Journey to Amritsar

Just as every Muslim desires to go to Haj at Mecca, every Christian to Bethlehem and every Buddhist to Tibet, it is the Golden Temple -Swaran Mandir in Amritsar for a Sikh. It is holiest of all Sikh shrines and one of five Takhats.

Golden temple was built by Guru Ram Das, the fourth Guru of Sikhs. Almost every person must have seen it in pictures. A holy tank in which the Gurudwara called Golden Temple is situated. There is a pathway from one side of the rectangular tank leading to the Sanctum Sanctorum. The building can be approached from 4 gates which are located in the centres of 4 walls. The level of tank and Golden temple is lower than the gates and stairs lead to wide boulevard on the periphery of the tank.

We began our journey at early morning before sunrise in two cars from Chandigarh. After traveling about 20 kilometers we reached Rajpura town in Patiala District and from there on traveled on the fabled Grand Trunk Road popularly known as GT Road which ran once from Kabul in the West to Chittagong in East. It was first said to be constructed during  Mauriyan Empire but owes its present form to Sher Shah Suri. Thus it spans the entire Indian Subcontinent from East to West end. It is under constant expansion these days to handle the burgeoning traffic of trucks and smaller vehicles.

As soon as we were on the road, there was fog so thick that you could see only a few meters ahead. Drivers of the vehicles which normally try to overtake others in normal clear weather were trying to follow the other vehicles particularly bigger ones for the safety. As there is perennial construction work going on, there were diversions adding to the problem of driving. Many drivers could not locate the diversion and rammed their vehicles in the stop boards.

Somehow we reached Ludhiana which is a industrial town famous for ready made garments particularly woolen type. There are other industries. It was the time for workers to go to the work. There were hundreds of them on bicycles. Traffic was in complete chaos. Some of the drivers of the buses it seemed took great pleasure in constant honking and disturbing the vehicles ahead which were moving at slow pace due to the fog.

Somehow we crossed the town, road became good. Other famous towns like Phagwara came along the way. Finally it was Jullundhar town. There was no signs of fog becoming less. We stopped in a roadside eatery called Dhaba in Punjab for having some breakfast. Whole of the tarpaulin roof was dripping with the ice cold water from condensed fog. Fog darted in and out of the Dhaba.

We again pushed on and reached Kartarpur and Beas. There was a signboard indicating Kali Bien river which has been resuscitated by Sant Balbir Singh Sancherwal through community service. This river is associated with Guru Nanak who used to take dip in this river and it is considered as a holy river.

We reached Amritsar by noon after 6 hours. There is a very good parking for vehicles. While you come out of the parking, you are a part of chaos of traffic. The temple is about 1 kilometer from the parking. You can walk, take rickshaws or there is a free service vehicle run by Gurudwara.

We went inside. It was my first visit. Naturally I was awestruck to see the place which is imprinted in our minds. Since it was a working day, the queue was not so long and it took us one hour to go inside and pay our obeisance. There are colored fishes in the tank. The golden building glistens in the sunlight.

We came out and went to see the Jallianwala Bagh which is very nearby. The place is a memorial in the memory of over thousand innocent protesters were fired upon and killed by Brigadier-General Reginald E.H. Dyer in 1919. There is only a very narrow passage leading to the Bagh and soldiers were lined up near the gate. So no one could escape the fire. There were so many women and children, some of whom jumped into a water well inside the park. So it is a very emotional place for visiting and reminds us the sacrifices our forefathers made to expel the British from India.

We took to the road again. Traffic began to build up since it was closing time of offices and factories. It was almost horrible traffic in Jullunder and Phagwara. So we took detour from our old path and returned via Ropar and Chandigarh.

One day is not enough to see the place. We missed the evening parade at Wagah border.

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