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Amritsar ( , , translation: The Pool Of The Nectar Of Immortality) is a city in the northwestern part of India and is the administrative headquarters of Amritsar district in the state of Punjabmarker, Indiamarker. The 2001 Indian census reported the population of the city to be over 1,500,000, with that of the entire district numbering just over 3,695,077. Amritsar is east of Lahoremarker, Pakistanmarker and therefore, very close to India's western border with Pakistan. Another origin of Amritsar's name is from Amŗit-Sagar, "The Ocean of the Nectar of Immortality". This is a very important ocean to the Sikh religion, as the name implies.

Amritsar is home to Harmandir Sahibmarker, also known as the Golden Temple, the spiritual and cultural center of the Sikh religion. This important Sikh shrine attracts more visitors than the Taj Mahalmarker in Agra and is the number one destination for non-resident-Indians (NRI) in the whole of India. There is Baba Jivan Singh temple dedicated to the brave Sikh. The 9th Sikh Guru Teg Bahadur was killed by the Mughals in Delhimarker where there is Guru Sish Ganj Gurudwara. Baba Jivan Singh ji walked from Anandpur to Delhimarker and managed to capture the head (sis) of Guru Teg Bahadur and presented that to Guru Gobind Singh.

One of Bhagvan Valmiki's or Nirankar Valmiki's ashram was considered to have been situated close to Amritsar. It is said that Goddess Sita, wife of Lord Rama gave birth to Lava and Kush. The forest around the ashram was considered Valmiki's "Tapo van" (forest of meditation). The Durgiana temple is also a very famous Hindu temple located on the city.

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 Indiamarker, Indira Gandhi. The main commercial activities include tourism, carpets and fabrics, farm produce, handicrafts, service trades and light engineering. The city is popular and 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 major cities of the Punjab state in India. This city was founded by Guru Ram Das ji in 1574 on land bought by him for 700 rupees (14.42 USD or 8.9 GBP) from the owners of the village of Tung. Earlier Guru Ram Das ji 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 ji 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).

Since then this city has been known as Amritsar (after the name of the sarovar). The first stone of the foundation of the Darbar Sahib is said to have been laid by Sain Mian Mir Sahib, a Muslim saint from Punjab, at Guru Arjan Dev Ji's request. A story in Sikh lore tells of a mason who then corrected the stone's alignment and was chided by Guru Arjan Dev ji for doing so with the Saint stating that the re-alignment was symbolic of the complex being continually attacked and rebuilt. Masons worked on laying the foundation on January 3, 1588.

Sant Mian Mir was very friendly with Guru Arjan Dev and tried to intercede with the Guru's subsequent torture and death at the hands of the Emperor Jahangir. He continued to be a friend of the next Guru, Guru Hargobind ji, and again worked on attaining his freedom when he was held for some time at Gwalior Fort. In 1590, Guru Arjan Dev ji moved to the village of Wadali where Guru Hargobind ji was born on June 19, 1590. By 1601, the Darbar Sahib was fully ready. In 1603-1604, the first volume of the Guru Granth Sahib ji, the Sikh scriptures, was prepared in this city and was installed at Darbar Sahib on August 16, 1604.

It is here that the Akal Takht (The throne of immortality, lit. the never ending throne) the seat of Sikh political power was built by Guru Hargobind ji in 1609. Two flags representing temporal and spiritual authority and Sikh sovereignty were set up in front of the Akal Takht. Here Guru Hargobind ji wore two swords of Mirimarker and Piri (temporal and transcendental authority).

On April 13, 1634, the Mughal army attacked Guru Hargobind here. From 1635 to 1698, Amritsar remained in the control of the Mina family (descendants of Pirthi Chand). During this period, on November 23, 1664, Guru Tegh Bahadur visited the town. In April 1698, Bhai Mani Singh was appointed as the caretaker of the shrines of Amritsar.

The Mughal chief of Patti tried to occupy Amritsar several times. One such attempt was made in April 1709. The Sikhs, under the command of Bhai Mani Singh and Bhai Tara Singh of Dhillwan, repelled this attack. When Baba Banda Singh Bahadur occupied several areas in the Punjab, Bhai Mani Singh chose to leave Amritsar in order to avoid the Mughal attacks. On December 30, 1711, the Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah, granted Ajit Singh Palit the charge of Amritsar in order to use him against Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. After the death of Bahadur Shah, Ajit Singh Palit returned to Delhimarker. In 1721, Bhai Mani Singh returned to Amritsar and re-started regular worship. His first act was to solve a dispute between the Tat Khalsa and the Bandai Khalsa factions for the right to the management of the shrines in Amritsar.

