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Revision as of 09:45, 18 July 2010
The Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) and the main entrance
Amritsar (ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਸਰ) is a holy city in the state of Punjab, India.
The name of the city derives from the name of the pool around the Golden Temple (aka Harmandir Sahib) and means "holy pool of nectar" (Amrit: elixir; Sar: (short for sarovar) lake). It is the spiritual and cultural center of the Sikh religion, and they are rightfully very proud of the city and their very beautiful and unique Gurdwara (place of worship). The Golden Temple was initiated by Guru Ramdaas Ji, the fourth Sikh Guru, and completed in 1601 by his successor Guru Arjan Dev Ji. It is now a major pilgrimage and tourism center.
Best time to visit Amritsar is in the winter, between October and March
Raja Sansi International Airport (IATA: ATQ)  is about 11 km and a 15-20 minutes drive from the city center. It's one of the modern airports in India and quite adequate if not exactly exciting. Most flights are to Delhi, an hour away, but there are an increasing number of international connections: Jet flies to London, Air India flies to Toronto via London and Air Slovakia flies to Bergamo, Barcelona and Birmingham via Bratislava. There are also surprising numbers of flights to Central Asia (eg. Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan).
Amritsar (IR station code : ASR) is an important railway station and is well connected to major cities in India through daily trains.
Trains can be booked online , at the train station or, most conveniently, at the small booking office in the Golden Temple Complex.
Here are some useful trains to get to Amritsar:
It's advisable to book your return train ticket as soon as you arrive in Amritsar, or before if you know the exact date, as trains are often heavily booked.
Also see Rail travel in India
Long-distance taxis are available from most places. It takes around 6-7 hours from New Delhi via NH-1.
Amritsar is well-connected by bus to most major cities and the northern areas within a days drive. Pathankot is about 2.5 hours away, and there are daily direct buses to New Delhi, Jammu, Katra, Chandigarh, Dharamsala (once daily, ~6 hours), etc.You can find Volvo buses from Chandigarh , Delhi and Katra to Amritsar.
If coming from Wagah at the Pakistani border, take a cycle-rickshaw (Rs 15, 3km) to the Attari station, where you can catch a local bus to Amritsar (Rs 15, 25 km).
Taxis also use this route and charge around Rs 200 for the entire vehicle.
- An auto-rickshaw from the train station to the temple should cost around Rs 40, while a cycle-rickshaw will run about Rs 20.
- There is a free bus service from the train station to the golden temple
You can easily visit Amritsar by car. There are many car rental companies available.
- Gunbir Singh, SCO32,District Shopping Centre, Ranjit Avenue, Amritsar, ☎ 3251313, . Divine Destination,provides site seeing, excursion, guide facilitation,cab and hotel booking facilities alongwith ticketing facilities to make a visit to the city of the Golden temple special.
The Golden Temple at night
Pilgrims bathing in the Amrit Sarovar
The Golden Temple  is the main attraction in the city, and the most important religious place to the Sikhs. It's a stunning complex, and always full of thousands of pilgrims from all over India, excited to be at a place that they usually only see on television. The excitement to be here is infectious, and many people will be more than happy to tell you all about their religion and customs, and show you around the temple itself. Cover your head, remove your shoes and wander around one of the most amazing places in India. The complex is open almost 24 hours (from 6 AM until 2 AM) and is worth visiting twice: once during the day, once at night, when it's beautifully lit up.
As you arrive near the complex, you will more likely than not be accosted by hawkers trying to sell you bandannas to cover your head. It's not a bad souvenir for Rs.10, but there's also a big barrel of free ones to choose from at the entrance itself. Deposit your shoes at the subterranean building to the left of the entrance, wash your feet at the entrance and head in.
- Darshani Deori. This is the main entrance, sporting a distinctly Victorian clock-tower.
- Amrit Sarovar. The giant pool of water that surrounds and reflects the Golden Temple. Sections (marked off by ropes) are set aside for (male) pilgrims wishing to bathe.
- Harmandir Sahib. This is the Golden Temple itself, floating above the Amrit Sarovar, housing the sacred Adi Granth scripture which is recited out loud during the day. This is the most crowded point, accessible by a bridge from the edge of the pool, and entry here is regulated by guards.
