A quick way to describe the Land of


 

 

A quick
way to describe the Land of Five Rivers would be to say the Punjab is the
Frontier of India and the Land of Plenty from where large-hearted, fearless Aryans
of Indian Civilization ascend.  There is
more to the state than crops, rivers and places of pilgrimage.  Punjabis are the most adventurous and
enterprising farmers. Hindi films have often given us glimpses of lush green
fields and yellow-flowers of sarson-ka-khet and it does warrant a visit from a
tourist’s angle. An ancient seat of civilization and power, the state is richly
endowed with heritage and history via some of its well-known cities of
Chandigarh (a Union Territory serves as the capital of Punjab and Haryana), Ludhiana,
Jalandhar (one of the oldest city in India), Patiala( an immediate recall of
Patiala lassi and salwars), Amritsar (the spiritual and cultural centre),
Bhatinda (the City of Lakes) and more.

 

From a
touristy viewpoint the Punjab puts forth religious and heritage tourisms. If
you are an expat Sikh in search of your roots, start from Anandpur Sahib where
the Khalsa was born, come down to Fatehpur Sahib, proceed to Mast Maula Sahib,
Damdama Sahib and then move upwards to Darbar Sahib in Amritsar. For the
non-Sikhs, places of interest would be the Golde Temple, Mansa Devi,
Maiserkhana and the Durgiania Mandir.

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Chandigarh
is one of the most beautifully planned city with arty leanings displaying
influence of the French architect Le Corbusier. Capitol Complex housing Punjab
and Haryana High Court, Assembly and Secretariat besides the monuments of Open
Hand, Geometric Hill and Tower of Shadow is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

 

No visit
to this state can be complete without the inclusion of The Golden Temple in
Amritsar in the itinerary, the city which is also famous for the Wagah Border
and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The city has narrow streets and self-appointed
colonized units called Katras. Popularly known as the Golden Temple, it is the
shrine of Harminder Sahib that devotees throng to pay respect to. It is a delight
to catch a glimpse of the resplendent Gurudwara’s reflection in the lake, the
Pool of Immortality. A walk around the periphery of the lake and then the
marble causeway will take you to the Golden Temple. Long queues of men in
turbans and salwar-kameez clad Sikhnis wait to view Guru Granth Sahib, the
holiest book of the Sikhs. It is mandatory to cover your head lest it amounts
to blasphemy. At night the scriptures are ceremoniously taken and kept in the
Akal Takht – an imposing structure in front of the path leading to the Golden
Temple.  The devout air surrounding this
complex extends to the kitchen where vegetarian food is cooked and the Langar
feeds more than one lakh pilgrims each day, irrespective of their religion and
faith. Apart from the salaried kitchen help, some people volunteer to cook this
food.  A visit during Diwali promises a marvelous
spectacle to behold as the whole temple complex is suffused in the light of
lamps, the reason being the celebration of Bandi Chhorh Diwas or Freedom Day
for the Sikhs, dating back to the Mughal era. To get a hang of the rustic and
local flavor, one can take a detour and visit some of the smaller villages
around Amritsar.

 

Think
Punjab and food comes first to mind– hearty preparations with humble ingredients
and unfussy techniques. While in this land of plenty, just throw diet to the
winds and try the variety of rotis like the layered laccha paranthas, the
famous Amritsari kulchas or stuffed paranthas (potatoes, radish, dal) with
loads of ghee.  For instance, breakfast
for Punjabis is Alu Paranthas with a generous amount of desi ghee and a tall
glass of lassi or kesar dudh with liberal sprinkling of dry fruits, saffron and
malai (cream). For lunch, they binge on makki di roti with dollops of white
butter, sarson ka saag (mustard greens) and maa ki daal. Hardcore non-vegetarians,
their robust dishes include kukkad (chicken) masala, tangdi kebabs, rann or
kadai gosht.  Dessert is largely phirni of
rice, sugar and milk preparation, served in earthen bowls.

 

The
Maharajas of Patiala were not only connoisseurs of gems and cars but also avid
builders. Baraderi Gardens, old Moti Bagh, Sheesh Mahal stand testimony to
their aesthetic sense. Amritsar’s Khalsa College, dome-shaped Buddhist shrines in
Saghol, a mosque inside Nurmahal Serai, Bathinda Fort are some of the heritage
tours one can take.

 

For those
who wish to relive their text book days to recount the famous valour of the
Sikhs, a visit during 3 days in March when the twin towns of Anandpur Sahib and
Kiratpur Sahib resound to the battle cries of Nihang warriors, who put up
scintillating display of mock battles and skills using traditional weapons, is
a must. The festivities of Hola Mohalla symbolize revelry on subduing the
aggressor. It is a platform for displaying the combative prowess of Guru’s own
army. Hola Mohalla coalesces both the spirit of victory and the gaiety associated
spring.  The camaraderie and oneness
amongst the gathered Sikhs is underscored by the sincerity with which they
perform community service (kar seva). Voluntary community kitchens or langars,
are set up at Anandpur Sahib.  Lohri and
Baisakhi are two of the most vibrant and spirited festivals. The movements of
the Bhangra dance performed during Baisakhi – the harvest festival, are distinctive
of the virility of the Punjab.

 

Don’t
forget to take back eye-catching mementos of hand-woven chaddars in Bagh or Phulkari
– the decorative folk art on scarves and shawls!

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