Punjab! The most fertile state in the country. If there is one place that has received Mother India’s choicest blessings, it’s Punjab. Sunflower fields, the smell of earth and the smiling faces of the locals are a feast to all your senses. I visited the cities of Amritsar and Chandigarh in the month of October which is a pleasant time to visit the state. Definitely, a relief for Mumbaikars from the retrieving monsoon. Amritsar is a typical developing city straight out of a Bollywood movie with unfinished constructions, bad roads and no traffic rules. Naturally, I found similarities with Mumbai but to my surprise, there was a lovely twist. The people there lack anger! They are full of life, fun and hospitality. A car bumping into another car is hilarious because both drivers laugh it off and go their way. You learn to love the place immediately.
To begin with, Amritsar has four major tourist attractions namely The Golden Temple, Wagah Border, Jallianwala Baug and Sadda Pind. Two days are sufficient to cover these places.
The Golden Temple, by far, is the most hospitable place in the country. I say this after visiting 17 states so you can take my word for it! There is a certain charm and sense of serenity in the entire premise. Traffic isn’t allowed after a certain point and the walk to the temple is lovely. Boutiques on either side selling traditional jutti and phulkari merchandise, souvenir shops, sculptures depicting the Sikh lifestyle, digital screens displaying quotes from the holy granth and a few eateries serving the local cuisine. When you finally reach the temple, you are in absolute awe. It stands there, in all its glory, in the middle of a man-made pond. Gleaming in the sun by day and lit up beautifully by night. On either side of the temples are two buildings serving food and shelter round the clock. All are welcome irrespective of caste, creed, religion or nationality. At all times, there will be over a hundred volunteers offering to cook, clean, serve and provide assistance to the needy. This rare sight is so humbling and is a life lesson that we all ought to take home.
The Jallianwala Baug Memorial is in the same premise as the Golden Temple. Patriotic music plays in the background as you enter and a feeling of anger, sadness and helplessness creeps in when you relive the martyrdom that engulfs the place. The state has done a good job in paying a respectful and revered tribute to all those who lost their lives in the attack.
The next attraction needs no introduction. The Wagah Border is being guarded by our army since 1947. It is the trade route between India and Pakistan and one would think that it’s always tense but that isn’t true. The defence officials of India and Pakistan share a cordial relationship. The famous ‘switch of guard’ ceremony is held every evening at 5 pm. The Indian guard and the Pakistani guard march in from their respective positions to the main gate. The main gates of India and Pakistan are opened for about 10 seconds for the guards to greet each other with a handshake and a salute. Both flags are hoisted, brought down and folded and then the gates are closed again. A little bit of entertainment for the roaring crowd is also thrown in. Patriotic and Bollywood music is played and all women are invited to the centre to dance, police dogs have paraded around for the cheering crowd and the army does a march past as well. The feeling of patriotism rushes through your veins when you look up and see ‘INDIA’ in bold letters. It’s a great feeling to be there and a feeling of gratitude overwhelms you when you realise you’re sleeping soundly because our defence forces are protecting the border.
Sadda Pind is a fabulous concept that took shape in November 2016. It literally translates to ‘my village’ and was started as a commercial venture to bring to life, under one roof, the Punjabi culture. Spread across a sprawling 12 acres of land, it is a live museum depicting life in Punjab pre and post-independence. The entry fee of 650/- is inclusive of all activities and lunch/dinner offered inside. You can make your own pot at the potter’s house, get a festive mehendi, have local drinks like lassi, buttermilk & lime juice, relax on traditional cots and watch cultural dances, enjoy a filling Punjabi meal, learn how to make phulkari clothing, get a head massage, ride a camel and much more. It is a delight to be there and before you know it, you’ll have spent about 6 hours there.
You can go to Amritsar with your friends or family. This city has something for everyone!
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