Punjab is the haven of five rivers to which it owes its fertile nature, making it the land of farms and Gurdaspur embodies this perfectly.
If it is paddy fields in one season, it will be wheat and mustard fields in another season. Whatever time of the year you go, there will always be greenery-filled lands and beautiful roads to cruise by them.
Planning a visit to such a fertile state, I had only one thing in my mind, to experience a rural Punjab village stay.
When I noticed "The Kothi," which is located in a village called Nawanpind Sardaran, about 10km away from Gurdaspur and a convenient hours drive from Amritsar.
The property is a heritage property, and the pictures of the massive house with a courtyard looked so alluring that it made me book it right away. After spending a few days at Amritsar buzzing around the Golden temple and other sightseeing places, my idea was to eat, sleep and relax at The Kothi. I did not know I was heading to a historically significant place and that there are places to visit in Gurdaspur.
Chandigarh – 24 Hours In Chandigarh | Places To Visit In Chandigarh
You can fall in love with Chandigarh easily !! It has excellent town planning. It's as if a cake is cut into huge identical pieces of straight rads and square layouts.
There is no exception of getting lost anywhere in the streets.
Wide clean roads, some park or garden every few meters away, footpath to walk on, there was so much to love about this place that I started to wonder if I should just move off to this place !!
Bonus point, there is Punjab and Haryana bordering this union territory that you can choose different tourist places to visit. The only thing that kept confusing me from time to time was that Chandigarh is the capital of both Punjab and Haryana. So, suddenly you will see a government building stating it is Punjab and suddenly there will be another government office stating Haryana!
And I was like where am I!
I had one day to spend at Chandigarh and this is how it went. Well not exactly like this but I am drafting it in a good order so you need not goof up a few things that I did !!
Chandigarh Hop On Hop Off
Chandigarh Tourism runs a hop on-hop off bus that starts from Hotel Shivalikview at Sector 17 and runs to prominent sites like the Rose garden, Museum and Art gallery, Bougainvillea Garden, Rock Garden and Sukhna Lake. There are no restricted timings for the hop on hop off bus. It keeps playing throughout the day.
So, you can spend as much time as you want in one attraction and then wait for the bus before proceeding to the next. It is a double decker bus and looks cool. I noticed this bus only when I was at the Museum and Art gallery. By then, I was done with half a day hence it was a late information for me. It is a good idea to take the bus and then combine your own attractions that you want to visit too.
Here is a One Day Itinerary of Must See places at Chandigarh..
Tuck yourself with aloo paratha and be at the gates of Rock garden at 9:00am
Rock Garden, Chandigarh
Rock garden also known as the Nek Chand's Rock Garden is a sculpture garden at Chandigarh.
One man's vision to convert waste materials into a garden is something you need to visit and appreciate. Nek Chand started working on this garden secretly using the debris collected from the demolition site across Chandigarh as that was the time Chandigarh was being built. He started it at a gorge near the Sukhna lake which was actually protected land and the garden was illegal. He kind of kept it as a secret for nearly 18years building stuff and artificial water bodies and figurines. That place is a marvel.
Who would have thought that broken tiles or a commode and pipes from your bathroom can be made into a piece of art?
It is astounding to see figurines made out of glass pieces, colored tiles, broken pottery, so creative!
The newer additions like the place with used clothes are not as creative as what Nek Chand had done. It is a place that you will easily need 2 hours to spend.
Quite possible to get lost in the maze of this garden too. I was like Alice in the Wonderland walking through tiny small doorways and entering into mythical gardens.
It is so much fun. Every city should take inspiration from this Rock garden and channel their waste into beautiful pieces of art.
By the time you are out of the garden it will be 11:00am.
Head to the Tourist Facilitation Center at the Capitol Complex and book yourself for a tour of some of the famous architectural spots in Chandigarh like Capitol Complex, Open Hand Monument, etc for a 3:00pm slot.
You cannot visit these buildings on your own! From there head to the Museum and Art Gallery.
