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Amritsar

This article is about the city. For the district see Amritsar district.

A typical chilly Amritsar morning

Amritsar (; , historically also known as R md spur and colloquially as , Ambarsar) is a city in the north-western part of India. It is the spiritual center for the Sikh religion and the administrative headquarters of the Amritsar district in the state of Punjab.

It is home to the Harmandir Sahib (referred to as the "Golden Temple" in the western media), the spiritual and cultural center for the Sikh religion. This important Sikh shrine attracts more visitors than the Taj Mahal with more than 100,000 visitors on week days alone and is the most popular destination for Non-resident Indians (NRI) in the whole of India. The city also houses the Sikh temporal and political authority, Akal Takht, as well as the Sikh Parliament.

The 2011 Indian census reported the population of the city to be 1,132,761. Amritsar is situated northwest of state capital Chandigarh and is east of Lahore, Pakistan and therefore, very close to India's western border with Pakistan.

The main commercial activities include tourism, carpets and fabrics, farm produce, handicrafts, service trades, and light engineering. The city is known for its rich cuisine and culture, and for the tragic incident of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in 1919 under British Rule. Amritsar is home to Central Khalsa Orphanage, which was once a home to Shaheed Udham Singh, a prominent figure in the Indian independence movement.

Contents


History

Amritsar is one of the largest cities of the Punjab state in India. The city origin lays in the village of Tung, and was named after the lake founded by the fourth Sikh Guru Ram Das in 1574 on land bought by him for 700 rupees from the owners of the village of Tung. Earlier Guru Ram Das 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 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.)

Amritsar is dominated by the history of Sikhs and many of their sacred shrines are found in and around the city. Amritsar's central walled city has narrow streets mostly developed in the 17th and 18th century. The city is a peculiar example of an introverted planning system with unique areas called Katras. The Katras are self styled residential units that provided unique defence system during attacks on the city.

The city lies on the main Grand Trunk Road (GT Road) from Delhi to Amritsar connecting to Lahore in Pakistan. The G. T. Road, built by Sher Shah Suri, runs through the whole of the northern half of the Indian subcontinent, connecting Peshawar, Pakistan to Sonargaon, Bangladesh. 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 Birmingham, Toronto, Dubai, Singapore, Tashkent, Ashgabat, London etc. from the Raja Sansi International Airport, recently renamed as Guru Ramdas International Airport. The airport is being developed for increasing demand in future; a new International inbound and outbound terminal is operational, and a cargo terminal is under construction. The city is the administrative center for the Amritsar District. However, it did not become the industrial center of Punjab due to its proximity to the volatile Indo-Pakistan border.

Partition of 1947

Partition of British 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 Amritsar. 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.

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

left Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, involving the killing of over 300 Indian civilians by a senior British military officer, Reginald Edward Harry Dyer which took place on 13 April 1919 in the heart of Amritsar, the holiest city of the Sikhs, took place on a day sacred to them as the birth anniversary of the Khalsa (Vaisakhi day).

Jallianwala Bagh, a garden belonging to the Jalla, derives its name from that of the owners of this piece of land in Sikh times. It was then the property the family of Sardar Himmat Singh Jallevalia (d. 1829), a noble in the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780 1839), who originally came from the village of Jalla, now in Fatehgarh Sahib district of the Punjab. The family were collectively known as Jallhevale or simply Jallhe or Jalle, although their principal seat later became Alavarpur in Jallandhar district. The site, once a garden or garden house, was in 1919 an uneven and unoccupied space, an irregular quadrangle, indifferently walled, approximately 225 x 180 metres which was used more as a dumping ground.

In the Punjab, during World War I (1914 18), there was considerable unrest particularly among the Sikhs, first on account of the demolition of a boundary wall of Gurdwara Rakab Ganj at New Delhi and later because of the activities and trials of the Ghadrites almost all of whom were Sikhs.

