The National – My Kind of Place: Amritsar, India

The Amritsar described is not my kind of place !
Man in Blue

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Harmandr Sahib – My kind of place !
Man in Blue

The Golden Temple, also known as Harmandr Sahib, in Amritsar is said to attract more visitors per day than the Taj Mahal

Charukesi Ramadurai

14 December 2016. If India has an Eat Pray Love city, it’s Amritsar.

The biggest reason that tourists head to Amritsar is the spectacular Golden Temple, known locally as Harmandr Sahib or Darbar Sahib. This early 17th-century temple is the most sacred destination for followers of the Sikh religion. However, it warmly welcomes all faiths and claims to receive more visitors per day than the Taj Mahal.

As a significant stop on the Grand Trunk Road (the arterial highway that has partially existed since the Maurya era in the third century), Amritsar packs in centuries of history.

Its narrow lanes bustle with life late into the night, with devotees, travellers, shoppers and eaters. The last are there for the street food, delectable and dripping with butter and spices.

Amritsar is the largest city in Punjab, the north Indian state whose people are known for their generosity of spirit and joie de vivre. Like many Indian cities, historic landmarks rub shoulders with imposing colonial buildings and gleaming shopping malls.

A comfortable bed

Ranjit’s Svaasa is a quirky boutique hotel in the heart of town, with each of its 18 rooms and suites decorated in different colours and themes. Svaasa is a mini-museum of sorts, with an eclectic collection of art and antique furniture.

In addition to a full-fledged Ayurveda spa, Svaasa also offers yoga and meditation classes. Double rooms cost from 7,000 Indian rupees (Dh381), including breakfast and taxes.

For a glimpse into traditional Punjabi life, stay at Visarat Haveli, a recently renovated mansion just outside the main city.

Local culture is showcased through its lavish thali meals and the performances of bhangra and giddha folk dances, which are arranged by the Punjab tourism department every evening. A stay at Virasat costs a flat rate of 1,000 rupees (Dh54) per person for three meals (subject to a minimum of three guests per group).

Find your feet

Book a guided tour of the city for a good understanding of its chequered history, both ancient and modern. Amritsar Magic offer oodles of experience in such tours across the country, and their Old City Walk and Rickshaw Ride tours open the doors to many of Amritsar’s hidden markets and monuments.

Punjab Tourism also runs two-hour tours through the old city twice a day, covering the architectural and historical highlights.

Meet the locals

The Golden Temple is known for its langar, a community meal offered to all devotees and visitors through the day inside the temple’s kitchen.

This entire system, cooking, serving and cleaning, is managed entirely by volunteers, including locals and tourists. On average, 75,000 people eat there every day, earning it the title of the largest free kitchen in the world.

Book a table

The street food in Amritsar is legendary, especially in the cooler months when every corner of every road sprouts a makeshift chaat stall.

For the best street food without the dust of the street, make your way to Bharawan Da Dhaba at Town Hall Chowk, where the welcome board proudly claims that it has been serving the best parathas in town since 1912.

Those who aren’t used to the idea of so much ghee and butter in their food may initially recoil from their plates.
But one bite of the aloo kulcha (Indian bread stuffed with a piquant mix of potato and onions), which is cooked in the restaurant’s special tandoor clay ovens, is enough to remove reservations. A meal for two costs about 500 rupees (Dh27).

http://www.thenational.ae/arts-life/travel/my-kind-of-place-amritsar-india

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Published in: on December 15, 2016 at 6:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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