Government Museum And Art Gallery
Even if you think you are not a history buff and museums are boring, you have to go here !!
It is huge and a wealth of information and filled with an awesome collection!
The building itself was constructed by architect Le Corbusier, who designed and built Chandigarh.
The museum has everything from the history of Chandigarh to information on textile, images, sculptures from the past, history of India, antiques from prehistoric and historic period, beautiful different style of paintings, collectives from the partition period.
As I walk through the museum and when I see stunning sculptures but it reads, "the other half of the collection is in a museum at Lahore as it was divided during the partition", felt really bad.
Such wealth of information and we decided to break up our country!
A prominent part of the museum has Gandhara Buddhist sculptures. If you read about the Gandhara kingdom, you will feel like packing your bags and going off on a tour to Pakistan. Majority of the kingdom was in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hence most of the artifacts excavated from the Gandhara period and Indus valley civilization have been split between India and Pakistan.
The Gandharas were followers of Mahayana Buddhism and you can see their representation of Buddha will have an Indo Greek influence.
A Patua Scroll Painting is on display. Patua scroll painting gets the name from the patua community who are painters and storytellers. The stories are painted in a vertical scroll that runs for meters, each scene bound by floral patterns that separate one from another.
And as they move across villages telling stories, they unravel one scene after another by unscrolling it.
This one in display was on a pillar that ran for two floors!
According to mythology, Hariti was a demon who would teach children and Buddha to teach her a lesson, and hide one of her children. Grief stricken, she decided to not harm children and turned into a protector of children and subsequently people call her a Buddhist Goddess. This is a principle taught in Buddhism, like despising the sin not the sinner.
It will easily take 2 hours and if you do not keep tap of time you will land up spending 3 to 4 hours in this museum. Be out by 1 pm. Have a simple lunch. And then let's head to the Le Corbusier Centre.
Le Corbusier Centre, Chandigarh
Once the office of work for Le Corbusier who was the architect of Chandigarh, is now a museum or rather stands as a tribute to it's creator.
Please don't think of them as two consecutive museums at a stretch, they are both different in many ways.
Le Corbusier center talks of how Chandigarh came into existence, how a city is planned, the design templates of the famous buildings and a little bit of the French architect himself. It was here that I came to know that Chandigarh is named after Chandi Mandir, the temple dedicated to Chandi matha, Goddess Parvati.
Chandi Mandir is however not within Chandigarh. I was told that it is about 15 kilometers away from the city inside an army camp that we do not have permission to visit to. There are many photos from the past on the city, on the architect, on politics of India, about Nehru's vision to build the city and much more.
So, when Punjab was split and its capital went away with the partition, Chandigarh became the capital of Punjab. Nehru had this vision to have a planned city and thus Chandigarh was born.
We can see many letters going back and forth between the architect, the labor community and politicians of India to make this thing happen in spite of the differences. This centre also houses a few furniture and other stuff used by Le Corbusier.
If you are not very keen to do Le Corbusier Centre, you can replace this with one of the many gardens like rose garden, cactus garden, terrace garden, Japanese garden, etc.
Check if it is the right weather and season to visit that garden and you can spend some time in the gardens too. I skipped all the gardens as it was too humid and definitely not that time of the year when roses would be in bloom.
Leave a little time before 3:00pm and reach the capitol complex by 3:00pm ready for your tour.
Open Hand Monument
The symbol of Chandigarh that can be found all around Chandigarh and the first emblem designed by Le Corbusier. You can visit this monument only as part of the Capitol Complex tour.
The tour covers High court building and museum, Open hand monument, Punjab assembly, Punjab & Haryana Civil secretariat. These buildings have architectural nuances that are nice to take a tour of and see. I was not part of this tour, I did not have this information and I missed all the tour timings for the day. There is one at 10am, 12pm and 3pm. Public entry is prohibited.
This information was provided to me by the police security forces stationed at the Open Hand Monument. They still let me go take a photo of the monument after doing a little bit of inquiry and submitting my ID, bag, etc.
