This is about my recent trip to New Delhi and Amritsar. As there is already a lot of information on Delhi and my wife never let me do any site seeing (blame it on shopping) except for Lotus Temple, I will sorely concentrate on Amritsar especially the travel to the city, boarding and lodging options, Golden Temple and the famous border with our neighbor.
The best way to reach Amritsar from Bangalore is by a flight to Delhi and catch the evening Shatabdi to Amritsar. The train reaches Amritsar junction by 1045 PM. Catching another flight from Delhi is also an option, but considering the cost and wait time in between, I found the former to be a better option (Shathabdhi satisfies your taste buds by intermittently providing food !!)
We got down at terminal 2, Delhi and shot a picture of the Airbus A 320 engine and its landing gears.
From terminal 2, We had to reach New Delhi railway station to board Shatabdi. The best option is to walk out of the terminal and board a shuttle (30 mins) to Aerocity express metro and take the Metro Express to New Delhi Railway Station (20 mins).
Golden Temple is about fifteen minutes from Amritsar Railway Station. There are loads of options available for stay nearby Golden Temple and the price range starts from Rs 500. Oyo and Zo rooms are also available nearby if preference is to book online. But a better alternative is to get accommodation in the Golden Temple Complex itself in one of the Niwas (http://sgpc.net/sarai-info/). The downside is that it cannot be booked online. The only way is on the spot booking.The advantages of complex accommodation are its proximity to the temple and pocket friendly price (max of Rs 700 for a 4 person stay with AC).
We visited the following places in order.
1. Golden Temple
2. Jallianwala Bagh Memorial
3. Vaishno Devi Temple
4. Wagah/Atari border
The darshan time starts as early as ~3:00 AM. Anytime post 6:00 AM or 7:00 AM, you have to spend an hour or two in the queue to get darshan. The temple gets crowded on Sundays and hence its advisable to travel on weekdays/ Saturday. On Sundays, the wait time can notch upto two and a half hours.
Camera and mobile phones are allowed inside the complex and photography is prohibited only in the sanctum sanctorum of the complex.
The temple was built on marble and then plated with real gold. The lustre of gold has diminished with blackening at some places especially at the front.
The complex is maintained in a pristine state mostly by volunteers. You can even find small children as young as 6 years serving in some way or the other !! Soon after darshan, you get a hot mouth-watering prasad. You can also buy more by paying Rs 10.
The Langar Hall situated in the temple premises serves free food. Volunteers run the entire show by preparing, serving the food and cleaning the soiled plates.
Large black vessels used in preparing food
The volunteers serially take care of arranging the used plates, so that it can be sent for cleaning.
The first row of men clean the plates with running soap water and send it to their peers in the background who rinse it with water and then the cleansed plates are stacked up for serving food.
Zoom in to see the way the plates are being washed.
The room check-in/out timings are between 12 PM to 12 PM. Inside the Niwas, you also get cloak rooms. They are free for pilgrims. Each cupboard can easily house 4 to 6 airport trolleys. There are also resting areas where pilgrims take power naps and chat.
Pilgrims also take rest at this massive spot. From here you get a nice view of the temple.
From Golden Temple or for that matter from any of the niwas you can walk to Jallianwala Bagh in about 10 minutes.
Wikipedia says “Jallianwala Bagh, is a public garden in Amritsar in the Punjab state of India, and houses a memorial of national importance, established in 1951 by the Government of India, to commemorate the massacre by British occupying forces of peaceful celebrators including unarmed women and children, on the occasion of the Punjabi New Year on April 13, 1919 in the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.“
The Entrance (Brick Wall)
Place from where the bullets were fired all around
Well Maintained Garden !!
Bullet Marks !! You just end up with a heavy heart after seeing these.
Closer look and each square represents the bullet mark
Vaishno Devi Temple and Wagah Border
The Wagah or Atari or Indo Pak border is about 30 kms from Amritsar. If you are wondering how to get to this place, just walk out of Jallianwala Bagh/Golden temple and you can find cab drivers buzzing.The rates are nominal at Rs 120/person. They take you to Vaishno Devi temple and then to the border. The trip commenced at 230 PM.
The temple is about 20 mins from Amritsar and has a good architecture mimicking the original Vaishno Devi temple and at some places, we have to crawl, traverse water stream, climb up the stairs etc. Many episodes from Ramayana are depicted through marvelous sculptures.
The entrance to the temple
After seeing the temple, we proceeded towards the border. On the way there is Ram Tirath temple which is of historical significance as it is considered to be the birth place of Luv and Kush- Rama and Sita’s twin sons. We did not get to see the temple as we were running out of time.
The retreating ceremony starts at 530 PM and goes on for half an hour. But the entry to the gallery closes by 4 PM. Please carry caps or head gears to beat the sun in the open gallery.
Leaving Amritsar !!
The four-way toll road take you to the border
For some reason, our driver took a detour. Initial impression was that he was skipping the toll booth but that wasn’t the case, since the toll gate came after we re-joined the highways. The reason he gave was “traffic” (Bangalore guys please excuse).
Back to the highways and the most coveted border is just 5 kms away
The board at the background says it all 🙂
After this point, we have to get down and proceed by walk for the next one km. Brief frisking at two spots. Bags of any kind are prohibited. You are allowed to take only water bottles.
Separate queues for gents and ladies. But after a point the queues merge and there is utter chaos.
Finally on to the gallery. It gets really crowded on Sundays and the heat is unbearable. From the gallery, the border is just 50 metres away.
Two Snipers standing on either side of the flag.
The Indo Pak Official Gate. Gates are mostly closed and they are kept open for an interval of ten minutes during flag retreating ceremony where both the army officers exchange hand shakes with an animated footwork.
“So near, yet so far”
Our country’s/neighbor’s emblem, one behind the other
Officially from the Indian’s point of view the ceremony starts at 430 PM with some ladies (a select few from the crowd) dancing to the tunes of Bollywood patriotic songs and after a point the enthusiasm decreases. In my personal opinion, it is a turn off what with the crowd pushing and shoving each other for a place to stand in the sweltering sun.
The Band getting ready for the ceremony.
The crowd you see in the background are Pakistanis.
The flag retreating ceremony begins with an even more aggressive, animated footwork. It happens simultaneously in both sides of the border.The flags are beginning to come down.
Half way down or Half way up?
The official gates are now open.
Barbed wire fencing.
No, we cannot enter this area. Officially the last point we Indians can go to!!
From the border, it took us an hour to reach Amritsar, Ganga Niwas, where we had deposited our luggage. We picked up our luggage and left for our overnight train to New Delhi.
At New Delhi, as I said earlier, we got to see only Lotus Temple. Lotus Temple is a meditation hall. The entire area is maintained using huge tonnes of recycled water.
The structure looked amazing from the skies while landing in Delhi.
From the temple
With that we completed our first North Indian trip together though a short one but which I am sure is a precursor of more to come. I will leave you with this photograph wherein the gold is less blackened with an amazing white backdrop and the pool in the foreground.