If there is a city that I would visit again then it would be Amritsar. The narrow lanes retaining the old charm, the huge glass of lassi, the museums filled with history and the old forts and buildings. You can just walk around and something or the other comes around the corner. Amritsar is synonymous to the Golden Temple. Nothing can beat the serenity of this place. While I can spend a whole day and night at the Golden temple, there are many other offbeat places at Amritsar that I visited apart from the Golden Temple. And if you can drive around Amritsar there are some more places to explore. So here is a list of places to visit in Amritsar apart from the Golden Temple.
Contents - Read all the way though.
This is a temple constructed similar to the Golden temple. It is dedicated to Goddess Durga and hence called Durgiana. But there are other shrines too for Vishnu, Krishna, and Sita Devi. There is a place called Valmiki thirath, few kilometers away from here, where it is believed Sita Devi resided in the Valmiki ashram. And so these are the places where Ram and Sita walked. Sita finally goes into the earth right along with Durga ma. Am not sure if that happened exactly at this place but this temple has shrines for all these Gods along with this story. It is in the middle of a sacred lake, built as a marble structure and plated with gold. The temple is in between a crowded market. And you can find all the sounds and fragrance that you can find in a Hindu temple here. I spent an evening here watching the sunset by the lake. Durgiana mandir is also called as Laxmi Narayana Temple.
On the way to the Golden Temple comes 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 realize that this is the way General Dyer walked in and locked up the entrance, to feel that there were thousands of people assembled here and they were all massacred!! There is no fun in visiting this place. There are gunshots on the wall. There are blood stains on windows and the well into which most of them jumped to avoid the shooting. And it stirs you. The fight that they had gone through to get freedom! It is not an easy place to visit. There is a museum along with the garden. The garden has a memorial and Amara Jyothi (the fire that does not extinguish) is lit. Offer your prayers before heading out.
Coming from South India I have never visibly seen the pain of partition. And we have not even had elders to talk about that. Max to max we get to hear the stories about independence and the fight for freedom. But about partition and how families were torn apart, how people were killed in the process! I had no clue. I have read books but partition museum depicts it right in front of your face. And as you stand there and read about partition, look at the refugee camps they stayed at, listen to oral anecdotes from people who were directly affected by partition, it brings tears. You wonder why the country had to be divided at all, what good came out of it, 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 a clue as where the border line ran!! So much chaos. This museum is very very informative but it is also very very soul stirring.
The partition museum is at the town hall, at walkable distance from the Golden Temple. It is closed on Mondays and opened on the rest of the days. The museum is open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Partition Museum is a must visit of all the museums found in Amritsar.
Gobindgarh fort was full of surprises and a lot fun. It is not a mammoth fort as such but they have made it fun to keep the tourists occupied. It is a mud or red brick fort. The entrance looks plain and the fort is hidden behind. Visit the fort in the evening and get tickets for 7D show and the laser show, totally worth it. The fort is also called as Bhangian da Killa and it was 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 room to store ammunition, water, the stock of groceries, etc.
Most of these are now converted into museums. The Warfare museum depicts the weapons used, silicon sculptures of Sikh people depicting the use of weapons and art of Punjab. The silicon statues are so real and a job well done. From depicting dance forms to the life of people and about the Nihang, this museum was very well organized. Just below this is Toshakhana which means coin museum. Apparently Kohinoor diamond was housed in this Gobindgarh fort and in this very room, so a replica is now placed in its place.
Visit Gobindgarh fort in the evening around 5ish. By evening they start the dance and music shows too. Punjabi folk songs are played and you get to see cultural performances. There is a 7D show depicting the life of Raja Ranjit Singh. You get to learn the history of the king, he was prominent 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 and makes you feel to be part of the show. Post sunset there is also a laser show. I have never seen a laser show done so brilliantly. It is about partition and independence. I think by 8 pm it starts, a one hour show that goes in English and then at 9 pm they play Hindi version. It was truly stunning and great technology. It will take your breath away. I strongly recommend it. If you want to visit all of this the ticket is expensive, around 400 bucks. But the laser show you should not miss.