Open Hand Monument is the emblem or symbol of the Government of Chandigarh and symbolizes "the hand to give and the hand to take; peace and prosperity, and the unity of mankind".
What Open Hand Monument represents according to the snippet from the letter by Le Corbusier also is that,
"The Open Hand will affirm that the second era of the machinist civilization - the era of harmony - has started."
Open hand is a tall structure that pretty much looks like a flying bird. Erected on a concrete platform, it moves along with the speed of wind. This monument is highly guarded and it is best you come along with the Capitol complex tour.
You should be out by 5pm from this tour. Let's head for some breezy time at Sukhna Lake.
All these are just kilometers apart. Sukhna lake is a huge man made water body on the foothills of Shivalik hills. It is a reservoir and hats off to Le Corbusier who could foresee that the city will expand and the people will need water, let's build a huge reservoir.
The place is ideal for sunrise and sunset. Sunsets opposite to the lake and not on the water body still it is a pleasant place to be. Many Chandigarh people can be seen walking around the lake as their daily exercise regime.
There is a boating option available, both pedal and a motor boat which takes you around the lake. The lake has few birds nesting and some ducks. With trees lining the lake, neat huge footpath to walk, a children area to play, a small food court to munch on, this is a place to wind up your day. You can walk around the lake till the end and watch the flora and fauna. Or just find your sweet spot, sit, munch on peanuts and watch people.
With that being 7:00pm let's head out for some shopping or window shopping and have dinner.
Sector 17 Market Chandigarh
The popular hangout place of Chandigarh people is the Sector 17 Market. Plenty of high end shops lining the streets with lights gleaming away, cobbled footpath, a neat parking area and benches for people to sit, this place is just the feel of a piece of Europe.
There is some nitty gritty shop or the other for you to buy a souvenir even if you cannot afford all the branded stuff. And who says no to window shopping!! Wind your day at the sector 17 market, and have some dinner at one of the many options available in this place.
And that, my friends, is how you can spend Chandigarh in a day !!
It also has things like zoos and many many gardens, but these are my favorite picks. Happy traveling.
How To Reach Chandigarh
Chandigarh has an airport, so not a problem in reaching it through air. The airport is pretty outside the city but we don't have a hand in it. By rail, many trains ply from New Delhi which is about 5hour journey.
So you can always fly to the capital and take a train from there too.
By road, many volvo buses ply from Delhi, Amritsar, etc.
Where To Stay At Chandigarh
This is not a sponsored or promotional post that am recommending this stay but the hosts were very sweet so am recommending this AirBnb. A spacious bedroom, kitchen and a spacious bathroom comes along with a big garden in the front.
The property is in a good residential area with restaurants close by, parks to stroll and markets and shops nearby for your daily needs. The room has a separate entrance. The host, Harmandar and his family were very friendly and made me feel home in a new city. Harmandar himself being a well traveled person, it was interesting and fun to catch up with all his travel stories.
Keep in mind that AirBnBs are not hotels. You should not expect room service, or party, or bring other guests and have fun.
You will be sharing the house of another family and be their guest. So if you are one of those polite travelers who can mind their business, not demanding and polite then please check out this property.
I boarded the bus to Gurdaspur from Amritsar Bus Stand. It looked like there were frequent buses to Gurdaspur as I did not have to wait for it. The drive to Gurdaspur is through well-tarred roads flanked by the Safeda tree on either side and green fields stretching endlessly from it. I could already feel the rustic Punjab village as the city dwellings were reduced and only farms stretched across.
A representative from The Kothi picked me up from the Gurdaspur bi-pass road, and you do not have to enter Gurdaspur town to get to the property. Upon diversion, the road starts to get narrower, tractors begin to appear, and the canal carrying the teal-colored water from the Beas river follows you along.
It is a sight to see in Punjab, the color of the river water. It's just teal blue color, never have I seen river water to be so soothing. And need to appreciate the British for constructing these Upper Bari Doab Canal systems.
