Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah

Tripoto
28th Sep 2018
Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

Amristar derives it's name from "Amrit Sarovar", the holy tank in the middle of which the famous Golden Temple stands tall.

Born in Patiala but quickly migrating to other parts of India due to father's defense posting, I spent my childhood in different parts of India but majorly in Delhi. I'd never really visited any town of Punjab properly even though of it's proximity to Delhi.

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah 1/3 by Shashank Sinha

But all that is now behind me as I visited Amritsar & got a taste of the city's flavors.

I caught "Swarna Shatabdi" from NDLS at 7:20 AM & reached Amritsar 5-10 minute late from it's expected arrival time of 1:45 PM. The train arrives at Platform #16 (Paharganj Side). But if you're arriving via Delhi Metro, you'll have to get down at New Delhi (metro station) and exit via gate #2 (Ajmeri Gate). This exit would be closer to NDLS and you'll have to walk towards the entrance. You'll realize this entry is actually closer to Platform #1 but you don't have any alternative. You'll have to walk all the way to the other side.

So I reached around 1:50 PM & booked an Uber to GoStops. It's located inside Sultwanwind Gate.

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah 2/3 by Shashank Sinha

I paid Rs 99/- for the night (including breakfast). Don't drool yet at as this throwaway price was till the 30th Sep only. It was their inaugural offer only as they were still finishing up a few of their dorms. I got to know from their insta feed that they were launching in Amritsar also. They are already present in Delhi, Bir, Dalhousie, Agra, Varanasi and Udaipur.

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah 3/3 by Shashank Sinha

It's not only to save costs one should come here. It's the diversity. People from all over the world were checking in. I met a few people who were from Nederlands. The conversation gets pretty interesting at such cool hotspots.

Since I hadn't slept properly in the train, I took a nap immediately. In the evening, as per the recommendations I had received, I had to treat my tastebuds at the famous Kesar Da Dhaba followed by visiting GobindGarh fort.

Day 1

Minor Culinary tour perhaps?

Photo of Kesar Da Dhaba, Shastri Market, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab, India by Shashank Sinha

Established in 1916, the dhaba lived up to it's reputation serving rich vegetarian food. I was welcome to capture the kitchen within the premises.

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha
Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha
Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

Dinner scene:

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

What a loaded glass of Lassi

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

Having my stomach full I took an E-Rickshaw to GobindGarh fort. To my disappointed, the Gidda performance was over already. I think the ticket for that costed Rs 160.

The next package was Laser Lighting Show + 7D movie. To be honest I didn't have much interest in that, but since I had arrived here, I thought I might as well check this out. The ticket for both the lighting show and 7D movie costed a combined Rs 290/-.

But the disappointment didn't end there. The weather Gods were not in my favour and it started to pour heavily by 8:20 PM. The lighting show at 8:30 PM was canceled. So now I was drenched completely (being in open theater) & had a 7D movie to attend :D

The mood was obviously killed but what the heck. I entered the premises and met other tourists who were also soaked from head to toe. Two short movies were showcased. One on the struggles of Punjab in the time of Mughals and another, an animated movie for kids (no mythological significance).

With this, I concluded the first half day.

Day 2

The next morning (Sat), I made my way to the town-hall by foot. GoStops great location meant one could take a 10 minute short walk to the Town Hall.

The town hall greeted me with mad chaos. And from where I entered, I could see Jalliawala Bagh's entrance to my left, partial glimpse of Golden Temple to my front and a passage to the right which had various shops, hotels, dhabas lined up. This passage would lead all the way to a round-about. Take a right and you'll reach Partition Museum.

Entrance Fee of JalliaWala Bagh - Free

Photo of Jallianwala Bagh, Jallan Wala Bagh, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab, India by Shashank Sinha
Photo of Jallianwala Bagh, Jallan Wala Bagh, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab, India by Shashank Sinha
Photo of Jallianwala Bagh, Jallan Wala Bagh, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab, India by Shashank Sinha

It's one thing to study about our history in books and another, to witness it first hand where it all unfolded 99 years ago.

The well in which the protesters jumped to save themselves from the open firing.

It says - 120 dead bodies were recovered from the well

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

Marking have been made on walls where the bullets made impact. Spine chilling experience.

I made my way back to Townhall and had lassi and walked towards the Partition Museum.

Here are a few pictures I clicked along the way.

Photo of Town Hall, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab, India by Shashank Sinha
Photo of Town Hall, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab, India by Shashank Sinha
Photo of Town Hall, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab, India by Shashank Sinha

An old man selling "Ittar" or "Attar" (perfume) for Rs 100. He sold a small bottle to a commoner for Rs 100, the fragrance he says was from Paris. He told me he sold commodities worth Rs 1 lakh to famous Bollywood actor "Akshay Kumar" when he was here as part of his shooting for the movie: Gold.

Photo of Town Hall, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab, India by Shashank Sinha

Here's a little piece of advise for you. If you want to buy famous spices, papads of Amritsar, I'd recommend you to find the actual hidden lanes. In Town hall everything is a little over priced. Even if you exit town hall and take a few lanes drifting away from it, you'll find similar products at a much cheaper rate. Hence, I'd advise you to make your purchase from there. It'd benefit local shopkeepers who are away from the chaos.

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

Townhall area.

