Heritage Walk through Amritsar’s Old City

From April 2011, experience a slice of history in Amritsar, a city inextricably linked with both the Sikh religion and India’s struggle for independence. An hour’s walk in the morning, starting at about 8 am, will bring to you some little-known facets of the holy city, courtesy the Heritage Walk being launched by Punjab Tourism Department.

The itinerary has varied flavours – patriotic, religious and, amazingly, even gastronomic. Perhaps the most hair-raising part of the walk is when you traverse the ‘Crawling Street’ of Amritsar – where the natives (read Indians) had to grovel their way through the 180-metre street. The street became an indelible part of the world history of repression exactly 92 years ago – in April 1919. And who else gave these horrific orders but the ‘Butcher of Amritsar’, General Reginald Dyer.

Punjab Principal Secretary Tourism Geetika Kalha said the project has been funded by the Ministry of Tourism and Asian Development Bank. It will cover 16 spots, all of them on the fringes of the Golden Temple. Among these is Gurdwara Saragarhi, a monument to soldiers who died in the Battle of Saragarhi; and Qila Ahluwalia belonging to great Sikh warrior Jassa Singh Ahluwalia.

The Walk will take you to Sangalwala Akhara, Chitta Akhara and Balanand Akhara – which have no link with wrestlers, as one may assume. These akharas were hostels for spiritual seekers and saints, and are about 250 years old.

Also on the Walk route is ‘Baba Atal’ which took 113 years to come up. It was built in the memory of Guru Hargobind’s son Atal Rai. The historic building still retains some of its original splendour, as does Ramgarhia Bunga (mansion), a three-storeyed marvel of the Sikh school of architecture. Other spots on the route are the Darshni Deorhi, Baba Borh, Radha Krishna temple, Chaurasti Atari Gurudwara, Thakurdwara temple, Masjid, Town Hall, the Taksal (considered the mint of Maharaja Ranjit Singh), and Jalianwala Bagh.

For gastronomical delight, tourists can enjoy jalebis made in ghee at Amritsar’s famous Jalebiwala Chowk. The walk has been designed by Debashsish Nayak, an architect and urban conservation specialist who created the famous Heritage Walk at Ahmedabad, and about 15 other cities including Kolkata, Jaipur, Pondicherry and Lucknow. Talking to The Indian Express, Nayak said, “India has fantastic old cities, and the heritage walk becomes a process of city renewal for locals as well as tourists.”

 

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