The ‘Pool of the Nectar of Immortality’ in the heart of Punjab
The city of Amritsar is located in the north west of India, in the state of Punjab. It is the location of the Golden Temple, and is the spiritual and cultural centre of the Sikh religion. Amritsar was founded in the 16th century by Guru Ram Das Ji and was originally known as Guru Da Chakk. Despite suffering decades of repeated desecration and destruction throughout the 18th century, Amritsar has remained the most important spiritual place of the Sikh religion, and the magnificent Golden Temple attracts more visitors from all over India than even the world-famous Taj Mahal in Agra! The city is named after the sarovar, or sacred pool, that surrounds the Golden Temple, a simply magnificent building that has to be seen to be believed as it glitters under the sun in the day time, and reflects its own luminescence across the calm sacred waters of the sarovar at night.
Many Sikhs travel to Amritsar from all over the world to visit the holy shrine of the Golden Temple, but for non-Sikhs, Amritsar is still a fascinating place to visit, with some amazing sights to see and places to visit. As one of the less-touristy parts of India, an Amritsar holiday is definitely something to write home about.
When to Go?
The best time to visit Amritsar is in winter, between October and March, when temperatures are less stifling, as in the summer it can get up into the high 30s and 40s. July to September temperature are a bit more bearable, usually around the low 30s, but this is also monsoon season so things can get a bit wet in Amritsar at this time of year.
How to get there?
Flights to Amritsar from the UK are available from London Heathrow on Air India. Although there has been much talk of introducing Birmingham to Amritsar flights, these have yet to emerge. However indirect flights to Amritsar Raja Sansi International Airport (ATQ) are also available through BA and Air France, and Air Slovakia operate a service through Bratislava. Getting from the airport to the city is usually best achieved by taxi, but there are government plans to introduce a monorail system.
For visitors to Amritsar the most important attraction in the city is the Golden Temple, a stunningly beautiful building that attracts pilgrims from all over India. For western visitors unfamiliar with the Sikh religion, locals and Sikhs visitors alike are usually very happy to explain the significance and importance of the building and customs that surround it. To enter the temple, which is open almost 24 hours a day, you should remove your shoes and cover your head. On an evening the palace is brightly lit, and the reflection across the water is a spectacular site. You may also wish to visit the summer palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, located in the Ram Bagh Park, which houses a museum exhibiting several artworks, coins and weapons relating to Sikh history and culture.