If there is a city that I could visit repeatedly, then it has to be Amritsar!
The wriggly lanes soaked in old charisma, the huge glasses of the creamiest lassi, the museums filled with history and the old forts and buildings. Too much is stuffed in the heart of Amritsar, waiting eagerly to meet and relay her stories to the new wanderers! Through the lanes, try losing yourself only to find the true beauty in this land of deep history. You can just walk around, and random things might pop up at any corner.
In the recent past, Amritsar seems synonymous to the grand Golden Temple. Hands down! Honestly, is there any beauty that can beat the serenity of this place? I certainly doubt. Indeed, it is true that I can spend days and nights at the Golden temple. Well, however, the grandeur of Amritsar does not end with the Golden temple. There are certainly many offbeat places at Amritsar to visit apart from the peaceful Golden Temple. Well, if you can drive around Amritsar as well there to explore some more beautiful sightseeing spots.
So, what are we waiting for? Let us venture on the best trip to Amritsar. So here is a list of places to visit in Amritsar apart from the Golden Temple. Oh, wait! Before going further, let me give you the best tip on Visiting Amritsar. The Best Way to travel Amritsar is by Booking a Golden Triangle Tour with Amritsar.
In addition to Amritsar, you visit the three more amazing cities - Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, forming a Golden Triangle. This combination is one of the best Tourist Places to Visit in India. Most of the International Tourists choose the Golden Triangle Tour with Amritsar as their India Tour. Leisure India Holidays is the ‘best travel agent’ in India that offers Golden Triangle Tour itineraries and the Best Holiday Packages for tourists packed with luxury and excellent quality.
Are you people ready to dive into a list of places to visit in Amritsar apart from the Golden Temple?
The beauty of the temple lies in its similarity to the Golden temple. The temple has been dedicated to Goddess Durga and hence, has attained the name, Durgiana. There are other heavenly shrines too dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Lord Krishna, and Sita Devi.
With the old places, a beautiful old tale comes naturally…
There is a place called Valmiki thirath, a few kilometres away from Durgiana Temple. It is believed Sita Devi resided in the Valmiki ashram. The old tale carves out the places where Ram and Sita walked. Absolutely fascinating, right? It is believed that Sita finally went into the earth right along with Durga maa. Well, stories as these are, I am unsure if that happened exactly at this place, but this temple has shrines for all these Gods along with this beautiful story. This place spreads in the middle of a sacred lake, built in a marble structure and is gold plated. The peaceful temple stands tall amidst the chaos of a crowded market.
You can find all the sounds and fragrance as in any other Hindu temple with the aesthetic charm. I could not help myself from spending an evening here watching the mellow sunset by the serene lake with the ceaseless beauty. People here call the Durgiana mandir by the name of Laxmi Narayan Temple. Do not get confused!
On the way to the Golden Temple stands the brick wall that states ‘Jallianwala Bagh’. As you walk through the narrow path leading to the open grounds, a chill runs through you invariably.
To shockingly realise that the way General Dyer walked in and locked up the “only” entrance, to feel that there were thousands of people assembled here and they were all massacred!!There is no fun in visiting this place. You might feel wretched, but indeed pain demands to be felt. There are gunshots circled on the wall. There are bloodstains on the windows. It also shows the well into which most of them jumped to avoid the heartless ‘firing’. It will stir you. The fight that they had gone through to get freedom will make you cry. It is not an easy place to visit. There is a museum along with the garden. The garden has a memorial, and the Amara Jyothi (the fire that does not extinguish) is lit.
Do offer your prayers and homage to the martyrs before heading out.
Being a South Indian, I have never visibly understood the pain of partition. I never had elders to talk about this grave and ironic “country-making” massacre. At the maximum, we get to hear the stories about independence and of the freedom fighters.
The brutal way in which partition occurred, numerous families are torn apart, and how people were killed in the process, I had no clue. I have read books regarding this, but the partition museum depicts the intensity of pain right on your face.
While you stand there and read about the partition, look at the refugee camps they stayed at, listen to the heart wrenching oral anecdotes from people who were directly affected by the partition. It will bring tears. You will wonder why the country had to be divided at all, what good came out of it, and why are we still having the pain of partition. People had to restart their life from ground zero, leaving behind their property, land, loved ones!
They did not have any clue as to where the borderline ran!! Too much chaos ensued then. This museum is very informative, but it is also very soul-stirring. In a way, it is effective.
