Amritsar, a city nestled in the heart of Punjab, India, is more than just a vibrant urban center; it’s a repository of history that dates back centuries. The city’s rich historical tapestry weaves tales of spiritualism, valor, and cultural heritage that have left an indelible mark on the Indian subcontinent. Let’s delve together into the history of Amritsar, unearthing its deep-rooted heritage and exploring the events and monuments that make it a true gem of India’s history.
The Founding History of Amritsar
Amritsar’s history begins with its very name. “Amrit” means nectar, and “Sar” stands for a pond or pool. According to legend, Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru, founded the city in the late 16th century. He dug the sacred Amrit Sarovar (Pool of Nectar) at the center of the city, around which the Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) was later constructed. The city got its name from this sacred pool and has since become the spiritual and cultural epicenter of Sikhism.
There are many Gurdwaras in Punjab, but nothing like the Golden Temple in Amritsar. While, each Gurdwara in Punjab tells a story, there are a few that have a special significance. A popular legend has it that in 1569, Emperor Akbar, being an admirer of Sikh religion, visited Punjab to meet Guru Amar Das while on his way to Lahore from Delhi. The Mughal king was cordially received by Guru Amar Das and his followers. Akbar was very much keen on witnessing how the langar was run, and was pleased to know that the kitchen served food to all people irrespective of caste and class.
Complying with Guru’s order that anyone visiting him should not leave without eating the meal, Akbar gladly sat in rows called Pangat among the common men in Guru’s langar. While, sitting as equals with ordinary men.
Akbar makes a gift of Amritsar
Akbar not only loved the food but also offered a piece of land for running the langar. However, Guru Amar Das politely declined the offer saying the Guru likes to work hard and share their earnings by offering it to the langar for others’ welfare. A langar should, therefore, not be run on a royal grant.
Akbar accepted the Guru’s point of view, and gave the land to Bibi Bhani, the daughter of Guru Amar Das, as a wedding gift. On the direction of Guru Amar Das, his son-in-law Guru Ram Das founded the city of Amritsar upon the land gifted by Akbar.
Today, travellers, devotees of the Sikh Gurus, and people from other classes are served food to their satisfaction at this Gurdwara. The food that is leftover is given away to the cattle and birds – nothing goes to waste.
The Golden Temple – A Spiritual Icon
The Golden Temple, also known as Harmandir Sahib, is not just a religious site but a symbol of peace, equality, and unity. Its stunning architecture, covered in gold leaf, is a sight to behold, attracting millions of visitors each year. The temple represents the pinnacle of Sikh architecture and embodies the Sikh principles of service, equality, and devotion. Its construction and subsequent renovations are significant chapters in the history of Amritsar.
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Guru Arjan Sahib, the Fifth Nanak, conceived the idea of creating a central place of worship for the Sikhs and he himself designed the architecture of Sri Harmandir Sahib. Earlier the planning to excavate the holy tank (Amritsar or Amrit Sarovar) was chalked out by Guru Amardas Sahib, the Third Nanak, but it was executed by Guru Ramdas Sahib under the supervision of Baba Budha ji. The land for the site was acquired by the earlier Guru Sahibs on payment or free of cost from the Zamindars (landlords) of native villages. The plan to establish a town settlement was also made. Therefore, the construction work on the Sarovar (the tank) and the town started simultaneously in 1570. The work on both projects completed in 1577 A.D.
Jallianwala Bagh – a dark page in the history of Amritsar
ark Chapter Amritsar also witnessed one of the darkest incidents in the history of Amritsar in 1919, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. British troops, under the command of General Reginald Dyer, opened fire on a peaceful gathering of Punjabis, leading to the loss of hundreds of lives. Jallianwala Bagh has been preserved as a memorial, serving as a somber reminder of the sacrifices made during India’s struggle for independence.
Very few moments in the history of our sub-continent are as repulsive to remember and yet as significant to history as the infamous Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The horrendous incident of the brutal, cold-blooded murder of 500 to 600 peaceful protestors at the hands of British imperialist rule is considered a dark chapter in the history of the Indian struggle for independence.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place on April 13, 1919, when a group of peaceful protestors was gunned down in an enclosed park with only one exit. To commemorate the spirits of all the innocent lives lost in this incident, the Government of India erected a monument in 1951. A museum was also opened in March 2019, known as Yaad-e-Jallian Museum, to put forth an authentic account of the massacre.
Partition and its Impact
Amritsar played a pivotal role during the partition of India in 1947. The city, along with the whole of Punjab, witnessed mass migrations and communal tensions as the borders were redrawn. This period left an indelible mark on the Amritsar’s history, with many refugees finding shelter and new beginnings in Amritsar.
The Wagah Border – A Symbol of Unity and Separation
Just a short drive from Amritsar lies the Wagah Border, where the lowering of the flags ceremony takes place daily. This spectacle symbolizes the rivalry between India and Pakistan but also serves as a reminder of the shared history and culture of the two nations. It’s a must-see event that underscores the complex history of the region.
The Preservation of Tradition
Amritsar’s history is not just about monumental events; it’s also about preserving traditions and culture. The city is renowned for its traditional crafts, including Phulkari embroidery, and its culinary heritage, which includes iconic dishes like Amritsari kulcha and makki di roti. These cultural elements are interwoven into the city’s historical narrative.
Amritsar is more than a city; it’s a living testament to India’s historical, cultural, and spiritual legacy. It has witnessed both moments of despair and triumph, making it an essential destination for history enthusiasts, pilgrims, and anyone curious about India’s vibrant past. Amritsar’s story is not confined to the pages of history books; it’s an ongoing narrative that continues to evolve and inspire generations, making it a city of immense
About the Author
Abhinandan Thakur is a renowned blogger and the founder of Celeb Chronicles, a popular platform dedicated of entertainment and celebrity lifestyle. With a passion for writing and a keen interest in the world of celebrities, he has established himself as a prominent figure in the digital media industry.