Throughout Punjab, you can see canal systems built right from Maharaja Ranjit Singh to Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, redirecting the water to their palaces or gardens up to Lahore. But it was during the British time that they redirected the channels and built canals to support Punjab's fertile lands and people. Some people were sitting along the canal and were fishing. My mood was all set to go for an early morning walk along the canal or around the village may be
The Kothi - Gurdaspur Stay
The gates of The Kothi opened up to what looked like a Zamindar House. A sprawling garden just watered, a front sit-out area, a British colonial style living room, an open courtyard with charpai to rest, a waft of brewing tea coming out of the kitchen, and then upstairs were the big comfortable bedrooms.
The house looked convenient for the modern traveler despite it being 150 years old. In Punjabi, Kothi means a luxurious home with many rooms, gardens, courtyard, verandahs, and a backyard. Well, it was true to its name.
Looking down through the fluttering curtains into the courtyard, I was expecting a flash mob of bhangra to break out at any moment !!
Bollywood has spoiled me, I say !!
The property has now been divided among the siblings, so a wall runs separating the house, one side of it being The Kothi...
Standing on the terrace, one gets to see the vastness of the property, the houses around, Punjab village life, and the people carrying on with their farm work. Hot Chai and homemade snack served up in the garden was waiting for me! I did not have any shame and finished up the yummy snacks along with the tasty chai. Just then, the elegant lady of the house, Mrs. Satwant Kaur Sangha, dropped in[caption id="attachment_2309" align="alignnone" width="960"] British styled Living room - The Kothi[/caption]
It was evening time, and just when we sat for a chat, the Granthi (Sikh priest) walked in to perform rituals. Having watched from a distance at the Gurudwara on what they do and how they serve the rituals, it was nice to see it up close. Mrs.Sangha briefed me about Sikhism, which by now I was familiar with and got my doubts clarified.
The discussion veered towards how her forefathers built this village called Nawanpind Sardaran and this heritage property. It then dawned on me that I was amidst things that have been through times immortal. There was yet another story she told me that shook me a little. It was about the massive massacre of Sikhs called Chhota Ghallughara[caption id="attachment_2310" align="aligncenter" width="540"] Corners and doors like these keep surprising you[/caption]
Chotta Ghallugara In Gurdaspur
The tiff between the Sikhs and Mughals is a known story. If you don't know the gist, the Mughals were converting everyone into Islam. The Sikhs were not ready to convert, so they were tortured to convert, killed if not, and many wars were fought with the Sikhs to capture their land and massacre them.
During one such time, the Sikhs had taken shelter or were hiding among the marshlands of Kahnuwan in Gurdaspur district by river Ravi. Knowing that most Sikhs were present here, the Mughal diwan, who was already on the mode to wipe out Sikhs to avenge his brother's death, decided to attack them.
Diwan Lakhpat Rai besieged the marshland with his army and attacked them with weapons. Though the Sikhs were no match to the military or the weapons, they still managed to fight against them and, somewhere forced to flee the lands, had to cross the river to the upper mountains of the Himalayas.
The Sikh forces used a guerrilla kind of attack where, in the night, they would attack the army camps, steal the rations, weapons, and animals and disappear before the army could attack. But the marshlands were lit on fire, some died in the fire, some while crossing the swollen river, some were attacked while getting on to the mountains, some even though they managed to reach Lahore they were captured and were killed.
Nearly 7000 to 11k Sikhs were killed during this two months war that went on from April-June 1746. This, my friends, despite the staggering number of 7000 people, is called Chotta Ghallugara, meaning the lesser holocaust! There is one more story called Wadda Ghallugara, where nearly 20k people were killed. But I am not getting into that story as it happened elsewhere. After listening to this story, I decided to go to the Chhota Ghallughara memorial the next day.[caption id="attachment_2299" align="alignnone" width="1022"] Chotta Ghallugara Memorial[/caption]
I woke up to the pleasant sound of birds and warm rays of sun peeping in through the color-tinted windows. These windows are like a mini balcony in itself. If I build a house one day, I will make use of this style. It opens up for the tree branch to lean in and say hello to you, yet the branch is not on your face.
