Heritage Walk of Amritsar - the best way to explore the city from within

The Heritage Walk is a guided tour deep inside the narrow lanes and bye-lanes of the 400-year old city of Amritsar. One gets to see Katras, Akharas, Bungas, Havelis, and Hattis - the vocabulary of traditional town planning and architecture. The walk takes you back in time as you witness traditional trades and crafts being practised in the same place and in the same manner, as has done for centuries. It is, however, the famous intricately carved wooden facades that will take your breath away

Ah! I love the colours on these doors...

 

Background

Established in AD 1774 by Guru Ram Das, Amritsar city is seeped in history. For most tourists Golden Temple represents everything the city has to offer, however, there is much more to explore here. For a history enthusiast like me, the heritage walk through the old part of the city was a revelation as I never knew such beautiful lanes, houses and people existed here.

The walk

There are fourteen specific points where the walk takes a traveller, starting from the Town Hall and ending at the iconic Golden Temple. I was a part of a guided group, but did the walk away from the crowd and with Neelima. As a result we got lost many times and also explored lanes and by-lanes which were not even a part of the walk. It was really hot and sunny, but I loved the walk nevertheless.

Here is a list of these fourteen specific points:

  1. Town Hall - built by the British in 1866, the historic Town Hall is the centre of the Amritsar's local administration
  2. Gurdwara Saragarahi - this is dedicated to he the twenty one soldiers of the 36 Sikh Battalion who lost their lives bravely defending their posts on Spetember 12, 1987
  3. Qila Ahluwalia - the fort once belonged to Ahluwalia Misl whose famous leader Jassa Singh Ahluwalia played crucial role in repelling foreign invasions during the 18th Century
  4. Jalebiwala Chowk - located in the heart of Amritsar's commercial sector, it is a gastronome's delight
  5. Udasin Ashram Akhara Sangalwala - founded in 1771, it was originally known as Nirban Akhara after its founder
  6. Chitta Akhara - it is also known as Ganga raam Akhara after its founder Mahant Ganga Raam and it was established in 1781
  7. Darshani Deori - this marks the spot from where Sri Guru Arjun and Sri Guru Hargobind would stand to view the Golden Temple
  8. Baba Bohar - in the middle of the road neat the end of the Bartan Bazaar, they is a large banyan tree which is considered scared
  9. Thakurdwara Dariana Mal - entering the courtyard of the Thakurdwara is like stepping back in time, shedding light on the beautiful colonial style architecture that has influenced much of downtown Amritsar
  10. Chowrasti Atari - Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib, the sixth of the ten Gurus, built the Chowrasti Atari complesin the 1600s, with four passages and thirty-two shops
  11. Taksal (mint) - located in Katra Hari Singh, this is Amritsar;s first mint, where Sikh regime coins were once minted
  12. Thakurdwara Raja Tej Singh - it was built in Katra Jamadar in 1851 by Raja Tej Singh
  13. Crawling Street - this marks Jallianwala Baug shootout which killed hundreds of Sikhs on orders of General Dyer
  14. Ancient Passage - this ancient passage is a typical archway between various mohallas and katras of old Amritsar, established by Sikh Misls
Wooden Jharokhas...
And that's Neelima using her Lumia 1020 :)

 

The town hall is an old and imposing British colonial style building which was also the centre of administration back in the days. Much of it still houses government offices and quite a bit of it is under repair. But it is beautiful nevertheless.

However it's the walk in the streets which is most amazing. The life in lanes and the fabulous colours and textures of the old doors simply amazed me. I am currently on a lookout for historical doors in the cities that I visit, and so Amritsar was a heaven to me. Green and Blue doors dominate the houses, and most of them are stunningly beautiful. I am sure if I were alone, I would have convinced someone to actually invite me for tea and a look at their old house; becomes a little rough when you are a part of the group.

As you walk and see so many of these beautiful heritage buildings falling apart, your heart bleeds for them. Whether it is the Gurdwara Saragarhi which now has an imposing multi story guest house spoiling its backdrop, or the old houses in the lanes which have brick and mortar seen all over them, its the clash of old and new which is most visible everywhere.

Discovered this old temple inside a house in one of the lanes...
The house is falling apart, but the blue lives on...
One of the many hidden lanes....there must be so many stories here...

 

The lanes also house some really small and ancient temples which can otherwise remain absolutely undetected to a traveller unless you do the walk, or rather go off the walk on your own. I do not even remember the names of some of these places, and I think its best to discover them by yourself without any coordinates.

Map

You do not need a map, but here is a map to give an idea of what all will be covered...


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S
Siddhartha Joshi
Last Updated : Oct 06,2020
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