and there is alternate cheering from each side. Military commands are bellowed as guards start to march towards the gate. New guards go to the gate, old guards come back. This continues for some time - with some additional military maneuvers - until simultaneously the flags of India and Pakistan are lowered and retrieved. Finally the gates between the two countries are slammed shut until the following morning.
When the ceremony is over a chain is put across the street from between the general and VIP sections. The VIP section is closer to the gates and if you are sitting there, you can go and take some photos of the guards or even go up to the gate to take some photos. They don't allow much time for this so go check out the gate first!
I just loved the pomp and circumstance, the Sutlej Ranger's uniforms, the good natured rivalry, and for some inexplicable reason - the gate, which I just thought was so cool. You could tell that the guards really enjoyed putting on a "show" in what otherwise might be a pretty boring job.
But I think the thing that struck me most, was realizing that - all of the politics and other sh*t aside - we are all just human beings. I really thought this ceremony was special.
On the way out, there is a small souvenir store which just sells small photos, keychains, etc. They were each Rs 10. It's worth buying a couple of items to support the BSF. Near the store is a long barbed wire fence. Just a note: This is NOT Pakistan. It was so funny to watch people standing there for photos, some waving their Indian flags thinking this was Pakistan.
The actual ceremony starts about 5:30 p.m. and lasts about 30 minutes. I recommend leaving Amritsar no later than 3:30. We arrived about 4:45 and the stands were already packed. If we had not gotten seats in the VIP section, we would have been standing all the way at the top of the stands and would not have been able to see anything! You might want to bring binoculars in any case. There are no issues about safety; it's perfectly safe. Go and enjoy!
The Golden Temple is a symbol of the magnificence and strength of the Sikh people all over the world. In the evolution of the Darbar Sahib, is entwined the history and ideology of Sikhism. In its architecture are included, symbols associated with other places of worship. This is an example of the spirit of tolerance and acceptance that the Sikh philosophy propounds.
I personally like this place more than the Taj Mahal. There's no entrance fee. You need to take off your shoes and cover your head. If you visit the temple during daytime, be aware that the floor is freaking hot. There's a tourist information office at the entrance, you might wanna get in and ask for a booklet which contains a history of this place and a map.
It costed 10 Rupees to take a rickshaw from Amritsar Railway Station to the Golden Temple.