- Akal Takht, directly opposite the Harmandir Sahib. Meaning "the Timeless, this is where the highest council of Sikhs sits and deliberates. At night, the Guru Granth Sahib is taken to the Akal Takht.
- Central Sikh Museum, 2nd floor (entrance on the right side of the main side of the main entrance). Devoted to large gallery of paintings, mostly showing the gruesome ways countless Sikhs have been martyred, and various knick-knacks from the gurus. Free.
All Sikhs are expected at some point in their lives to volunteer for a week at the temple, and everyone you see working here is fulfilling that duty. It's likely possible that you can join in if you feel so inclined - you could enquire by asking the people outside peeling vegetables, or those washing dishes.
Jallianwala Bagh Entrance
- Jallianwala Bagh (Garden) is a short 5-minute walk from the Golden Temple, and is the site of the 1919 Amritsar massacre. On April 13 of that year, British Indian Army soldiers opened fire on an unarmed gathering of men, women and children. The firing lasted about 10 minutes and 1650 rounds were fired, killing 1579 people. A memorial was built on the site and inaugurated by the then-President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, on 13 April 1961. to this day the bullet holes can be seen on the walls and adjoining buildings. The well into which many people jumped and drowned attempting to save themselves from the hail of bullets is also a protected monument inside the park.
- Mata Temple is a labyrinthine like Hindu cave temple devoted to the female saint Lal Devi. Traditionally, women wishing to become pregnant come here to pray. The roundabout path to the main temple passes through low tunnels, caves full of ankle-deep water, inclined walkways, and mirrored hallways that make the experience seem more like a fun house than a place of worship.
- Summer Palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is located in the Ram Bagh park. Now the palace houses a museum, exibiting oil paintings, miniatures, coins and weapons from the Sikh period. In this park is the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Panorama, so ask, if you are at the right museum.
Apart from the spiritual and visual treat of the Golden Temple, Amritsar is a street food delight. The superb and variety of food specialities of this city endear both Indian and overseas visitors. Some of the other must sees in this city are the monumental Khalsa College, theatre at Punjab Natshaala, Maharaja ranjit Singh Panorama in the Ram Bagh gardens (the Maharajas Summer retreat) and ofcourse watch the drama enfold at the Indo Pak Border every evening at dusk. Divine Destination, the oldest site seeing pilgrim specialist in Amritsar, organises tours of all types around the city and pan India, and is an able friend to call while in the city for all your travel requirements.
- The Golden Temple has a massive library where tourists/visitors can get books on Sikhism for free or at almost very little cost.
- Almost every Sikh at the temple will be willing to talk to you about the temple and their religion and culture. Go there with an open mind and you'll leave with a smiling heart.
Sikh khandas displayed prominently on an exaggerated turban
- Sikh symbols and religious paraphernalia like khandas, Karas (sikh relegious bangle), swords, daggers etc from the shops close to the Golden Temple.
- Guru Nanak knick-knacks. His face graces all kinds of goodies.
- CDs of temple recordings, chants, and Punjabi music in the shops along the front of the temple.
- Punjabi Juttis (shoes) from the tiny shops near the Hall Bazaar flyover.
- Warian (spicy pulses ground with spices) from Hall Bazaar
- The Golden Temple has a dining hall (langar) serving free basic meals to all... A definite must for visitors. Plates and spoons are handed out near the entrance, then follow the crowds inside and take the next vacant spot in one of the rows on the floor. Servers come by with large buckets of dal, chapatis and rice. Make sure to finish everything on your plate (wasting food isn't an option here!) then take it outside to volunteers at the washing area. It's inside the complex which means no shoes and cover your head.
- Crystal Restaurant, around the corner of Bhandari Bridge serves up great Indian, Italian, Continental and Chinese food.
- My Kind of Place offers fast food such as pizza, burgers, and chips. It offers Chinese & Continental food also.
- The Brothers or Bharavan the Dhaba, is place situated near to Golden Temple where you can eat traditional food or chinese, continental where you can enjoy taste of your choice at affordable prices.
