If someone tells you that a day in Amritsar is enough, disown that person immediately!!
We spent 2 nights and 3 days, and still were running short of time to do everything we wanted to and eat everything we needed to.
Amritsar is one part spiritual, and one part sin! Both are as diverse and as important. We were a mixed group of people, some who were careful of what and where they eat, some small eaters – but sweet lovers, some who just went with the flow. Let me tell you every single one of us enjoyed the spiritual and sin part equally!
GOLEN TEMPLE (the spiritual side)
It is worth going through the history of the temple before you go for the darshan. You can read it here.
You are allowed to carry a bag and your phone.
Park you car at the Golden Temple parking and either walk or take a three wheeler to the temple gates.
There are four gates to enter the temple. Please try and go from the gate closest to the information centre (so that you will easily find one of the sin parts I was talking about! :P)
Wear footwear that can be washed later. Leave your footwear at the footwear centre. (You must note the sewa that goes on there. You will find people polishing your shoes, or cleaning them.)
Enter the temple and join the line that leads to the Harmandir Saheb where the Guru Granth Saheb is kept in the day. Go up one floor from the main Granth Saheb and then one more floor up. You will see the oldest Granth Saheb. A priest reads from this non stop – 24 hours.
Take your prasad . – for this do carry a small box or zip lock bag. A lot of prasad is given and sometimes you might not be able to finish it on the spot. This way you can eat it at leisure – or with your langar.
Head to the Akal Takhth – the main Sikh Seat. Sit there for a while. It’s considered very holy.
Roam around. Take pictures. We went in the night. The Golden Temple runs 24 hours – by the way!! The glamour and beauty is very visible at night. Around 8.30 pm to 9 pm they take the Granth Saheb to the Akal Takhth for the night. It’s bought back in the morning at 4 am in a palanquin, and that’s the other darshan which would be worth doing. We went in the evening, did the darshan, had dinner at the Langar and left for the night.
You must eat at the Langar. It is a very simple fare. But the fact that it feeds anyone 24 hours of the day, and is made by sevaks who carry deep spiritual intent, makes the food extra special and tasty.
Finally we picked up our footwear and headed to the hotel.
At every auspicious place people pay their respect. If you are confused about what to do, just follow the lead of the public.
PLACES TO SEE
A must visit. It might bring out a rage in you, or it might just be another page in history. But do go. It does not take long.
They have a sound and light show, and a 7D show. It gives you the history of the fort, some about the struggle for independence and loads about the Gurus of the community. Look up the timings and see the show. I found it educative and interesting.
Wagah Border for the fiery Indian spirit. We did not go, but our friend did. She said she had goose pimples throughout. You have to book a seat via web site before hand. Ask your hotel to do it. Don’t go with the touts, keep your own car.
FOOD (the sin side!)
Ah! Sin city this Amritsar. Diet before hand. Starve if you must, but be prepared to eat delicious food in Amritsar.
Kulcha land. People will tell you it’s where all tourists go. Don’t let that deter you. They go there because the Kulcha and channa is seriously unbelievable. Do not miss.Have the masala kulcha. Tell them to make it really crisp. Lassi is also awesome.
Kesar Da Dhaba Another hole in the wall, but a must visit.
Kanhyalal They make those stuffed Bedmi Puri with Aloo lonji, channa and spicy aloo sabji. (you have to ask for the aloo sabji). Have the lassi. Yum! Best place for breakfast.
Ram Lubhaya & sons. For khatta and aam papad. Right next to Kanhyalal.
Gurdass Ram Jalebi Wale. When you leave the Golden Temple, (which is why I asked you to enter from the gate close to the information) ask anyone for Khooi Galli, or the famous Jalebi shop itself. You must must eat the Jalebi and the Gulab Jamun. Exactly opposite this shop is a shop which makes hot milk.
Makkan Surprisingly many Kulcha shops in Amritsar are purely vegetarian. For the best fish in town go to Makkan. They do good chicken also.
Bira Chicken lovers paradise.
Gianni Tea Stall for fabulous tea in matti ka kulhad.
Paan Next to Kulcha Land, there is a paan shop. Just go to see the mad varities he has. We got a simple paan made, and it was outstanding. He is very famous for his fire paan.
Bansal sweets for original pinni, moti choor ladoos etc.
Taj Swarna we stayed there and had one meal there. Fantastic Kuclha, channa. Amazing service.
Raunak for jooti’s. Though frankly, jooti’s are available dime a dozen, the ones available here are very comfortable. My friend bought one from else where but found the ones from Raunak better.
Kartar Singh Di Hatti. For all phulkari dupattas, salwar suits, lucknowi suits etc. It’s a huge shop, he gets it tailored too (I cannot vouch for his finishing), and you can request him to courier it too. To get there: ask the guy at Raunak to get you a small rickshaw. The driver will wait for you there and take you back to your car / hotel. address – Katra Kanhiyan. Goal Hatti Chowk, Katra Ahluwalia. Ask to meet Deepak, amazing sales man – catches your needs and shows you exactly what you want without wasting your time. Trust me – this is the only place you need to go to.
Kamini Mehra Great Salwars at very reasonable prices. Fancy Salwar shopping can be done here. Address: Dayanand Nagar, Lawrence Road. 8283817192, 964608887
Ujagar Singh Karam Singh for papad, warian, and all those kind of takeaways. Taj and all the good places get their papad from here. Dont buy papad just about anywhere. There is lots of soda and not that great a taste. These people had decent stuff.
Address :Bazaar Kathian Under Shiv Mandir, Near Mai Sewa Bazar, Opposite Sujan Singh And Sons, Amritsar, Punjab 143001 Phone no: 0183 253 1434
(to know how to use the warian, follow http://www.therecipelarder.com – blog on warian recipes coming soon) .
Take back home some sweets from Bansal sweets.
TAXI SERVICES we were recommended Rajpal Driver – +919855337598 He was excellent and is a mine of information. Very sweet person, drives well and knows the nooks and crannies of Amritsar. Do ask him for recommendations. He was suggesting a place in the old city for Kulchas, and being a local he would be bang on about it.
Amritsar is a land of goodies. Make the most of it. Keep your own driver if you can, and go with friends. It makes the experience worth it.
In the end – quick but pertinent points…
-Wear washable footwear for the temple
-Definitely go for the evening darshan.
– Cover your head at ALL times in the Golden Temple – men and women. For women a dupatta is not necessary. A large handkerchief is good enough even for the women. You get people selling them outside the temple, thats good for men and women.
-Clothes – even jeans are ok for women. Head should be covered. Of course keeping the sanctity of the place in mind shorts, short skirts and sleeveless tops should be avoided.
– Take a small zip lock or box with you for the prasad.
– Eat at the langar
– Keep your own taxi driver
-Eat without restrictions 😛
-Stay away from touts for Wagah Border
-Take advice from the locals, we struck gold there.
-Taj Swarna is a great place to stay in.
-Try to take the trip in winters. Even the local faces bleached at the thought of us tourists trying to visit Amritsar in the peak summers.
I hope you enjoy your trip. And this blog