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Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Golden Temple, Amritsar, India






 Amritsar (Punjabi: ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤਸਰ IPA: [əmːɾɪtsəɾ]) (previously also known as 'Ramdaspur' and 'Guru ki Nagri') is a city in the northern part of India and is the administrative headquarters of Amritsar district in the state of Punjab, India. The 2001 Indian census reported the population of the city to be over 1,500,000, with that of the entire district numbering 3,695,077. Amritsar is situated 217 kilometres (135 mi) northwest of state capital Chandigarh and is 32 kilometres (20 mi) east of Lahore, Pakistan and therefore, very close to India's western border with Pakistan.



A typical chilly Amritsar morning
It is home to the Harmandir Sahib, known as the Golden Temple/Darbar Sahib, the spiritual and cultural center of the Sikh religion. This important Sikh shrine attracts more visitors than the Taj Mahal in Agra as it has more than 100,000 visitors on week days alone and is the number one destination for non-resident-Indians (NRI) in the whole of India.The city boasts of being the main centre of Sikhs' cultural, religious and political history, it also houses the Sikh temporal and political authority, Akal Takht as well as the Sikh Parliament. Amritsar is also known for the incidents of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in 1919 under British Rule and Operation Bluestar in 1984 under the late Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. The main commercial activities include tourism, carpets and fabrics, farm produce, handicrafts, service trades and light engineering. The city is known for its food and culture. Amritsar is also home to Central Khalsa Orphanage, which was once a home for Shaheed Udham Singh, a prominent figure in the Indian independence movement.

History

Amritsar city is one of the cities of the Punjab state in India. This city was founded by Guru Ram Das in 1574 on land bought by him for 700 rupees from the owners of the village of Tung. Earlier Guru Ram Das had begun building Santokhsar Sarovar, near the village of Sultanwind in 1564 (according to one source in 1570). It could not be completed before 1588. In 1574, Guru Ram Das built his residence and moved to this place. At that time, it was known as Guru Da Chakk. (Later, it came to be known as Chakk Ram Das)
Amritsar is dominated by the history of Hindus and Sikhs and many of their sacred shrines are found in and around the city. It was established by Guru Ramdas. The city has highest temporal seat of Sikhs "The Harimandir Sahib" popularly known as Golden Temple. Amritsar's central walled city has narrow zig zag streets mostly developed in the 17th and 18th century. The city is a peculiar example of an introverted planning system wit unique areas called Katras. The Katras are self styled residential units that provided unique defence system during attacks on the city.
The sacred city of the Amritsar has come to assume a special significance in Hindu cosmology because of various mythical and historical connections. Amritsar is particularly nearer and dearer to Hindus as it is believed that the Lov-Kush along with their mother Mata Sita spent their early childhood in the ashram of Bhagwan Maharishi Balmiki ji in the land of Amritsar.
The city lies on the main Grand Trunk Road (GT Road) from Delhi to Amritsar connecting to Lahore in Pakistan. The G. T. Road, built by Sher Shah Suri, runs through the whole of the northern half of the Indian subcontinent, connecting Peshawar, Pakistan to Sonargaon, Bangladesh. The city is also connected to most other major cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta by an extensive network of rail system. The city also provides air connectivity to major Indian cities, as well as international cities such as Birmingham, Toronto, Dubai, Singapore, Tashkent, Ashgabat, London etc. from the Raja Sansi International Airport, recently renamed as Guru Ramdas International Airport. The airport is being developed for increasing demand in future; a new International inbound & outbound terminal is operational and cargo terminal is also under construction. The city is the administrative center for the Amritsar District. Amritsar developed from a small village pool to a business center. However, it did not become the industrial center of Punjab due to its proximity to the volatile Indo-Pak border.

Partition of 1947

Partition of British India into India and Pakistan had the most profound effect on the demographics, economics, social structure and culture of Amritsar. The state of Punjab was divided between India and Pakistan and Amritsar became a border city, often on the front lines of India-Pakistan wars. Prior to partition, the Muslim league wanted to incorporate Amritsar into Pakistan because of the Amritsar's proximity to Lahore (a distance of 30 miles) and a nearly 50% Muslim population, but the city became part of India. The Indian National Congress had similar aims of incorporating Lahore into India as Lahore was the cultural, economic, and political capital of undivided Punjab and Hindus and Sikhs constituted nearly 50% of the population, but Lahore became a part of Pakistan. Amritsar and Lahore experienced some of the worst communal riots during the partition of India. Muslim residents of Amritsar left the city en-masse leaving their homes and property behind due to violent anti-Muslim riots in Amritsar. Similar scenes of communal carnage against Hindus and Sikhs were witnessed in Lahore and led to their mass evacuation.
Important Muslim dominated villages in Amritsar district prior to partition include Sultanpur, Kala Afgana, Abdul Kalan, Rasheed Bal, Lahorie, Qadian, Shahpur, Shahkot, Alipur, Aliwal, Allahbad, Fatehbad, Chak, Guza Chak, Jattan, Cheema.


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