weekend away - Amritsar
Written by Oryx
Few cities on the Indian subcontinent are often defined by the presence of a single building. But then the Golden Temple in Amritsar in the state of Punjab is no ordinary construction. Adorned with 750kg of solid gold, the ‘Harmandir Sahib’ is the spiritual centre for the entire Sikh religion. Perhaps only outdone in splendour by Agra’s Taj Mahal, the architecture is a distinct mixture of Hindu and Islamic design.
There is more to Amritsar than its centrepiece. Its location as the gateway between the Middle East and South Asia has given the city a rich and varied history.
East of the old city lies another reminder of the city’s brutal past: the Jallianwala Bagh. It was here in 1919 that 20,000 Indians held a peaceful demonstration protesting the Rowlatt Act, a draconian law that allowed the British colonisers the right to imprison Indians without trial. Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer ordered his soldiers to fire indiscriminately at the crowd, killing hundreds. Still visible are bullet holes from the massacre – that lasted for 10 to 15 minutes – as is the ‘martyrs’ well’ into which 120 people jumped to their deaths in a vain attempt to escape the murderous onslaught.
WHERE TO STAY
If you want to combine luxury with proximity to all of Amritsar’s main sites, the newly built Ista Hotel is the best place to stay. The 248 elegantly designed rooms offer panoramic views of the historic city, as well as lovingly attended gardens and an Ayurvedic spa to help you unwind after a day exploring this fascinating city.
With Pakistan only 30km from Amritsar, an afternoon trip to the border closing ceremony at Wagah is essential viewing.