Hotels in Amritsar, India
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Fall in Love With Armritsar
Armritsar was put on the map by its gleaming Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine that receives more visitors than the Taj Mahal. And while this city of just over a million people is on a smaller scale by Indian standards and is - for non-Indian residents, the most popular tourist destination in the country. This means that hotels fill up fast, especially during the numerous annual festivals, many of which last for several days. While this holy city was built on ancient customs, it also has a modern urban buzz that serves as a nice contrast to the reminders of the past that can be found around almost every corner. On arrival, the best way to approach the city is to get your bearings over a plate of maa ki daal or palak paneer , two dishes that the city of known for, and with a full belly, discover Armritsar with the enthusiasm that it deserves.
Behold the Golden Temple
Armritsar can trace its humble beginnings back to 1577, and the Sri Harmandir Salib (abode of God), or Golden Temple, followed not too far after in 1585. It took 19 years to complete the magnificent structure, and it is now not only the spiritual centre of the city, but of the Sikh community as well. Outside, visitors can marvel at the gold-adorned façade majestically sitting in front of water that is known as the “tank of nectar of immortality”. Inside, inlaid precious stones and more gold adorn the ceiling, and it’s easy to see why the temple receives an average of 100,000 visitors a day. Other notable characteristics include the four entrances with staircases that visitors must descend instead of climb, which is to signify humbleness and reverence, and is unlike the ascending staircases found in most other temples. In the northwest corner, there is also a 450 year-old Jubi tree that many couples tie a strip of fabric around in hopes of good fortune with fertility. But perhaps the most interesting and endearing fact about the Golden Temple, is that it houses the world’s largest free kitchen, serving a meal to over 80,000 people on a daily basis. Hotels closest to the temple tend to be the most expensive, and not only can you save money by basing yourself further away, a longer walk means your sense of anticipation builds as you approach this dazzling temple for the first time.
Uncover the Best of the City
While no other temple in Armritsar will come close to the Golden Temple’s size and grandeur, there are a few other temples in the city that are worth a visit. For architecture similar to the Golden Temple but on a smaller scale, the Durgiana Temple showcases a building style not typically seen in Hindu temples. It also houses a large repository of Hindu scriptures, making it a popular stop for many visitors to Armritsar. The Lal Matu Temple has a large number of spiritual devotees, and it is also unique in that it commemorates the 20th century female Saint Lal Devi.
On the outskirts of the city, you’ll find Ram Tirath Temple, which is a worthwhile stop to see the statues depicting mythological scenes. When it’s time to slow down the pace of sightseeing, a picnic in the park is a great idea, and Lalbagh Garden is the perfect spot to have one in. It encompasses 240km, so there is plenty of room to find your own patch of grass and do some people watching. There are also tropical and subtropical plants to admire, a deer park, and a pond and fountains that add to the garden’s appeal. And don’t leave Armritsar without seeing the pageantry of the Wagha Border. The 30km journey outside of the city is worth it to witness the sunset parade that takes place at the border crossing between India and Pakistan. Soldiers from both countries put on an entertaining display, as evidenced by the 30,000 people who attend the parade daily.
There’s a Festival for That
The people of Armritsar and Punjab province know how to party. While religious festivals like Baisakhi and Hola Mohalla are taken very seriously, there are a few festivals that are celebrated with more fanfare and passion than others. One of these is Lohri , which commemorates the passing of the winter solstice. The harvesting of winter crops and the start of longer days is acknowledged with a lot of merriment, and locals let loose with dances and folk songs, plus a special emphasis on women and children. A bride’s first Lohri is an important one, and there is extra dancing and singing for the guests of honour.
The Ram Tirath Fair is also an upbeat spectacle which lasts for five days. Magic shows, wild animal displays and acrobats make it more of a circus atmosphere than a traditional festival, and the people of Armritsar embrace this yearly time to have a bit of fun. If you are attending any of the local celebrations, be sure to do some shopping while you are in town. Even if you make a few short stops on your way back to your hotel, you are bound to find extra special souvenirs and great deals during festival time. Armritsar is known for its beautiful carpets, fabrics and handicrafts, so check out the many market places and bazaars that might just have your next hidden treasure.