- New Punjabi Rasoi, around the corner from the temple it's one of the most popular restaurants in town and serves up great Indian food including tasty masala dosas. Meals ~Rs 40-60.
- Neelam's, a few doors down from New Punjabi Rasoi, offers pizza and other basics. Meals from Rs 30.
- Pizza Hut, Yes, the American chain. about a 30 - 50 Rs Auto-Rickshaw ride from the golden temple. Most auto-rickshaw drivers know where it is, or can get directions. Good if your stomach needs a western meal for a change. Comes with customer service that one would expect in a four-star restaurant in the west.
- kesar da dhaba. Located near the Golden Temple, it offers good Punjabi food made in pure ghee. Daal Makhni is worth trying. Don't forget to try a glass of Lassi after a heavy meal.
- Bubby Dhaba, opposite Golden Temple (Just opposite the main entrance of Golden Temple). serves authentic Punjabi food at a very reasonable cost and ideally located, just few meteres from the main entrance of the Holy Golden Temple
- Mohni Shawls, Guru Bazar, ☎ 911832542599. This is the ultimate destination of good quality Shawls and Stoles with a very wide range of designs
Note: There are very few Decent Non Veg Joints and almost non near the temple complex.
- Hotel Raj Darbar, near sarai. backside ghanta ghr chowk.. u will get classy rooms , restaurent ad a indian food plaza where u will get amritsari kulcha. 0998805791
- Rattan saree, M.M.malviya road ,, ☎ 01835067662. Best place for shopping. Here u get wide range of designers suits sarees and lehanga..
Lassi is the good Yogart(Curd) Drink there in Amritsar.
All indian and imported alcoholic drinks are available at the omnipresent licenced liquor stores with prices ranging from Rs 100 for a local english whisky to Rs 1000 for good scotch whisky like teachers.
- Food & Beverages, near Hotel Mohan International. Imported wines, beers and other liquors.
- The Golden Temple offers free accommodation to pilgrims and tourists in very basic dorms or 3-bed rooms in Guru Ram Das Niwas, behind the temple. While free, donations are expected (Rs 50-100 minimum per person per night is appropriate). You should also remain quiet and respectful of the surroundings, keeping in mind that this is a holy place of pilgrimage more than a tourist attraction. Alcohol and smoking are strictly forbidden, not only within the temple complex but anywhere within sight of the temple complex. If you can handle that, then this is arguably the best place to stay - watching people go about their routine, talking to the pilgrims, and absorbing the gorgeous atmosphere. Put your donations in the donation box near the entrance to Ram Das Niwas, as opposed to the guards who will ask you for it when checking out.
- Hotel Sita Continental, Sheran Wala Gate, Ph +91-183-5002840 is 10 minutes walk from Golden Temple. Its basic, new and clean. Rates for double bed-room vary between Rs. 550-650.
- Tourist Guesthouse, 1355 GT Road, a popular backpackers choice near the railway station. Rates for double bedroom Rs. 250-400
- Sharma Guest House, Mahna Singh Road (50 yards from the main gate of the Golden Temple, near Jallian Wala Bagh), ☎ 01832551757. Rs. 550-1100.
- Hotel Sapphire,  Hotel near Golden Temple having view of Golden Temple from Hotel Rooms. Rs 1250.
- Hotel CJ International, +91-183-254 3478,09876444000 . A newer hotel just Opp. Golden Temple and with views of the Golden Temple. Rs 1200. Also now they have beautiful splurge higher end rooms beautifully designed & created. Rs. 2000. Wifi enabled lobby & restaurant.
- Hotel Heritage Inn, 0919876631047, . Next to Golden Temple. Rooms are well furnished and decorated. Rs.1350.
- Royal Castle A nice hotel located in the city about 15 min from the Golden Temple. Though they claim to be a 3 star hotel 2 is more like it. They have decent rooms for around Rs 2,100 a night.
- Hotel City Heart,  Hotel near golden temple and jallian wala bagh. Offers views of Golden Temple and the city. Rs 800-1550.
- Hotel Indus,  Hotel right opposite to Golden Temple. Offers direct views of Golden Temple and the city. Rs 1450-1650.