On March 29, 1733, a major gathering of Sikhs was held here in front of Akal Takht. During the same time a Sarbat Khalsa gathering was also held. It discussed the Mughal offer of Nawab-hood. In April 1734, Bhai Mani Singh was arrested and was executed in Lahore on June 24, 1734.

In 1740, Massa Ranghar, an official, desecrated the Darbar Sahib. He was killed for this action by Bhai Sukha Singh and Bhai Mahtab Singh, on August 11, 1740. In 1757 an Afghan army of Ahmed Shah Abdali demolished both the Darbar Sahib and the Akal Takht. Baba Deep Singh led several thousand Sikhs against the Afghans. A major battle was fought on November 11, 1757. Baba Deep Singh and several thousand Sikhs were killed. Again, in 1762, the Darbar Sahib complex was again demolished by an Afghan army. On December 1, 1764, the Afghan army made another attack. 30 Sikhs, led by Jathedar Gurbakhsh Singh, fought against the mammoth Afghan army and were killed. In 1765, the Sikhs began re-construction of the shrines. The central part was ready by 1776.

During the eighteenth century, Amritsar, like the Sikh community as a whole, witnessed many vicissitudes of history. It suffered repeatedly desecration and destruction until it was finally liberated upon the establishment of sovereign authority of the Sikh misls, principalities, over the Punjab in 1765. The town was thereafter under the control of several misl chiefs although its surrounding district was held by Sardār Harī Siṅgh of the Bhāṅgī misl. Different sardārs or chiefs constructed their own buṅgās or residential houses around the principal sarovar and also their respective kaṭṛās or wards encouraging traders and craftsmen to reside in them and over which each exercised exclusive control. The sacred shrines were however administered by a joint council comprising representatives of the chiefs who had made endowments in land for their maintenance. Even prior to the time of Sikh ascendancy, joint councils, known as Sarbat Khalsa (lit. the entire Sikh Panth), to take crucial decisions on political matters had been held at Amritsar. Now again with all misl chiefs having their buṅgās there, it became the common capital of the Khālsā. Devotees from far and near, free to visit the holy city after six decades of the severest persecution, flocked to Gurū kī Nagarī (the Gurū's town). So did businessmen and tradesmen to take advantage of the increasing pilgrim and resident population. Trade, commerce and crafts flourished in different kaṭṛās each having its own markets and manufacturings. By the end of the eighteenth century, Amritsar had already become Punjab's major trading center. Yet the town with its multiple command setup remained a confederated rather than a composite habitation until Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh (1780-1839) rose to power and consolidated the whole of the Punjab into one sovereign State.

Ranjīt Singh, chief of the Sukarchakīā misl, who first occupied, in 1799, Lahore, the traditional capital of the Punjab, and declared himself Mahārājā in 1801, extended his hegemony to Amritsar in 1805 when he took over from his traditional rivals, the Bhāngī chiefs, their fort with its mint striking the Nānakshāhī rupee, and the famous Zamzamā gun. The fort of the Rāmgarhīā misl was occupied in 1815 and with the possessions of Rānī Sadā Kaur of Kanhaiyā misl and Fateh Singh Āhlūwālīā in Amritsar during the early 1820s, Ranjīt Singh's occupation of Amritsar was complete. He then constructed a double wall and a moat around the city with twelve gates and their corresponding bridges over the moat. Already in 1809 he had constructed the Gobindgarh Fort outside Lahaurī Gate complete with a formidable moat, three lines of defense and several bastions and emplacements for heavy guns. Amritsar thus had already become his second capital. The royal Toshākhānā or treasury was kept in Gobindgarh Fort which was also used as the royal residence during the Mahārājā's frequent visits to the city before his palace in the city, Rām Bāgh, was completed in 1831. Several members of the nobility also raised palatial houses and beautiful gardens in and around the city. Ranjīt Singh devoutly provided liberal funds to have the dome and exterior of the Darbar Sahib gold plated and to have the interior ornamented with fine filigree and enamel work and with decorative murals and panels in marble inlaid with colored stone. Sardār Desā Singh Majīthīā (died 1832), who had been appointed manager of the holy shrines in the city since its occupation by Ranjīt Singh, donated gold for gilding the top of Bābā Attal. Around 1830, Ranjit Singh had Muslim goldsmiths to gold-plate some parts of the inner section of the Darbar Sahib. The Gold plating led to it being called the Golden Temple.

In 1846, the British established themselves in the Lahore Darbar, with a resident in the Court; and, Amritsar became a place of frequent visits by the British. In order to keep the sanctity of the city, H. M. Lawrence, the British resident, issued an order, dated March 24, 1847, asking the English people to follow Sikh protocol while visiting Sikh places of worship. In 1858, a municipal committee was set up here. In 1862, train services between Lahore and Amritsar were started. Khalsa College, the first Sikh college was established here in 1892. In 1969 Guru Nanak Dev University was established in Amritsar. In 1913, the city was electrified. In September 1915, the British declared Amritsar a holy City. This order was later annulled after Indian independence in August 15, 1947 by the Indian government. On April 13, 1919, General Reginald Dyer opened fire on the gathering, at Jallianwala Bagh, near Darbar Sahib, killed 379 people and wounded another 1200. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (S.G.P.C.) and the Shiromani Akali Dal were established here in 1920.