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

Taking pictures is obviously permitted if you're inside the partition museum. Hence, here is one from outside it. I must say if you want to research or understand the struggles of partition during 1947-1955 or even later years, I recommend you to definitely visit this place.

The atrocities Indians and Pakistanis faced alike is vividly mentioned in pictures/captions here.

Photo of Partition Museum, Town Hall, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab, India by Shashank Sinha

Before heading to Wagah, I had made up my mind to visit Golden Temple for half an hour or so. My main objective was to spend the night later here. But I wanted to capture its magnificence during the day too!

Photo of Harmandir Sahib, Golden Temple Road, Atta Mandi, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab, India by Shashank Sinha
Photo of Harmandir Sahib, Golden Temple Road, Atta Mandi, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab, India by Shashank Sinha
Photo of Harmandir Sahib, Golden Temple Road, Atta Mandi, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab, India by Shashank Sinha

In townhall (specially near to J.Bagh's entrance) you'll find many people (tour operators) who'd pester you to book a ride with them till Wagah. They might throw in a few other viewpoints as well to grab a deal (Ram Tirth - birth place of Luv-Kush from Mahabharata and etc)

Cost to Wagah (and return) via a hatchback taxi/cab - Rs 1250-1300/-

Cost to Wagah (and return) via an auto - Rs 850/-

They will pick and drop you at a location of your choosing for convenience. To be honest, it's a pretty small city.

Wagah Attari Border Ceremony

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

I'd planned to reach Wagah by 3 PM to occupy better seats but being a Saturday and reaching there by 4:15 PM I didn't get the seats I preferred. I had 300 mm lens to my advantage to capture the distant shots though

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

The BSF personnel below stole the show for me! His antics of wooing the crowd and intimidating our not so friendly neighbors across the borders were nothing short of theatrical. A true master of ceremonies he kept the energy flowing in the stands! At about 5 PM, he invited women and kids to dance and parade flags! Patriotic songs were blared in full noise and the ladies danced.

Displaying a few shots of the event below.

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha
Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha
Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

Show of dominance!

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha
Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha
Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha
Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

Most foreign nationals and a few Indians had procured a VIP seating. I'd recommend you to arrange a VIP pass as well for much better ceremony viewing.

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

An Indian lady dancing to famous AR Rahman Song "Jai Ho"

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

I headed back from Wagah and asked the driver to drop me at Majitha road as I wished to have a quick bite at Beera and Makhan. While Beera has a more raw feel of a common restaurant, Makhan has turned into a fine dining experience. Both outlets, at a walking distance from each other.

Recommended at Beera: Roasted Chicken. (Rs 220/plate. Sufficient start for two)

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

Golden Temple Visit at Night.

From here I headed back to Golden temple, this time for a proper darshan. I reached the premises at approx 11.30 PM.

I got to know from karsevaks that the gates to the shrine were closed. They would open next at 2:45 AM as part of Prabhat Pheri. It would be the first darshan for the next day.

A Kar Sevak is someone who offers services for free to a religious cause. It originates from the Sanskrit words kar and sevak. "Kar seva" was the free voluntary work done by Sikhs in 1983 to restore the Golden temple at Amritsar that had been damaged due to the fights between insurgents and the army (Source: Wiki).

Photo of Harmandir Sahib, Golden Temple Road, Atta Mandi, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab, India by Shashank Sinha

All the time I was present here, I couldn't stop looking at the shrine. It was a mesmerizing and divine experience.

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

The crowd is gathered outside the gate and slowly and steadily they let a section of the crowd to proceed further in phases. This is done to regulate the crowd in the premises. I saw a foreigner who was part of this crowd and his face had turned pale! :D His Indian friends boosted his morale as he was jostled all ways in the build up to the entrance.

Golden Temple is open 24*7 and feeds at least 1,00,000 people daily free of cost as part of it's Langar

Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha
Photo of Flavours of Amritsar & Wagah by Shashank Sinha

If any one from outside of India is reading this blog, here are a few dont(s) for you to follow when you're in the premises:

1) Enter the premises with your head covered. Applies to both men/women alike. Do not remove the cloth/handkerchief at any point you're present there. Karsevaks will poke you and tell you to correct it if they find a head hair visible.

2) Do not sit with your legs down hanging towards the holy tank. Karsevaks are always on the round and will poke you as soon as they see this. It's again a sign of disrespect, even if you didn't mean it. Yes, you may lower yourself partially into the tank and sprinkle water on yourself or wash your feet with it. But to casually sit on the banks with legs hanging is prohibited.

3) Although photography isn't restricted yet they might find it offensive if you are doing to much of it. DSLR is not viewed the same way a phone camera. And while you're at it, do not do flash photography.

4) Do not sit with your legs spread towards the direction of the shrine. Even casually if you want to stretch your legs, do so in any other direction preferably.

The next day I strolled the Town hall again for a short while & shopped for "phulkari dupatta" for my mother. I caught the same train back to Delhi at 4:50 PM and reached Delhi exactly on time @ 11:15 PM.

Day 3
Photo of Amritsar Railway Station Goal Bagh Side, Guru Arjun Nagar, Goal Bagh, Amritsar, Punjab, India by Shashank Sinha

This was an amazing experience for me. Visiting a heritage city after so many mountain based explorations I did of late. I intend to cover a few more heritage cities soon. Stay tuned for more.

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