It did not winter in Punjab, and so the mustard farms were not up yet. I went on a stroll along the canal, and the mist was setting in the water even though it was already 8 am. It is a pleasant sight to see. The day was beginning, and the tractors were on their way to the farms.
The village itself is a small one that you can walk around. By the time I was back to The Kothi, there were curious, friendly kids who wanted to know what this aunty was up to in their village !!
The Kothi itself was gearing up for the day. Dry leaves from the garden cleared, front yard swept, the gardens watered, birds pecking on food, and the smell of parantha made me go straight to the dining hall. Homemade pickle and ghee-laden mooli ka paratha were just too yummy and heavy for breakfast.
Chotta Ghallugara Gurudwara & Chotta Ghallugara Memorial
Driving through narrow roads that turn into fields after fields, I arrived at the Chotta Ghallugara Gurudwara. Built to honor the martyrs of the massacre, the Gurudwara stands right on a small canal across the fields. It is a small one compared to the Gurudwaras that I have seen across Punjab.
This is more like the small Ganapati temple you will find in every other street that you can visit to sit in peace as there will be no crowd, no show, or no pomp. However, I was told it gets crowded too on weekends and the martyr memorial day. The serenity and calmness that prevails in every other Gurudwara were found here too.
There were not many visitors, and so there was a generous serving of Kada Prasad to me !!
I love this sweet that they offer in Gurudwaras, made of coarsely ground wheat and plenty of ghee. I sat there for a few minutes and then walked around the Gurudwara to feel the breeze from the fields before heading out. Langar will be served only during lunch and dinner time here.[caption id="attachment_2298" align="alignnone" width="962"] The Front of Chotta Ghallugara Gurudwara[/caption]
Just a kilometer away from the Gurudwara is the memorial constructed by the Government of India for the martyrs. The memorial is built right on the Khanuwan village. It is a little surprising to imagine it to be marshlands once upon a time, considering how fertile it is now.
The memorial needs a little maintenance. It is huge, and there were just a couple of caretakers to weed the garden and wipe the floor. The entry to the memorial reads about history, which the hostess had told me. Walking towards the memorial, there stands a tall tower with the symbol of Sikhism on top.
There was a door, and the top of the tower seemed to have windows, so one should be able to climb it like lighthouses. But the door was locked, and sweltering heat prevented me from even looking for the caretaker to open the doors. Coming here around sunset time would be a better idea. The memorial is worth a visit.[caption id="attachment_2300" align="aligncenter" width="539"] Chotta Ghallugara Memorial, Gurdaspur[/caption]
Famous Shri Pindori Dham in Gurdaspur
The other attraction that was suggested to me by the driver was to visit Shri Pindori Dham. It is a Vaishnavite temple dedicated to Lord Ram. The moment I was told that it is an age-old Ram temple, I nodded my head in excitement. Shri Bhagwan Ji established it.
Initially, it was just a thatched roof temple where Shri Bhagwan Ji would pray and meditate. The powers of this Swamiji were so widespread that the Mughal emperor Jehangir wished to meet him. However, every time he comes to meet the Swamiji, the Swamiji would burrow through the ground and go off to different places to avoid the pomp and show.
Some caves are connecting the cities and places as proof of this theory. One day Jehangir catches hold of his disciple Narain and interrogates him to know about the whereabouts of the Swamiji. However, the disciple is on a mouna wrath that day, so he refuses to speak. Jehangir then pushes down his throat cups of poison after poison, but miraculously nothing happens.
Overwhelmed by the power of Shri Bhagwan Ji, Jehangir contributes a huge fund and builds a temple in the place of the thatched roof temple. My driver told bits and pieces of this story, and I was excited to visit this historical place.[caption id="attachment_2302" align="alignnone" width="960"] Entrance to Shri Pindori Dham[/caption]
When I arrived at Pindori darbar, it was not what I had expected to see. A huge modern compound wall and the new structures in the front gave no clue that it was an age-old temple. The temple has domes like that of Mughal architecture. At the gates, I was asked to submit my camera and mobile phone and everything!