In addition to the damage done by the Afghan armies the Akal Takht was damaged by the Indian government forces in June 1984 during Operation Blue Star launched to deal with a Sikh secessionist movement which had fortified the Holy site with automatic weapons and rocket launchers. The Group was headed by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale head of the Damdami Taksal, a mobile college begun by Guru Gobind Singh. The Indian government repaired it in September 1984. The Sikhs promptly removed the work done by the Indian Government and re-did the repairs themselves. They began demolishing the repairs on January 26, 1986. The present structure was repaired by five service-groups headed by Baba Thakar Singh of Bhindranmehta Jatha.

The city 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 Templemarker. The city has central old city called walled city. It has narrow zig zag streets mostly developed in the 17th and 18th century. The city has a peculiar example of introvert planning system and has uniques areas called Katras. The Katras are self styled residential units that provided unique defence system during attacks on the city.

Harimandir Sahib
The city lies on the main Grand Trunk Road (GT Road) from Delhimarker to Amritsar connecting to Lahoremarker in Pakistanmarker. The G. T. Road, built by Sher Shah Suri, runs through the whole of the northern half of the Indian subcontinent, connecting Peshawarmarker, Pakistanmarker to Sonargaon, Bangladeshmarker. 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 Birminghammarker, Torontomarker, Dubaimarker, Singaporemarker, Tashkentmarker, Ashgabatmarker, Londonmarker etc from the Raja Sansi International Airportmarker, 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 Districtmarker. 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 undivided 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 the city. 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.

link title==Images of Amritsar==

Image:Harimandir.jpg| Golden TempleImage:Kothe-da-mela.jpg| Kothe Da Mela in Vallah AmritsarImage:Kothe-da-mela-2.jpg | Kothe Da Mela in Vallah Amritsar

Modern Amritsar

Amritsar is currently witnessing rapid urban growth. Government of India and Government of Punjab have unveiled a Rs. 3,150 Crore plan to modernize Amritsar. . Money from the plan would fund construction of roads, water and sewage management, and a mass Rapid transit system. Amritsar has witnessed a spurt in high-end residential property and multiplex development, courtesy the government’s decision to set up a special economic zone there.

Leading property developers from north India have lined up a series of townships comprising of villas, luxury apartments, service apartments and penthouses. About a dozen malls are also in various phases of completion. A new city Convention Centre has been planned (as of October 2007), as are four 5-star hotels by the Radisson group (set to open by October 2008), the Taj group of hotels, the Holiday Inn Group and the Marriott group.

New localities like Sahej enclave are set up by Puda for the Elite in town. Amritsar lately has become hub for medicare for North India. To protect Amritsar's historical and religious heritage, part of the new budget is dedicated to the preservation of religious shrines in the city .

Geography and Climate

 Amritsar is located at    with an average elevation of 234 metres (768 ft).


Amritsar has a continental climate, typical of Northwestern India and experiences four seasons primarily: winter season (November to March) with temperature ranges from to about , summer season (April to June) where temperatures can reach , monsoon season (July to September) and post-monsoon season (September to November). Annual rainfall is about . Since 1970, the lowest temperature, , was recorded on 21 Jan 2005 and the highest temperature, , was recorded on 21 May 1978.

Demographics

As of 2007, Sikhs form a majority in Amritsar consisting about 74% of the population, Hindus being the largest minority at 26%. Males and females constitute 55% and 45% of the population, respectively. Amritsar has an average literacy rate of 75% (which is higher than the national average of 59.5%). 15% of the population is under 6 years of age. The main spoken language in Amritsar and in the surrounding villages is the Punjabi dialect of Maajhi, considered to be Standard Punjabi. Other languages spoken in the city are Hindi and English.

District Administration



  • Administration of departments such as public works, health, education, agriculture, animal husbandry, etc is headed by district officers who belong to various Punjab state services.




  • The Divisional Forest Officer, an officer belonging to the Indian Forest Service is responsible for the management of forests and wildlife in the district. He is assisted by officers of the Punjab Forest Service, other Punjab Forest officials and Punjab Wildlife officials.


  • A Municipal corporation is responsible for the management of public works and health systems in the city of Amritsar. The municipal corporation is a democratic body of councilors and is presided over by the Mayor, who is elected by the councilors. At present, there are more than 70 councilors.