Time for quick information:
The partition museum is at the town hall; it is at a walkable distance from the Golden Temple. It is closed on Mondays and opened on the rest of the days. Do you remember! The museum stays open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. The Partition Museum is absolutely a must-visit of all the museums found in Amritsar. Since the past feeds the present, do witness your past!
To lighten up the mood, I will suggest visiting the Gobindgarh fort – it was full of surprises and a lot of fun. It is not a mammoth fort, but they have made it fun to keep the tourists engaged. It is mud or red brick fort. The entrance looks plain, and the fort is hidden behind. I will suggest you visit the fort in the evening and get tickets for the 7D show. Witness the laser show as well. It is totally worth it!
The fort has been named as Bhangian da Killa and is believed to have been built by a local chieftain called Gujar Singh Bhangi.
The canons flank the bastions, and a moat runs around the fort. The fort has a darbar hall, a bungalow, and other miscellaneous stuff like the room to store ammunition, water, the stock of groceries, etc. Could anything be gorgeous?
Most of these have now been converted into museums. The Warfare museum depicts the weapons used, silicon sculptures of Sikh people depicting the use of weapons, and Punjab's art. The silicon statues look so real! Indeed, a job well done. This museum is very well organised, from depicting dance forms to people's lives and about the Nihang.
Just below this is Toshakhana which means coin museum. And guess what! The Kohinoor diamond was housed in this fort and in this very room, so a replica replaces the original one now.
Visit Gobindgarh fort in the evening around 5 pm. By evening the dance and music shows get started. Punjabi folk songs are played, and you get to watch beautiful cultural performances. Such a treat to the mind!
The best part still remains to be told…
There is a 7D show depicting the life of Raja Ranjit Singh. You get to learn the history of the king and his prominence in building Punjab and Sikhism. And the show is a lot of fun. The 7D show shakes up your chair and sprinkles water on you to make you feel a part of the show.
Post sunset, there is also a brilliant laser show. I have never seen a laser show done so brilliantly in my entire life. It is about partition and independence. By 8 pm, it starts, an hour show that goes in English and then at 9 pm, they play the Hindi version.
The Hindi version is more thrilling!
It was truly a stunning show and a great portrayal of technology. It is breath-taking. I strongly recommend it. If you want to visit all of this the ticket is a bit expensive, around 400 bucks. P
Yes, at any cost, do not miss the laser show.
Valmiki Tirath is about 20 km away from the Golden Temple, Amritsar. It is also called the Ram Tirath.
Gather up! A tiny tale up here.
This is where Valmiki ashram was, and Sita Devi is said to have spent her last days here. Throughout India, there are many places cited as where Lava and Kusha were born, and so is here. Like the other temple structures of Punjab, there is a sacred lake here and in the middle stands the Valmiki Tirath. It is a fairly new structure, so it looks modern, and the hall has the statue of Valmiki to offer our prayers.
The actual Valmiki ashram is old and slightly at the back. This is also the place where Valmiki wrote Ramayanam. Within the complex is a small cave-like place where the sage sat, lived and wrote the masterpiece. Wow!
There is a place which states to be the bathing place of Sita Devi and Lava Kusha. If you know about Ramayana, you will be aware of the battle between Lava Kusha and Ram, which started because Lava Kusha tied up the Ashwamedha horse to a tree. So, there is a tree that is revered as the tree to which the horse was tied up. It is a great historical and religious place to visit. The ambience is very mystical.
Sarai Amanat Khan
Firstly, you need a vehicle to visit Sarai Amanat Khan; it is a place for the history buffs. It is about 30 km away from Amritsar, but you can plan this place en route to Attari Wagah Border.
Sarai Amanat Khan was built by the Persian calligrapher Amanat Khan. He had inscribed verses from the Quran on the walls of the Taj Mahal. Even on Sarai Amanat Khan's walls, you can see some calligraphy works done which I could not decipher. The calligraphy is too beautiful to forget!
This place is desolate and stands as a ruin in a village. The building was constructed as a resting place between Lahore and Agra, but then the story claims that he started living here later.
There are two huge gateways - Lahori Darwaza and Dilli Darwaza that opens into the courtyard. A half-sunk building which I presume is the Mosque. There is a stable and well. Around the place looks like fort walls. What is surprising to see is that the coloured tiles on the building are still intact! What a strong masterpiece!
Little more attention, they make it a gated place and promote tourism. I had hired a cab for the entire day, and a google map kind of helped me a lot to reach here.
It is a place very close to the border and would certainly keep history buffs happy. Pul Kanjari is about the love story between Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Moran Sarkar; hence this place is also called Pul Moran. Love is still in the air!