Problem with most of the temples.
Inside the gates was a dharmshala and a school, and it looked abuzz like a town. It was more of an ashram than a temple. Passing through some passages, I come across the first set of frescoes and wall paintings. Beautiful ones!
Some preserved, and some, however, was, unfortunately, whitewashed...
Walking further in, I heard bhajans being sung, and I went straight to the hall to join them. And what I saw was, men were clapping to the tunes of the bhajan, and women were dancing to the bhajan in front of the current Swamiji seated on a throne. Caught in a situation that I am not used to, I stepped out searching for my Ram.[caption id="attachment_2303" align="alignnone" width="970"] The inside of Shri Pindori Dham. Check the window to the top right hand side[/caption]
As the crowd had gone off to see the Maharaj, the Ram temple was deserted. It was such a beautiful sight! There were frescoes all around the temple. Walls, ceilings, pillars...
I cursed at the security guy for having asked me to surrender my camera. I spent quite some time admiring them. The music died, and someone came looking for me, the odd one out who walked out of the bhajan. I introduced myself as a travel blogger to the Swamiji, and he permitted me to click pictures. That was all I wanted. I ran to the security gate, picked up my camera, and clicked pictures to my heart's content.[caption id="attachment_2304" align="aligncenter" width="540"] Frescoes adorned Ram temple of Shri Pindori Dham, Gurdaspur[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2305" align="alignnone" width="960"] Ceiling of the Rama Temple, Shri Pindori Dham, Gurdaspur[/caption]
Back at The Kothi, the sumptuous lunch was waiting for me. The Kothi are known for their hospitality and especially stuffing their guests with good home-cooked meals. I had a lavish spread for dinner, and I specifically mentioned to the cook not to make more than one subji and phulkas for a late lunch as it was just me, only me, one person! I mean, how much can one person eat and demand food, right?
But then I come to see phulkas, bhendi, rajma, kadhi pakoda, jeera rice, kheer, salad, and raita ready for me. And I shamelessly devoured it too like I have not seen food for days. I cannot tell you how happy I was to see that meal after having only tandoori roti and aloo across Punjab for two weeks.
Those soft phulkas were heaven!
And the kadhi pakoda was yummy. I have tasted only the ones available in south India, which was just nothing like the ones I have had. Hot, tasty pakora and yummy khadi. At some point, I was drinking it.[caption id="attachment_2306" align="alignnone" width="960"] Food Love :)[/caption]
After this yummy meal, I coiled up like a python in the verandah upstairs with my book. The breezy wind and the quaint verandah was the only thing required to spend the rest of the day as lazy as possible. Unwinding my trip to Punjab this way was the best.
I had a sumptuous dinner too, which was a completely different menu. The Kothi also arranges tours around the village if you are interested in riding tractors, milk a cow, etc. The next day was my time to catch the flight from Amritsar. I still miss the food from The Kothi. Hopefully, one winter, I will get back there to feel the different shade of Punjab !![caption id="attachment_2292" align="alignnone" width="961"] The common verandah upstairs in front of the rooms to relax[/caption]
Book your stay with The Kothi In Gurdaspur:
Click here to book your stay with The Kothi - Book your stay
How to Reach Gurdaspur
There are plenty of buses plying from Amritsar. It is just about roughly 2 hrs to reach by bus as the bus stops at multiple villages and goes slowly.
Even if not a direct bus, catch a bus to Batala, and you will find a connecting bus to Gurdaspur. You can also visit Pathankot from here.
PIN it for Later Read[caption id="attachment_2314" align="aligncenter" width="596"] Pin It - Experience Punjab Village Stay with THE KOTHI[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2313" align="aligncenter" width="596"] Pin It - Explore Gurdaspur[/caption]
Note: I was graciously hosted at The Kothi by Mrs.Sangha family. However the views about the properties are based on my experience