  • The state government's department of Town and Country Planning has a district level office of District Town Planning. Since the formation of this office, the city has not received a comprehensive development plan . Amritsar has been selected by the government of India recently to receive Rs. 1000 Crore in development assistance over the next few years .


Transport

Amritsar Railway Station at night
Amritsar's international airport, Raja Sansi International Airportmarker, has more than 150 domestic and international flights during the week with daily connections to Delhimarker, Chandigarhmarker and Jammu.

Amritsar is well connected by trains with daily trains from Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and other major Indian cities. The main railway station in Amritsar is the Amritsar Railway Station. There is a special train that runs west to Wagah (Attari Border), which is the last stop on the border in India before continuing on to Pakistan. Indian Railways has proposed a high speed rail line to serve Delhi-Amritsar via Chandigarh and Ambalamarker. The train is to run at high speeds of 350 km/h, a first of its kind in India. It will travel the distance of 445 km between the two cities in 2.5 hours (compared to nearly 8 hours right now). Companies from Japan, China, UK and Canada have expressed an interest in the project. The contract for building the line will be awarded at the end of May, 2008. Other lines of this kind have proposed in Mumbai, Ahmadabad, Pune, and Kolkata.

Amritsar is located on the historic Grand Trunk Road or G.T Road or National Highway 1 (NH 1) and therefore, very well connected to the road network. Daily bus services run to and from Ambala, Delhi, Chandigarh and Jammu. A sum of Rs 450 crore is being spent to expand the Amritsar-Jalandhar stretch of G.T. Road to four lanes. In 2006, the government of Punjab finalized plans for the construction of an elevated road with four lanes connected to the National highway for better access to the Golden Temple.

For transportation within Amritsar city, rickshaws, autorickshaws, taxis and buses are easily available. Recently, the government of India and Punjab pledged Rs. 2,100 Crore for the development of a Mass Rapid Transport system for the city. It is hoped that this will help in relieving traffic congestion and improving air quality.

Religious Shrines

The following is a list of the prominent Sikh Gurudwaras and sacred places in the city and its vicinity:

  • Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple)
  • Dhan Dhan Khalsa
  • Gurdwara Manji Sahib, Devan Asthan
  • Gurdwara Baba Atal Sahib
  • Gurdwara Atari Sahib
  • Gurdwara Patshahi Shevi Dand
  • Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj Sahib Ji (Dhan Dhan Baba Deep Singh Ji)
  • Gurdwara Ramsar Sahib
  • Gurdwara Baba Deep Singh, built at the site of the martyrdom of Baba Deep Singh
  • Gurdwara Bebaaksar Sahib
  • Gurdwara Janam Asthan Shri Guru Hargobind Sahib
  • Gurdwara Janam Asthan Shri Guru Amar Das Sahib
  • Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Tarn Taranmarker (twenty five km south of Amritsar)
  • Gurdwara Baba Budha Sahib Janam Asthan
  • Gurdwara Guru da Bagh, Kokawali
  • Gurdwara Bowli Sahib, Goindwal Sahib
  • Gurdwara Bir Baba Budha, Thattah-Chabhal
  • Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Khadur Sahib
  • Gurdwara Chheharta Sahib, Guru Hargobind Ji
  • Gurdwara Baba Bakala, where Bhai Makhan Shah proclaimed that he had found the ninth Sikh Guru in Guru Teg Bahadur
  • Gurdwara Beed Baba Buddha Sahib
  • Gurdwara Kaulsar Sahib
  • Gurdwara Tala Sahib
  • Gurdwara Bhai Manjh Sahib Ji
  • Gurdwara Pau Wind Sahib Ji (Dhan Dhan Baba Deep Singh Ji)
  • Gurdwara Guru Ki Wadali
  • Gurdwara Chola Sahib
  • Gurdwara Gurdwara Guru Ki Kothri
  • Gurdwara Gurusar Satlani Sahib
  • Gurdwara Pipli Sahib
  • Gurdwara Dera Sahib
  • Gurdwara San Sahib
  • Gurdwara Baba Adali Sahib
  • Gurdwara Jassa Singh Ahluvalia
  • Gurdwara Santokhsar Sahib
  • Gurdwara Shaheed Ganj Baba Gurbaksh Singh
  • Gurdwara Sardar Natha Singh Shaheed


The following is a list of important Hindu Temples in the city and its vicinity:
  • Durgiana Temple alias Sitla Mandir
  • Kali Mata Mandir
  • Mata Lal Devi Mandir
  • Bijli Pehalwan Mandir- Lawrence Road
  • Purshotam Das Mandir
  • Gopal Mandir- Majitha Road
  • Ramtirth- back side Guru Nanak Dev University
  • Longaa Wali Devi Madir- Katra Jaimal Singh


References

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