Valmiki Tirath is about 20 km away from the Golden Temple, Amritsar. Also called Ram Tirath, 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 temple structures of Punjab, there is a sacred lake 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 a little behind. 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. There is a place which states this is where Sita Devi and Lava Kusha used to take bath. And if you know about Ramayana, you will be aware of the battle between Lava Kusha and Ram because Lava Kusha ties up the Ashwamedha horse to a tree. So there is a tree here that is revered as the tree to which the horse was tied up. It is a historical and religious place to visit.
Sarai Amanat Khan
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 enroute Attari Wagah Border. Sarai Amanat Khan was built by the Persian calligrapher Amanat Khan. He was the one who inscribed verses from the Quran on the walls of Taj Mahal. Even on the walls of Sarai Amanat Khan, you can see some works of calligraphy done which I could not decipher. 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 it seems he started to live here in his later days.
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. A stable and then a well as well. Around the place looks like fort walls. What is surprising to see is that the colored tiles on the building are still intact!! They can pay a little more attention and make it a gated place and promote tourism. I had hired a cab for the entire day and google map kind of helped me reach here.
A place very close to the border and would 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. My cabbie from Amritsar also did it know about this place. So you need to rely on maps and go. Kind of isolated place. When I walked through the gates of Pul Moran, 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 traveled 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 married her.
The border with Pakistan runs close to Pul Moran and hence it had its effect during partition. People kind of left the place and only a few farmers are 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 with the colorful 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 manage to take pictures past the grill door. This is one detour you must take and visit en route Attari Wagah border..
Pul Kanjari War Memorial
Just around the corner of Pul Kanjari Baradari is the Pul Kanjari War Memorial. Pakistan occupied Pul Kanjari during the Indo-Pak war in 1965 and 1971 and India recaptured it. A memorial has been erected in this place to honor the martyrs. The battle of PulKanjari was fought by two Sikhs along with BSF jawans. They launched a fierce attack to recapture PulKanjari. And to honor the martyrs in this war the memorial is raised. It is a small memorial, standing amidst trees that have been planted in honor of the martyrs. Though no one is around the place is well maintained. I paid my respects before moving to Wagah border.
Tarn Taran Sahib
While I was at Gobindgarh fort, one of the travelers mentioned about Tarn Taran Sahib and if I have time I should visit it. I promptly added it to my tour and I clubbed this along with Sarai Amanat Khan and Pul Kanjari. You must visit too, just to see that holy tank! And I mean it. It is the world’s biggest Sarovar and it was built way back in the 1700s. Can you imagine that? I couldn’t 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. I was pressed with the time that I couldn’t do a complete walk around the Sarovar. The Gurudwara has gold plated on the walls of it. Not like the Golden temple but a portion of it, making it look so bright and glittery. The best thing, however, is the inside, the sanctum sanctorum. The interior walls and the ceiling have the best and best of the designs, stuccos, murals, paintings, like everything. I stood there watching at the interiors for a while. Such bright colors and they were very much intact that I have not seen in any other Gurudwara. The most beautiful Gurudwara of the lot that I had visited. Do watch the video to feel the enormity of the Sarovar.
These are some of the places I found interesting apart from the Golden Temple. Within Amritsar you can do a plethora number of things like go for heritage walks, drink lassi at Giani lassi, go on food walks, walk around the bazaars and shop shoes,
Here is where to find the perfect lassi at Amritsar – Click Here
While writing such lists some of the bloggers would write visit Sikh museum, Akal Takht, langar hall, etc. All those are within the Golden temple complex. So am 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 a lot of museums by then and saw a video on the life of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, so I skipped the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum.
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 really 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. Like I said, I would suggest to hire a cab and do Valmiki Tirath, Tarn Taran, Sarai Amanat Khan, Pul Kanajari and Attari Wagah border all on one day. By 3pm or 4pm you would be done with all places and can reach Attari Wagah border. You will not regret this day trip from Amritsar for it is all through lush paddy fields or mustard fields depending on the season. Have fun 🙂