A religious abode for the Sikhs and a political power house in the state, the turbulent history of Amritsar is tainted by the memories of several gory battles. Founded in the 14th century by Guru Ram Das, who initiated and spread the teachings of Sikhism in the region, Amritsar has forever ranked high among the most revered cities in Punjab. The place was controlled and managed by the Sikh saints for long until the place was seized by the Mughal rulers. During the rule of the emperor Akbar, the place was said to be relatively peaceful but after his death the city came under severe religious and political tension caused by the following Muslim monarchs. Most of the wars that took place were instigated by the communal differences among the Muslim and the Sikh community. After the destruction of the Muslim rule in Amritsar, the city came under the dominance of the British officials and soon the city saw a lot of developments. However, during the Indian Partition, Amritsar was worst effected by communal violence. Read the article below to know more on the history of Amritsar.
The spiritual heart of the Sikh community, Amritsar is perhaps one of India's most important junctions, connected to the rest of India by the 500 year old Grand Trunk Road on its east and Pakistan through the Wagah Border on its west. In addition to the fabulous Golden Temple, Amritsar's attractions include it roadside dhabas and the spectacle of the daily closing of the India - Pakistan border gate at Attari Wagah Border. Amritsar is a city with tremendous history and one can visit the city with a cheap ticket to Amritsar.
The History of Amritsar can be traced back to the days of the Indus Valley Civilization. A number of archaeological sites have been found in Amritsar and other parts of Punjab. The history of Amritsar in the Vedic period was marked by the existence of a number of Sages and Saints and the legend of Ramayana, which considers the area to be the venue of Rishi Balmikis ashram and the birth place of Lavh and Kush.
The history of Amritsar points out at Greek influence on the region around 326 B.C. when the area came under the control of Alexander. With the defeat of the Greeks, the Mauryas annexed Amritsar, making it a part of their Empire. From the 4th century to the 6th century the history of Amritsar came to be linked with the history of the Gupta Empire. After a short period of rule by the Shahi Dynasty, the area came under the control of Sultan Mahmood of Ghazni. Amritsar's notable history is inter-linked with the birth and growth of Sikhism and the establishment of the Golden Temple starting in the 1500's. Amritsar, which means "Pool of Nectar", derives its name from the Amrit Sarovar, the holy tank that surrounds the Golden Temple.
The history of Amritsar goes back to the year 1574 when the city first came to light. Guru Ram Das, one of the revered Sikh saints, bought the area from the village landlords. He soon made his domicile close to Amrit Sarovar, also known as 'Pool of Immortality' in Amritsar. The lake stands around the famous Golden Temple (also known as Harmandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib) from which the city's name was derived. During this period, the country was dominated by the powerful Mughal clan and historians believe that the place was purchased by Guru Ram Das from Akbar for 500 bighas. He not only laid down the foundation of the city but also was responsible in making Amritsar an important center for Sikhism. With time, many of Guru Ram Das's disciples came to reside in and around the city. The saint also planned to build a temple in the surrounding area that failed to take place. It was his son Guru Arjan Dev who brought forward his father's vision to reality. He not only helped in building the city but also founded other cities such as Taran Taran and Kartarpur. The Darbar Sahib is said to an important structure built during the reign of Guru Arjan Dev.
On the political front, the Muslim ruler Jahangir suppressed the city. Men and women were tortured and harassed by the Mughal emperor. Despite the intervention of Sant Mian Mir, he was unable to put a complete stop to their atrocities. Sant Mian Mir, on the other hand, was imprisoned in the Gwalior Fort for a brief period. Although on the political front Amritsar was experiencing a political unrest and instability, the city was developing as religious hub for Sikhism in Punjab. In 1602, Darbar Sahib was complete and four years later the earliest volume of the Guru Granth Sahib, a holy text of the scriptures was established inside the gurudwara. In 1606, when Guru Hargobind became the next Guru after the demise of his father, he was one of the most politically powerful saints. During his time, he earned a name for dealing with matters related to court justly and also encouraged his followers to always be prepared for warfare. Guru Hargobind excelled in a martial art form known as 'Shastarvidya' and maintained his own infantry. Amritsar, under the governance of Guru Hargobind, was attacked by the Mughal Emperors and in the years to come, the city only witnessed a strained relationship with the Muslim rulers.
In 1711 Bahadur Shah took over the city by placing Ajit Singh Palit in charge of the administration of the place. After the death of Bahadur Shah, the management of the city was passed on to several hands. Amritsar also faced internal conflicts between the Tat Khalsa and Bandai Khalsa. In 1757, Ahmad Shah Abdali demolished the Darbar Sahib and the Akal Takht that ended in a gory battle between the Afghan army and Baba Deep Singh. Amritsar was under constant raids by the Afghan warriors that led to several thousand deaths of Sikh families. In 1764, Jathedar Gurbaksh Singh and his small army of men defeated the powerful Afghan infantry.
Reconstruction of Amritsar
From 1765 onwards, the city began to actively work on rebuilding its demolished monuments and shrines. During the beginning of the 18th century, the place underwent severe religious turmoil, which in turn brought about political changes. In 1765, the place saw several independent Sikh misls who controlled their respective localities that flourished under their particular heads. In the end of the 18th century, Amritsar became a developed prosperous business centre in the region. In 1799, when Maharaja Ranjit Singh declared himself as the future monarch of Punjab, he merged the place as a sovereign state. In the years to come, Ranjit Singh excelled in the field of military and the state economy. With a flourishing economy, the Maharaja also contributed vast amount of wealth to the Darbar Sahib and other shrines.
After the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1846, the British East Indian Company established Amritsar as a part of Lahore Darbar. In 1847, the English court specifically requested all British residents to follow the code of behavior while visiting the Sikh places of worship. From 1858 to 1913, the city under the administrative control of the British, witnessed several modernization plans in the infrastructure and educational sector. In 1919, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place in Amritsar. General Reginald Dyer ordered his men to open fire and killed several innocent men, women and children. The massacre was considered to be the worst in Indian history that brings back painful memories to the people of Amritsar. Lahore remained to be the initial capital of the state while Amritsar became a religious seat and an industrial centre.
During Indian Independence, at the time of Partition in 1947, Amritsar became the battle field for the political difference between the National Congress and Muslim League. After the division, the state of Punjab was split up. Lahore became the capital of the Pakistan and Amritsar became the capital of the newly divided state Punjab. During this period, Amritsar and Lahore experienced the worst communal violence between the Hindu and Muslim communities.
Otherwise like most small and crowded Indian cities, Amritsar is an important destination given the presence of the Golden Temple. However, there is more than just the temple for visitors. Amritsar played an important role in India's freedom. Jallianwala Bagh is the site of the Amritsar Massacre of unarmed Indians by British troops in 1919. In addition, the Indo-Pakistan border at Wagah, just a short distance from Amritsar, with its elaborate change-of-guards drill at the evening gate closing has become a major tourist attraction. A trip to Amritsar will give you an opportunity to explore the authentic beauties of the past as well as the present. With a variety of cheap flights to Amritsar from UK, it is an experience of colourful traditions and values of Amritsar that you would not want to miss.