My recent visit to Harminder Sahib or Golden Temple, Amritsar was an ethereal experience which filled my eyes with so much admiration and nostalgia that it lingers with me & holds me in its tranquil warmth. So today I sit down to share my thoughts on the redeveloped Heritage Street and the feelings that delighted my memories.
As my roots belong to this historical city, the childhood memories of the streets are so close to my heart that they bring a cascade of emotions surging through the mind.
The maze of narrow streets, the swarm of hawkers grazing through, the colourful shops full of heritage craftsmanship, the aroma of street food & the never ending call of rickshaw pullers “biba, paase ho” (girl move aside) all lingered in my mind as I stepped out of the car at the revamped parking space leading to the holy Harmandir Sahib.
As I came out into the plaza, the first glimpse was so heartwarming that it brushed me with the feel of the classic Roman plazas and piazzas. The plaza signifies the heritage Indian Chowks widely seen in the Rajputana & Mughal architectural history.
The magnificent statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the centre of the plaza, stands towering & boasting of the glorious history of Punjab sparking a sense of pride in every Sikh’s heart.
From here begins the refurbished market street also known as the Heritage Street which is an eclectic example of thoughtful Urban Redevelopment.
The 1 kilometre long pedestrian street leading to the shrine.
The earlier haphazard line of shops or Hattis (as known in the local dialect, hatti- a small shop) have been crafted into a clean string of local shops.
The pedestrian stretch has a uniform pinkish facade & homogeneous signboards on all shops.
The narrow streets are now wider with only pedestrian traffic allowed
The facade maintains its heritage elevation of overlooking balconies or Jharokas.
The whole stretch of 1 kilometre from Townhall to the Golden Temple has been lined with decorative lampposts, benches & green shrubs giving it a warm & vintage look of the bygone era.
The path is spruced up in pink & grey tiles with carefully placed dustbins at appropriate points.
The night view of the street is a mesmerising view with lights creating a dramatic effect.
Statues depicting the culture and folk dance of the state are a visual delight
Moving further, as u approach the chowk of historical Jallianwala Bagh, an iconic marble statue named as the ‘Smriti Memorial’ dedicated to the martyrs of the 1919 massacre catches your eye which is even more enchanting during nighttime, when lit with led lights.
The entrance to the Jallianwala Bagh blends beautifully with the street and its tragic history displayed on the entrance gives you goosebumps and reminds us of the cold – blooded carnage commanded by General Dyer & the enduring sacrifice of our freedom fighters & innocent locals.
The beautifully restored entrance wall of Jallianwala Bagh
Moving further through the street you encounter a bonanza of local artwork & food culture.
The traditional hattis are a shopper’s delight
The shops are as colourful as always with beautiful Phulkari (traditional handicraft) dupattas, adorned Juttis (traditional leather footwear with intricate handcraft), the famous Amritsari papad – vadiyan (a local delicacy prepared from grinded lentils & pulses) & lip smacking kulche (fermented bread) & chatte di Lassi (buttermilk) spreading their everlasting charm in the marketplace.
The traditional phulkari dupattas
The colourful punjabi Jutti
As the street ends you reach the entrance of the sacred Harmandir Sahib. The marbled entrance plaza is a breathtaking experience, with vast open space, unlike my earlier visit when this area was highly crowded & congested with hawkers, rickshaws and two wheelers creating an unorganised nuisance. The heritage & serenity of the place was earlier overshadowed by the haphazard urbanisation.
The vast entrance plaza with marble flooring
The first glimpse of the Golden Temple definitely leaves you speechless no matter it is your ‘nth‘ visit. The kirtan (holy hymns) reverberating in the air is a tranquil & soulful experience.
The first glimpse through the elevated entrance podium
The shrine sits amidst the holy Sarovar peaceful & calm with a gallon of visitors thronging everyday to seek blessings of the supreme power the place beholds.
Sitting in the complex, looking at the reflections of the shimmering shrine in the holy Sarovar, is truly a blissful experience
My adorable nephew Kabir after seeking blessings in the sacred Darbar Sahib
The essence of 400 Years old Punjab & Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s era has been beautifully recreated in the makeover of the Heritage Street. The flavour of traditional culture & architecture is reminiscent in the refurbished design.
Certainly, it gives the youth & tourists a glimpse of the past legacy of the rich heritage of the city of Amritsar.
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