In India as a whole, too, there had been a spurt in political activity mainly owing to the emergence of two leaders Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi (1869 1948) who after a period of struggle against the British in South Africa, had returned to India in January 1915 and Mrs Annie Besant (1847 1933), head of the Theosophical Society of India, who established, on 11 April 1916, Home Rule League with autonomy for India as its goal.

In December 1916, the Indian National Congress, at its annual session held at Lucknow, passed a resolution asking the British government to issue a proclamation announcing that it is the aim and intention of British policy to confer self government on India at an early date."

On 10 April, Satyapal and Kitchlew were called to the deputy commissioner's residence, arrested and sent off by car to Dharamsetla, a hill town, now in Himachal Pradesh. This led to a general strike in Amritsar. Excited groups of citizens soon merged together into a crowd of about 50,000 marching on to protest to the deputy commissioner against the deportation of the two leaders.

The crowd, however, was stopped and fired upon near the railway foot-bridge. According to the official version, the number of those killed was 12 and of those wounded between 20 and 30. But evidence before the Congress Enquiry Committee put the number of the dead between 20 and 30.

Crowds react to the intimidation

As those killed were being carried back through the streets, an angry mob of people went on the rampage. Government offices and banks were attacked and damaged, and five Europeans were beaten to death. One Miss Marcella Sherwood, manager of the City Mission School, who had been living in Amritsar district for 15 years working for the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society, was attacked by a mob in a narrow street, the Kucha Kurrichhan. Beaten, she was rescued by local Indians who hid her from the mob and moved her to the fort.

The civil authorities, unnerved by the unexpected fury of the mob, called in the army the same afternoon. The ire of the people had by and large spent itself, but a sullen hatred against the British persisted. There was an uneasy calm in the city on 11 April. In the evening that day, Brigadier-General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer born ironically at Murree in the Punjab hills, commander of the 45th Infantry Brigade at Jalandhar, arrived in Amritsar incensed at the attack on an English lady, instructed the troops of the garrison regarding reprisals against Indians.

Meeting at Jallianwala bagh

Jallianwala Bagh memorial He immediately established de facto army rule, though the official proclamation to this effect was not made until 15 April. The troops at his disposal included 475 British and 710 Indian soldiers. On 12 April he issued an order prohibiting all meetings and gatherings. On 13 April which marked the Baisakhi festival, a large number of people, mostly Sikhs, had poured into the city from the surrounding villages. Local leaders called upon the people to assemble for a meeting in the Jallianvala Bagh at 4:30 in the evening.

Brigadier-General Dyer set out for the venue of the meeting at 4.30 with 50 riflemen and two armoured cars with machine guns mounted on them. Meanwhile, the meeting had gone on peacefully, and two resolutions, one calling for the repeal of the Rowlatt Act and the other condemning the firing on 10 April, had been passed. A third resolution protesting against the general repressive policy of the government was being proposed when Dyer arrived at about 5:15 p.m. He deployed his riflemen on an elevation near the entrance and without warning or ordering the crowd to disperse, opened fire.

The firing continued for about 20 minutes whereafter Dyer and his men marched back the way they had come. 1650 rounds of .303-inch ammunition had been fired. Dyer's own estimate of the killed based on his rough calculations of one dead per six bullets fired was between 200 and 300. The official figures were 379 killed and 1200 wounded

Operation Bluestar

Operation Bluestar (3 6 June 1984) was an Indian military operation ordered by Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India[1] to remove sikh fighters from the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The operation was carried out by Indian army troops with tanks and armoured vehicles.[2] Militarily successful, the operation aroused immense controversy, and the government's justification for the timing and style of the attack are highly debated.[3] Operation Blue Star was included in the Top 10 Political Disgraces by India Today magazine.[4]

Official reports put the number of deaths among the Indian army at 83 and the number of civilian deaths at 492, though some independent estimates run as high as 1500.[5][6] In addition, the CBI is considered responsible for seizing historical artifacts and manuscripts in the Sikh Reference Library before burning it down.[7]

The military action led to an uproar amongst Sikhs worldwide and the increased tension following the action led to assaults on members of the Sikh community within India. Some Sikh soldiers in the Indian army mutinied, many Sikhs resigned from armed and civil administrative office and a few returned awards and honors they had received from the Indian government.[8] Four months after the operation, on 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards in what is viewed as an act of vengeance. Following her assassination, more than 5000 Sikhs were killed in anti-Sikh pogroms.[9] Within the Sikh community itself, Operation Blue Star has taken on considerable historical significance and is often compared to what Sikhs call 'the great massacre'.

