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Amritsar, a word in Punjabi and Hindi language, literally means ‘The pool of the nectar of immortality’. It is the administrative center of Amritsar district in Punjab State. It is 52 kilometers or 32 miles east of Lahore in Pakistani part of Punjab. Tourism, Sikh Pilgrimage Center, carpets, textiles, farm produce, handicrafts and light engineering provide the inhabitants of the city and district of Amritsar with employment. The city is also a pre-eminent center of education in Punjab with Guru Nanak Dev University (established in 1969), BBK DAV College for Women (established in 1967), Khalsa College (established in 1892), DAV College (established in 1955) and Government Medical College (established in 1926) all having their main institution in Amritsar. Bhagat Puram Singh established the ‘Pingalwara’, a home for the destitute in Amritsar in 1924 when he was only 19 years old. It has developed into a state wide charitable organization with centers in Jalandhar, Sangrur, Chandigarh, Goindwal and Manawala (also in Amritsar district).
Amritsar is definitely the Mecca of the worldwide Sikh religious community because of the location of Harmandir Sahib Gurudwara that is also famous as the Golden Temple in the city. The city has been associated with most of the Gurus of Sikh faith. Amritsar was established by the 4th Guru Ram Das Sahib under instructions from his predecessor, Guru Amar Das Sahib in 1574. It was initially named Guru-Da-Chakk. The name was later changed to Chakk Ram Das. In 1577 Guru Ram Das initiated the digging of the Amritsar Sarovar. The present name of the city is actually derived from this Sarovar (pool) that today surrounds the Golden Temple. The Sikh religion was greatly influenced by the Sufi philosophy and many eminent Sufi saints were closely associated with Sikh Gurus. The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak Devji Sahib who was born on October 20, 1469, was closely associated with Kabir, a famous reformer, religious philosopher and poet. They may have even physically met when Guru Nanak Devji was passing through Varanasi. Guru Nanak Devji traveled extensively in India and the Middle East Asian countries. Guru Nanak was also influenced by the Sufi saint, Baba Farid, who he quoted quite often. Guru Arjan Dev Sahib who laid the foundation of Darbar Sahib (now known as the Akal Takht Sahib) was very close friend of the Sufi saint, Sain Mian Mir. Guru Arjan Dev Sahib renovated the Amritsar Sarovar in 1586. The first volume of Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, was composed in Amritsar and installed in Darbar Sahib on August 16, 1604. It replaced the institution of Gurus after the passing away of the 10th Guru of Sikh religion, Guru Govind Singhji. The building of Akal Takht was demolished twice by Afghan armies and it was badly damaged in the Operation Bluestar raid by Indian army in June 1984. The Indian Army suffered many casualties in its fight against armed followers of Bindranwala. The Government of India started repairing it in September 1984 but the Sikh community did not approve of it and it was finally restored by five service groups under the leadership of Baba Thakar Singh of Bhindran-Mehta Jatha.
The old city of Amritsar is an ancient walled city divided into Katras or localities that originally had their own defensive systems to protect their citizens in times of invasions by foreigners – Afghans and Mughals. Amritsar is situated on the historic Grand Trunk Road that has existed in one form or another since the period of Chandra Gupta of the Mauryan Dynasty in 4th century BCE. Sultan Sher Shah Suri had this road restored so that it provided transport facilities from Sonargaon in Bangladesh to the Peshawar in the North West Provinces of Pakistan. Amritsar has witnessed a turbulent history in Sultanate, Mughal and British periods. General Dyer ordered the firing of innocent civilians protesting the rule of British in Jallianwala Bagh on Baisakhi Festival Day, April 13, 1919, massacring 379 people and wounding another 1200 people. Madan Mohan Malviya made a personal inquiry to raise the issue in the central legislative council and found that over 1000 people were killed.
Amritsar is now connected by Indian Railways to all cities of India. The Raja Sansi International Airport in Amritsar serves flights from UK, Canada, Dubai, Singapore and Tashkent in Uzbekistan etc. Many domestic flights also connect Amritsar with the capital, New Delhi and other important cities of India. Although Amritsar is developing fast into one of the most modern cities of India, the Government of India and the Government of the State of Punjab are taking special efforts to preserve the historical areas of the city.
An interesting evening excursion is the trip to the Wagah International Border with Pakistan to witness the ceremony of the lowering of national flags of the two countries.
Ista Hotel, in outskirts of city - 248 rooms
Country Inn & Suites - 48 rooms
Welcomheritage Ranjits SVAASA – 11 rooms
Hotel City Heart – 35 rooms
Hotel Astonia - 58 rooms
Hotel Grand Legacy – 52 rooms
Hotel Mohan International – 76 rooms
M. K. Hotel – 75 rooms
Hotel Ritz Plaza – 50 rooms
C. J. International Hotel – 22 air-conditioned rooms (closest hotel to Golden Temple)
Distance from Amritsar in kilometers and miles:
Wagah Pakistan Border: 26 kilometers or 16 miles
Dharamshala: 199 kilometers or 124 miles
Ambala: 255 kilometers or 158 miles
Chandigarh: 217 kilometers or 135 miles
Delhi: 447 kilometers or 278 miles
Jalandhar: 83 kilometers or 52 miles
Jammu: 219 kilometers or 137 miles
Pathankot: 112 kilometers or 70 miles
Simla: 322 kilometers or 200 miles