Inextricably linked with the history of Sikhism, Amritsar is amongst the most revered sites of the world. It was founded as recently as the 16th century. Its name is a derivative of the Amrit Sarovar (pool of nectar) amidst which stands the Golden Temple, the most sacred of Sikh shrines. Accounts suggest that Guru Amardas purchased the land from Emperor Akbar and decided to build a tank at the site. Following his death, it was completed by Guru Ramdas and also came to be known as Chak Ramdas or Guru ka Chak.
Some of the oldest markets in Amritsar, notably Guru ka Bazaar, date back to his time. The construction of the Golden Temple was initiated by Guru Arjan Dev while Guru Hargobind, who accorded the religion a martial temper, built the Akal Takht in 1606. Amritsar has a rich history encompassing various mythical and historical narratives including the epic Ramayana.
It is believed that the site called Ram Tirath was Maharish Valmiki’s ashram, where Sita reportedly gave birth to her twin sons, Luv and Kush. The Gobindgarh Fort and Ram Bagh were built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh Empire. While the Jallianwala Bagh continues to be the most evocative monument to India’s freedom struggle.
The Khalsa College, established by visionary leaders at the beginning of the 20th century turned Amritsar into a hub of education. Also a centre of thriving industry since its inception, Amritsar is famed for its textiles, particularly shawls, and for its carpets. Amritsar has gained tremendous popularity for its gourmet traditions; especially the dhabas (roadside eatery) that churn out, amongst an inexhaustible list of delicacies, irresistible kulchas, chola-bhaturas, tandoori chicken and fried fish. Amritsar has all the makings of a well-rounded tourist destination; its ancient legends, historical monuments, places of worship, old bazaars, theatre traditions and colourful festivals all serve as a window to its robust past. Excursions to the Harike Bird Sanctuary and visits to the India-Pakistan border at Wagah are an absolute delight, while breaking bread or celebrating Diwali with the denizens of this hospitable city is without parallel.