Geography and climate

Amritsar is located at [10] with an average elevation of 234 metres (768 ft).

Amritsar has a semiarid 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 .[11] Since 1970, the lowest temperature, , was recorded on 21 Jan 2005[12] and the highest temperature, , was recorded on 21 May 1978.[13]

Demographics

2011 census, Amritsar municipality had a population of 1,132,761[14] and the urban agglomeration had a population of 1,183,705.[15] The municipality had a sex ratio of 879 females per 1,000 males and 9.7% of the population were under six years old.[14] Effective literacy was 85.27%; male literacy was 88.09% and female literacy was 82.09%.[14] As of 2007, Sikhism is the main religion followed in Amritsar, with Hindu and other religious minorities. 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 English and Hindi.

Transport

Air

Amritsar airport entrance Amritsar's international airport, Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport, has more than 100 domestic and international flights during the week with daily connections to Delhi, Chandigarh, and Jammu in India and international flights to London Heathrow, Doha, Ashgabat, Tashkent, Dubai and Toronto.

The city is also close to Lahore Airport on the Pakistani side of the border.

Rail

Amritsar Railway Station at night Amritsar is well connected by rail to almost all major cities in India such as Ahmedabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Indore, Bhopal, Agra, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Nanded, Ujjain, Chandigarh, Lucknow etc. Amritsar Railway Station is the main terminal station. There is a special train (Samjhota Express) that runs west to Wagah (Attari Border), which is the last station 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 Ambala. The train is to run at high speeds of 160 km/h, second only in India to the Bhopal Shatabdi Express. It will travel the 445 km between the two cities in 2.5 hours (compared to the current time of 5 hours). Companies from Japan, China, UK and Canada have expressed an interest in the project. The contract for building the line were to be awarded at the end of May 2008. Other lines of this kind have proposed in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune, and Kolkata.[16][17][18]

Road

Amritsar is located on the historic Grand Trunk Road (G.T Road), also known as National Highway 1, and therefore very well connected to the road network. Daily bus services run to and from Ambala, Patiala, Delhi, Chandigarh and Jammu. Rs 450 crores is being spent to expand the Amritsar-Jalandhar stretch of G.T. Road to four lanes. In 2010, elevated road with four lanes connected to the National highway for better access to the Golden Temple has been started.[19]

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 relieve traffic congestion and improve air quality. There have been many purse snatching incidents recently and it has become a headache for the tourists. Tourists are advised not to keep purse, mobiles, cameras or other precious things with them while on road.

Amritsar is also connected with Lahore, Pakistan via the old Grand Trunk Road.

Notable residents

  • Maurice Barrymore, (1849-1905) patriarch of the Barrymore acting family

Gallery

Image:Golden_Temple_4000.jpg| Golden Temple Amritsar Image:Maharaja_Ranjith_Singh_Garden_Amrithsar__2020.jpg| Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Ram Bagh Gardens Amritsar Image:Harimandir.jpg| Golden Temple Image:Kothe-da-mela.jpg| Kothe Da Mela in Vallah Amritsar Image:Kothe-da-mela-2.jpg | Kothe Da Mela in Vallah Amritsar

References

For further reading:

  • Harjinder Singh Dilgeer (2005), Sikh Twareekh Vich Akal Takht Sahib Da Role, Sikh University Press
  • Harjinder Singh Dilgeer (2011), AKAL TAKHT SAHIB (Concept & Role), Sikh University Press
  • Harjinder Singh Dilgeer (2008), SIKH TWAREEKH (5 volumes), Sikh University Press.

External links

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