My cabbie from Amritsar also did not know about this place. So, you need to rely on google maps to venture. It is kind of an isolated place.
When I was walking through Pul Moran's gates, it appeared to be a bare open mahal with just the walls remaining. It is a place that was roughed up over time, and I must say it has been maintained and restored well for what it has gone through. Maharaja Ranjit Singh often travelled between Lahore and Amritsar for trade and administration purposes. And on such journeys, he would stop at this rest house constructed en route.
Moran Sarkar, a nautch girl (a girl who dances for an audience) from a nearby village, would be summoned to dance in his court for him. He fell in love with her and later on married her as well.
The border with Pakistan runs close to Pul Moran, and hence it was affected during partition. People kind of left the place, and only a few farmers were to be found around.
The Baradari had a surprise element too! As I walked around the Baradari, to the right side was a small room that appeared dark and locked from outside. Peeping in, I was taken aback by the colourful frescoes all around the walls from top to bottom.
Thankfully this room had a grill preventing miscreants from damaging the paintings. Apparently, it is a Shiva temple. My pictures are not so good as it was tough to take pictures past the grill door. Having said that, what is better than a camera? A good memory! Keep your travel photos safe in there from all the soot. This is one detour you must take and visit en route Attari Wagah border.
Pul Kanjari War Memorial
Just around the corner of the Pul Kanjari Baradari is the Pul Kanjari War Memorial. A short history for understanding…
Pakistan occupied Pul Kanjari during the Indo-Pak war in 1965 and 1971, and India happened to recapture it later on. A memorial has been erected in this place to honour the martyrs. Two brave Sikhs fought the battle of Pul Kanjari along with the BSF jawans. They launched a fierce attack to recapture Pul Kanjari. And to honour the martyrs in this war, the memorial has been raised. It is a small memorial, standing amidst trees that have been planted in honour of the martyrs. Though no one is around the place, it is well maintained.
I paid my respects before moving to the Wagah border.
Tarn Taran Sahib
While I was at Gobindgarh Fort, one of the travellers mentioned about Tarn Taran Sahib and insisted me to visit it. I promptly added it to my tour, and I clubbed this along with Sarai Amanat Khan and Pul Kanjari.
You surely must visit this too, just to see that holy tank! Well, I mean it. It is the world’s biggest Sarovar, and it was built way back in the 1700s. Can you imagine that? At first, I could not get the whole thing in one frame. It was like a river trapped in with few corners; it was not like a pond or tank. As I was pressed with time, I could not take a complete walk around the Sarovar.
The Gurudwara has gold plated walls. The grandeur is nothing compared to the Golden temple, but a portion of it makes it look bright and glittery. The best thing, however, is the inside, the sanctum sanctorum. The interior walls and the ceiling have the best of the designs, stuccos, murals, paintings, like everything. I stood there, watching the interiors for a while. The infusion of the bright colours and they being amazingly intact, such that I have not seen in any other Gurudwara. Indeed! The most beautiful Gurudwara of the lot that I had visited was this. Do watch the video to feel the enormity of the Sarovar.
These are certainly some of the grand places I found interesting apart from the Golden Temple. Within Amritsar, you can do many things like taking heritage walks, enjoying lassi at Giani lassi, going on food walks, walking around the bazaars and shop shoes, and phulkaris, and tasty papads.
Here is where to find the perfect lassi at Amritsar - Click Here
While writing such lists, some bloggers would list Sikh museums, Akal Takht, langar hall, etc. All those are within the Golden temple complex. So, I am deliberately not listing them.
You can read about the Golden temple, history of Harmindar Sahib, Akal Takht and everything about the place here - Inside the Golden Temple, Amritsar
As I had been to many museums by then and had seen a video on Maharaja Ranjit Singh's life, I had skipped the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum. However, you can visit it if time permits. The other common place that people flock to which needs no mention is the Attari Wagah border. I had mixed reactions about the place. It was not patriotic for me.
My experience and information about the Flag down ceremony and how to obtain passes for the Wagah border ceremony can be found here - Attari Wagah Border Ceremony
That is pretty much about the offbeat places you can visit in and around Amritsar apart from the temple.
As I said, I would suggest hiring a cab and do Valmiki Tirath, Tarn Taran, Sarai Amanat Khan, Pul Kanajari and Attari Wagah border all in one day. If you happen to be a solo adventurer, hire two-wheelers to explore the place!
By 3 pm or 4 pm, you would have completed visiting all the places, and then you can reach the Attari Wagah border. You will genuinely not regret this day trip in Amritsar, for it is all through lush paddy fields or mustard fields, depending on the season.