Amritsar in the north-western part of India is the city closest to the India-Pakistan border. It is on the Grand Trunk Road which originates in Bangladesh, runs through North India and up to Kabul in Afghanistan. Built by Sher Shah Suri in the 16th century, it was a very important trade route and continues to be an important artery of the Indian subcontinent.
The best time to visit Amritsar is between October and March. The temperatures do dip sharply at the peak of winter, but it is a far more tolerable time than summer when the temperatures are consistently more than 40 degrees Celsius. Heavy showers hit the city in the monsoon months of June, July and August.
Amritsar is the spiritual and cultural centre of Sikhs. Indians and foreigners from across the world throng the city throughout the year. Besides the Golden Temple, the evening closing ceremony at the Wagah border and the memorial for the Jalianwallah Bagh massacre also draw large crowds.
A Royal Visit
A road crammed between a mall and some nondescript structure, leads off the main street towards Ranjit’s Svaasa. The heart sinks. Is the
haveli-experience described on the website an empty promise?
The rustic wooden gate creaks ‘no’ as the 200-year old haveli comes into view. The façade is primarily red brick with whitewashed accents and festooned by creepers, planters and trees. The corridor leading from the reception to the rooms is covered with pictures and other memorabilia dating back seven generations and spanning 200 years.
Lounge chairs, overstuffed armchairs and sofas are scattered through the patio and the lounges. They provide cosy spots to catch up on some reading or chat with other guests over coffee. Family pictures and other artefacts that have been passed down through generations, adorn the mantels and shelves and add to the home-like environ.
The unique décor and colour scheme of each room adds to the personalised feel of the hotel. Every accessory too has been chosen with care to complement the look of that particular room. The use of colours like burgundy, emerald green, etc. on the walls, antique furniture and plush furnishings add to
the regal appearance. Amenities are not compromised upon but they blend into the background, providing ample comfort without interfering with
Touched By Midas
Feet washed and heads covered, thousands of visitors enter the Harmandir Sahib each day. Devotees arrive there to pay obeisance, while others gaze at the gleaming structure that stands in the centre of the large rectangular water tank.
In the 19th century Maharaja Ranjit Singh covered the upper floors of the Gurudwara with gold, and it became renowned as the Golden Temple. Exquisite gold and marble work adorns the dome and walls of the structure. The buildings surrounding the tank are stark white and help accentuate the sheen of the main structure in the middle of the tank. The golden top of the Gurudwara shines brilliantly under the sun through the day and at night it takes on a different sort of beauty as it sparkles under the starlit sky.
Handiwork On Cloth
Phulkari literally means flower work and refers to the embroidery typical to this part of the world. Traditionally, the embroidery was done by the women of the family for their personal use and was not for sale. Silk threads in various hues were woven in and out to make complex floral and geometric patterns on the cloth. The patterns were passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth.
Today, Phulkari has moved on from the Punjabi bride’s trousseau to haute couture and machines are being used to replicate the hand-stitched patterns. In Amritsar, shops lined side by side in the Kapra Market and Hall Bazaar of Amritsar are stacked with phulkari fabric, scarves, footwear and headgear.
The Thai Chi restaurant at the Hyatt, Amritsar is a haven off the bustling bazaars and streets of the city.
The understated décor and beige-toned palette create a soothing ambience. Intricately stencilled partitions help form semi-private spaces within the restaurant. The al fresco seating option looks out on to a well-landscaped patio.
Text By Himali Kothari