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Punjab - Amritsar and Jalandhar

Punjab – visit of Amritsar, conference and exhibition in Jalandhar - 2013

Dirk India took part in an exhibition and  conference under the title Innovations in Concrete Construction organized in Jalandhar with international participants from all over the world. Jalandhar is situated in vicinity of  Amritsar so that we could also enjoy a visit of this famous city.

Amritsar is located in Northern Punjab. The state of Punjab was divided during the partition  of British India between  India and Pakistan and by that Amritsar became a border city, often on front lines of India-Pakistan wars. Prior to the Partition the Muslim League wanted to incorporate Amritsar into Pakistan because of its proximity to Lahore (45 km) and nearly 50% Muslim population – but the city became a part of India. Similarly, the Indian National Congress had 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 population, but the city became a part of Pakistan.  This lead to some of the worst communal riots during the Partition. 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.

The main attraction in Amritsar is the  Golden Temple. It is  the place of worship for all Sikhs in the world who meet in the central gurdwara. The gurdwara is constructed of white marble overlaid with gold leaf and stands in the center of a sarovar, or pool of fresh, clear, reflective water which is fed by the Ganges River.

Golden Temple

As in the most temples in India, the shoes had to be taken of and left at the entry, and hair had to be covered. Men are not allowed to wear caps and for that purpose small headscarves are offered for purchasing. People of all faiths are admitted. After entering we could admire the beautiful construction of the temple and clean water of the tank. We were also allowed to enter the extensive kitchens at the backside where a sanctified meal, called langar, is prepared and served free of charge. It is available to the tens of thousands pilgrims who visit daily. All cooking of food and maintenance of the Golden Temple complex is carried out by worshipers, who volunteer their services.

Nan bread baking, dhal in a pot, eating pilgrims

Pilgrims bathe and perform ablution in the sacred waters of the tank which is known for its healing properties. Visitors gather inside the gurdwara to worship, listen to hymns, and hear the holy scripture of the Guru Granth Sahib.  The golden gurdwara has four entrances, one on each side, which are a symbolic welcome to all persons regardless of caste, class, color, or creed. A bridge extends from the gurdwara to the Akal Takhat, the governing body of religious authority for Sikhs. The holy script Guru Granth is kept in the Akal Takhat after hours.

1574 - Akbar, a Mughal emperor gifts the site to Bibi Bhani  a daughter of the third Guru Amar Das, as a wedding gift when she marries Jetha who later becomes Fourth Guru Raam Das.

1604 - Guru Arjun Dev completes the temple's construction. He compiles the sacred scripture Adi Granth over a five year period and installs it in the temple. He appoints a Sikh named Baba Buddha to be caretaker of the Granth.

1757 - 1762 - Jahan Khan, an Afghani general of the invader Ahmad Shah Abdali,  attacks the temple. It is defended by illustrious martyr Baba Deep Singh. The sustained damages resulted  in major renovations.

1830 - Maharajah Ranjit Singh sponsors marble inlay, gold plating, and gilding of the temple. 1984 - Operation Blue Star was  ordered by the Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, who wanted to eliminate Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale from the Golden Temple.   Bhindranwale was accused of amassing weapons and planning  a major armed uprising. These reasons are contested by most Sikh scholars who claim that Akal Takhat is a temporal seat and keeping weapons in gurdwaras  is in accordance with Sikh tradition. The military operation was carried out by the army including tanks,  artillery, helicopters and armoured vehicles. According to the official estimate, 492 civilians were killed. 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. Many 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.

31 October 1984, four months after the operation, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards in what is viewed as an act of vengeance. Following her assassination, more than 3,000 Sikhs were killed in anti-Sikh riots. 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' by the Afghan invader Ahmad Shah Abdali Durrani in 1762 which was mentioned above.

Jallianwala Bagh Garden. Another place connected with a violent history of Amritsar is Jallianwala Bagh Garden. On 13th April, a crowd of non-violent protesters had gathered in the garden to protest the arrest of two leaders, although there was a curfew recently decared. On the orders of Geeneral Reginald Dyer, the army fired in cold blood for ten minutes, directing the bullets largely towards the few open gates through which people tried to escape. The dead numbered between 370 and 1,000, or possibly more. The brutality of this act stunned the entire nation, meant a loss of public faith in Britain and later on to non cooperation movement between the years 1920-22.

Jallianwhala Bagh garden today

Amritsar is a city with many schools and colleges – we heard that it is typical for the whole state of Panjab. The education is supported by the state government as in no other Indian state. Some schools have an interesting architecture as e.g. pink Khalsa College.


Local students participated also in the conference in Jalandhar in big numbers. The stand of Dirk India was surrounded by various visitors, local Sikhs, a lady from Saudi Arabia with headscarf (but still allowed by her university to come),  professors from Australia and the United States and many other interesting visitors.  The conference as a whole was a major success.