- Hotel Sarovar Plaza, , Bazar Maisewan near Golden Temple, phone="0183-2535354-5, Rs. 1000-2850, Very neat and clean rooms, 24hrs room service and panaromic view of Golden Temple
- Ista Amritsar, MBM Farms, G.T. Road (adjoins Alpha One City Center), +91 183-2708888, . 5 star hotel with a contemporary design, two restaurants, lounge and spa. Rooms starting at Rs 5000.
- Hotel P.R. Residency, 4 Kms from Railway Station, Ranjit Avenue +91-98141-76567, 2502666. Located in the most porsh area, it has undoubtedly the best rooms and view in the town. Along with the most modern equipped suites, it is a great local favourite for dining for its hospitality n memorable stay. Dont forget to try out Golden Fried Chicken and continental cuisine. Rooms starting at 2000 to 4000 for suites.
- Ranjit’s Svaasa, 47-A The Mall (opposite the Ebony Mall, down a little side street) . The only boutique hotel in town, and a comparative oasis of calm in an otherwise hectic city. Ranjit's is set in an old colonial house, and has been nicely refurbished with understated style - the place looks at its best at night. There is also a spa and small restaurant attached. Must be Amritsar's most expensive hotel with rooms starting at around Rs.5,000 per night.
- Grand Legacy, 8 G.T. Road (near railway station), tel. +91-183-5069991, . Claims to be Amritsar's best hotel and the public areas look nice enough, but the rooms (and especially the bathrooms) don't quite pull it off. Avoid the restaurant downstairs, or face amoebic dysentery. Single/double from Rs. 2000/3150.
- Ritz Plaza, 45 The Mall, 256 2836, . A more classy hotel also located in the city with good rooms and service and a swimming pool. Price starts at approx Rs 2,500 a night.
- MK Hotel, Ranjit Ave, 250 7911, . Slightly out of town, but a nicer more upmarket option with great service. Doubles from Rs 3000, suites available.
- ONKAR CREATIONS baba deep singh colony/ 2556462 the only boutique in a city famous for stiching,embrodiary,painting,with exclusive suits,dresses and material located just 2 mins walking distance from gurdwara shaeed baba deep singh and 7 mins walking distance from golden temple.
- Hotel AJ Regency . Small but comfortable air-conditioned rooms. About RS. 700/night.
The sectarian strife of the 1980s is just a bad memory and Amritsar is currently a safe and welcoming city, if a little polluted.
- You should remain aware and respectful of the Sikh religion anywhere near the Golden Temple complex.
- Inside the complex both men and women are required to cover their heads (scarfs are widely available throughout the town for Rs 10, or a box of them are free to use at the entrances to the temple).
- Smoking and alcohol are forbidden within the complex and anywhere within sight of the temple. Lighting up a cigarette on the busy street out front will definitely attract negative attention, as will spitting near the temple.
- Photography is allowed on the outside ring of the holy lake, but not inside the actual temple itself.
There are quite a few good internet surfing facilities in Amritsar. Reliance WebWorld and Sify Internet kiosks are located at strategic locations.
- Cyber Swing, (above New Punjabi Rasoi restaurant), has several machines and a decent connection. Rs 40/hour.
- Cyber Pub, Opposite District Courts on Airport Road. Scanner and printer available.
- Visit the Pakistan border at Wagah to see the border closing ceremony. Indian and Pakistani soldiers do a march-off every evening, a popular and fun event. Taxis leave from the backside of the Golden Temple. It's a 45 minute ride, and you should leave Amritsar by around 3:30PM. Their are basically two options for getting there one is to hire a taxi/autoriksha or go in a pool in taxi,charges would be a minimum of 350 for hiring an auto,the cheaper option would be to go for a pool in taxi which would cost about 60 - 80 rupees per person , 'however, beware ,these taxis are nearly in junk condition and its risky travelling in them'.Tickets for the pool in taxi is available at the golden temple gates with agents arriving around 3 pm on the spot with little chits of paper they call tickets.
- Lahore – armed with a visa, take the plunge into this bustling gateway city, one of the cultural hubs of Pakistan
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