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14 July, 2016

Amritsar : The land of chanting and source of my happiness

Posted in : Travelogue on by : Disha Khurana

I may not have travelled abroad much but I am lucky to say that I have travelled quite a bit in India itself. Most of the places I travelled are like faint memories as I was a school kid trotting around the map of India with my sister & parents. I have some really fond memories with my family attached to a few places & people I met over my travel. However the one place I still yearn to go back to over & over again every few months definitely has to be Amritsar. It’s the one place on earth that gives me the most peaceful & serene feeling at heart in spite of being such a chaotic city.

For me it’s a city that I am attached on a more personal & emotional level; may be it has to do with the fact that I have been visiting a gurdwara ever since I was a kid or doing langar seva every gurpurab. Whatever  the reason, if given a choice to take a weekend getaway Amritsar would definitely top the list of places I would want to go.

A couple of months back on the occasion of my niece’s 1st birthday, I took a trip to Amritsar with my family to get good blessings from Babaji for my niece. It’s better to start early if you plan to use the day for some travel while still being fresh & alert. We took an early morning direct flight by Air India Airlines to Amritsar & a cab back to our hotel where we were staying. We stayed in Ramada Hotel which is the closest luxury hotel to the Golden Temple; however there are many more reasonable hotel’s in & around the Golden Temple if you are on a budget trip. In case you want something fancier, there are more choices but certainly not close to the Gurdwara. If you are on a budget trip, you can even do your flight & hotel bookings with a suggested itinerary on Yatra.com

Since I have been to Amritsar a couple of times till now, I have a fair idea of what one should be doing when you are on a short trip & looking to cover the city. Here are the things you definitely should be doing when in Amritsar:

Visit the Golden Temple during the day & pay homage to Babaji & get blessings. While you are inside the Gurdwara; do not skip the langar food, it is must. Simple, homely yet bursting with flavour & with the chanting you hear throughout the time you are inside the Golden temple; it just makes it even better. If you are not in a rush, just sit & enjoy the chanting, the view & the feel of the place. Trust me; you will feel a lot lighter & peaceful. You can also do some charity work which goes in the welfare of the temple & buy some pinni’s from one of the counters inside the gurdwara to distribute as Prasad among friends & family back home.

If you have sometime, try visiting the Gurdwara during the night time too before 9pm as it looks totally different from what you see in the morning. The Golden Temple is totally lit up & looks supremely beautiful. Somewhere around 9.30pm the closing service of the temple happen; something you should try to witness. Though I have never had the energy in me to get up at 4am & visit the temple, my mother however says the rituals that happen in the morning when the temple is opened is a sight one cannot explain. Please skip the non-veg food before visiting the gurdwara.

Getting down to the things that one can do in Amritsar is to visit the Wagah Border during evening time when the gates of both India & Pakistan opens & the armies of both the country March, pay respect & lower the flag. I think you need to take a pass for it as well, the information desk at your hotel counter will be best to guide you & help you with travel arrangement.

One can shop for some beautiful phulkari work suits & dupatta’s, a lot of showrooms even offer to stitch your purchased suits at a reasonable price in the typical Punjabi pattern. You can indulge in some food shopping of papad’s, pickles, Amritsari wadi’s which are dried lentil fritters & can be made into gravies or added pulao’s. You can also indulge in some brass utensil shopping from the by-lanes of Amritsar

Paneer Tawa Frontier at Crystal Restaurant

Sarson Da Saag with White Butter at Bharwan Dhaba

Getting down to the food of Amritsar, one absolutely cannot skip the Kulcha paratha’s with chole at Brother Da Dhaba or Bharwan Dhaba; they are finger licking & mind boggling good. If you visit Amritsar during winters, you should try having Makke Di Roti with Sarson Da Saag with Kesar Da Dhaba. Even though I have visited quite a few dhabba’s in the quest for good non-veg punjabi food, none of them are one’s that I would ever go back to. The one restaurant that you must visit for both amazing Veg as well non-veg food is Crystal Restaurant.

Gulab Jamun from a stall outside Ramada Hotel

Gajar Halwa

Masala Paneer with Ginger & Chillies at Ahuja Lassi

The by-lanes of Amritsar are full of street food vendors & small stores, offering different type of chaat’s, kebab’s, sweets & mithai’s. During winter’s you can even get your hands on some freshly made Gajar ka halwa. We also tried a much recommended place during this visit which was the Ahuja Milk
Center for some lovely chilled Malai Lassi which is where I even tried some masala paneer. They had blocks of masala paneer which had chunks of chopped ginger & green chillies. Do try the phirni there as well. Another thing which was recommended to me by a fellow blogger during my stay was to visit the Jalebi Chowk during night time & indulge in freshly made hot jalebi’s & masala milk which is boiled for hours until it reaches a good thick consistency.

You can easily take cycle rickshaws as well as electric rickshaws for travel convenience for small distances. You can get the steel bangle or the “Kada” which punjabi’s & sardarji’s wear in their right hand from one of the stalls right outside the Gurdwara. Luckily I had an afternoon flight, so I had kept an early morning alarm to get up early & take one of the cycle rickshaws & visit the Gurdwara & take blessings to last a while until my next visit. I hope my article makes you clear out your diary & check out this  Flight Schedule to book your tickets & visit the holy place of Amritsar as your next holiday.

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