May 12, 2016

Amritsar : The Culinary Capital Of India

Amritsar is one of the holiest places for the Sikhs and considered to be the culinary capital of India. And we were not disappointed on either fronts. On our trip to Delhi to attend a relative's wedding, we decided to explore Amritsar and Agra along with Delhi, in order to satisfy our wanderlust. We had short-listed Amritsar primarily for the Golden temple and for the food. It is the home of Punjabi cuisine, which has become synonymous with North Indian cuisine all over the world, even-though it forms only a fraction of the North Indian cuisine. We had taken an evening Shatabdi train from Delhi and it took us nearly 6.5 hrs to reach our destination. The food served in the train was good, raising our expectations on the lip-smacking treats awaiting us in the culinary capital of India.

The entire city of Amritsar seemed to be undergoing renovation, so as expected we had to endure a lot of bad roads to reach the holy Sikh shrine. And on top of that the rickshaws catering to the tourists seem to be vehicles from hell, being rashly driven and almost giving us a cardiac arrest. We first visited the Jallianwala bagh, which is infamous for the massacre carried out by General Dyer in the year 1919 on the people assembled for a peaceful freedom demonstration. Right now this park has been converted into a memorial. There is a wall which is riddled with bullets. Further there is a well , in which many people jumped and lost their lives trying to avoid the hailstorm of bullets from the British.

Jallianwala bagh is quite nearby to the Golden temple. One has to cover their heads while entering this temple , irrespective of the gender. As we entered this structure we just "wowed" at each other seeing the beautiful and serene view in front of us. The Golden Temple sits in the centre of a pool , which is considered to be very holy. One can take a stroll around the temple and all the surrounding buildings and pathways are made from marble. Even though there was a decent crowd, we didn't feel so because of the huge open areas surrounding the temple. There are 4 huge gates in all the 4 directions of the temple. We decided to go inside the golden temple and after a wait of nearly an hour in a queue , we entered inside the holy shrine. Wherever we saw, we could see Golden hues. Inside the complex is the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikhs. Frankly speaking the outer view of the temple is much more impressive than the inner. There are different chambers  and levels within this temple housing what appeared to be the remains of the famous Sikh Gurus.

After the darshan we decided to try out "Guru Langar" which is considered to the largest community kitchen in the world. Here volunteers from all walks of life come together to prepare and serve food/ prasad to the devotees. According to some websites such as tripadvisor, langar is the best food in Amritsar, but in my opinion it is just a bit hyped because of the religious angle. The food was simple and decent, with roti, daal and porridge. Next we visited the Central Sikh Museum, housed within the temple complex. Here the illustrations and paintings are quite violent, depicting the various struggles the Sikhs had to go through to protect their faith , especially from the Mughals and the British. I had read somewhere that there is also depictions of how Indira Gandhi came so close to destroying this temple during the Operation Bluestar, but looks like all the material related to that episode have been removed off late.

Next we decided to pay a visit to Ahuja milk Bhandar, recommended as having the best lassi in Amritsar. After going through a roller coaster of a journey in a cycle rickshaw and travelling through very narrow by-lanes of old Amritsar , we reached our destination. Had lassi at this place, which was good, but not spectacular. We were still waiting for the exquisite food that Amritsar had promised. From the lassi centre , we moved towards the Durgiana Tirath, a hindu temple dedicated to Durga. The interesting part of this temple is that it has  exactly the same architecture used in the Golden Temple, including the Golden coat given to the main temple complex. But on the other hand , this entire temple complex was deserted. We spent some time admiring the views and then it was time to return back to our room in order to avoid the scorching afternoon sun.


We decided to have an early dinner and short-listed a place known as Crystal restaurant based on the online reviews. Now this restaurant did meet and even exceed all our expectations for the gastronomical enlightenment. The best masala paapad ever, the best amritsari kulcha ever, and the list goes on. Finally satisfying our stomachs, we decided to visit the golden temple again , to get the night views. And boy-o-boy the night view of the golden temple is still more impressive than the day time, with the Golden Temple literally glowing against the pitch black night sky in the background. We didnt visit the Wagah border ceremony during our visit, due to the reviews wherein its mentioned that unless you have a VIP pass, you wont get a good view of the ceremony. Further one has to sit under the blazing summer sun, hence we decided to give it a miss. So end of the day we were satified with our expectations set for this city.

Narrow Lanes Of Old Amritsar

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