Monday, September 26, 2005

Amritsar : The epilouge

Day 2 in Amritsar
Covering the Jalianwala Bagh, Goldelden Temple and the Wgah Border in a day was hard for us tender mortals. We were totally drained by the heat and humidity of day 1 and so started late on day 2. Climate was no better the second day. We were to cover local spots and do shopping. Our train would leave at 9 in the night and so we manged to bargain for half day room rent at the hotel. We had in mind to visit the Durgiana Temple and the Ram Tirth. As the Durgiana Temple is withing the city, we started for that.

Durgiana Temple :
It was also the Janmastami day and thus the trip also served the ritual of visiting a temple for paying obeisance. This temple was started by efforts of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. It is built in the Golden Temple style with an inverted lotus dome. The dome here is probably of brass, not gold. Like the Golden Temple, this one also stands in the center of a large lake. Inside there are idols of Krishna and Ram. There is nothing to shower praise on the place. Being a regular feature of Hindu temples, I saw the first of the beggars in Amritsar. From the market outside we bought small Krishna idols as souvenirs.

Ram Tirth:
This is supposed to be the place where Valmiki had his ashram and where Sita gave birth to Luv and Kush after being abandoned by Lord Ram. This is one of the places in the sightseeing list of Amritsar. It was about 15 km from the city and half of the road was kutcha and in bad shape. It was dusty. Do not even think of going there in auto. A shock was waiting for us to unfold after this hard travel. It was a sight of apathy all around. There is a big tank only half of which was filled with water. We could see the old temple of Vakmiki Kutir in the distance on the other side of the tank. People living around have built modern temples to help tourist get over their disappointment. It is upto you whether you go to this temple and shell out offerings in reward for those running them. We avoided barring one or two. The sun was blazing down hard. Braving the sun, we managed to reach the main temple. Condition of the temple will make you wonder if it really is the place! It is managed by Sikhs and there co-exists a gurudwara as well. In fact, all Sikh gurus call themselves descendents of either Luv or Kush. It was quite tough to travel bare foot on the boiling tarmac of the temple complex. We still managed a complete coverage of the monuments there. There is well nearby which people believe is there since the days of Ramayana (look at the photo above). Its water is considered sacred. It looked old, but wondered if it is there from the days of Ramayana. We were told that water from this well was taken for purifying the Amrit Sarover in the Golden Temple when it was being dug. We also saw the place where Luv – Kush supposedly stopped the Ashwamedha horse of Lord Rama. There is another temple on the bank of the tank where Sita is said to have been cremated. You need to be too religious to believe all these, not like me. I am not heretic, but just skeptic.

I felt like doing a short cut to avoid the sun. But as advised completed the parikrama of the tank. We were told by the cab driver that this poor condition of the place is a result of neglect and corruption. Nothing is done by the Government or the temple management to improve attractiveness or beautification of the place. My suggestion is to avoid it. You will feel like wasting your time going there. For me – now I have been to both the places where Ramayana and Mahabharata had supposedly been written. (Mahabharata was written by Ved Vyas in a place called Vyas Ponthi located in Mana village near Badrinath. We went there in our Badrinath trip.)
So that concluded the sight seeing. But the travellouge will not be complete with some general information on Amritsar. So, here they follows --

Travelling to Amritsar:
The no. 329 Dehradun – Amritsar Lahori Passenger that leaves Dehradun daily at 7-10 pm is best avoided as it takes 5 hours to reach Saharanpur. So we had decided to catch the 2903 Golden Temple Mail from Saharanpur at midnight. Travelling by taxi to Saharnpur takes about one and half hour. (for God’s sake, hire a taxi from the taxi stand, not from the MK Travels in the Rajinder Nagar market near ONGC Colony). The train had dropped us at Amritsar at 6:30 in the morning, almost on time. While coming back we took the no. 330 Lahori Passenger that leaves Amritsar at 9 pm and dropped us at Saharanpur at 5:30 am next morning. The Golden Temple Mail leaves at 9:30 pm, but it drops you at Saharanpur at the uncomfortable hours of 3:30 in the morning. So, it is for those going to Delhi and beyond. Get off here as Lahori passenger takes almost 7 hours to reach Dehradun from Saharanpur. Buses to Dehradun are easily available from just outside the station anytime. We were home by 8 am.

Accommodation:
We then moved into a hotel named City Heart located hardy 50 mtrs from the Jalianwala Bagh memorial. It was quite hot and humid. We got AC rooms for 550 which was not a bad bargain. Hotels in this area charges higher as they are very close to the Golden Temple. Hotels further away are cheaper, but one should prefer to stay close to the Golden Temple. I saw many hotels near the Sangam cinema. The Golden Temple also runs Sarais, a kind of dharamsalas, with a very nominal charge of Rs.50/- for non AC and Rs.200/- for AC rooms. One can try for accommodation there as well. After all, it is just a matter of spending one night.

Local Traveling:
Autos are quite cheap as compared to other places. The cab that dropped us at hotel from station took just 50 bucks. For a complete day hiring of a taxi that includes local sightseeing and Wagah Border costs Rs.650/-. We hired a taxi for the trip to Wagah Border only for Rs.450/-. Next day we hired a taxi again for local sightseeing plus Ram Tirth about 15 kms away for 300/-. You can also hire an auto for local sightseeing. But avoid hiring an auto for going to Wagah Border, for traveling 60 km on auto is no fun, and also to Ram Tirth, as the road is bad and dusty. Ricksaws normally charges 5 bucks for a short distance ply and 10 bucks for little longer ply.

Shopping:
If you avoid the Durgiana temple and ram Tirth, then Amritsar becomes just one-day destination. You can even catch the Golden temple mail at 9:35 pm to come back. However, you may like to do some shopping in Amritsar. Everyone will tell you that clothes are cheap here. But we found not much difference between Dehradun and Amritsar price. On the way back from Wagah, one can buy cloths from the OCM factory retail shop that is by the main road. There is a market just outside the Golden Temple for souvenir shopping. I bought a sword, the symbol of courage of the Sikhs as a souvenir.

That’s all folks. Here are few numbers that may be of help :

Hotel City Heart : 2292282, 2554511, 2549301
Prince Taxi : 9815091104, 9814053268

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