Fabrics and Sarees of India Part 2

In this part, we continue to check out more fabrics and sarees across India.

Karnataka

Ilkal Sarees: Known because it is produced in the town of Ilkal, an ancient weaving centre since the 8th century, the uniqueness of the Ilkal saree is in the joining of the body warp with the pallu warp with a series of loops locally called the tope teni technique. The border colour is very dominating and is usually red or maroon. The distinctive feature of the Ilkal saree is the use of a form of embroidery called Kasuti. The designs used in Kasuti reflect traditional patterns like palanquins, elephants, and lotuses which are embroidered onto the saree. The main body design is usually made up of squares and rectangles. The Ilkal saris are woven using cotton warp on the body and art silk warp for the border and pallu portion. In some cases instead of art silk, pure silk is also used. The Tope Teni seragu has been regarded as a state symbol and was greatly respected during festival occasions. The sarees that are made for bridal wear are made of a particular colour called Giri Kumukum which is associated with the sindoor worn by the wives of the priests in this region. The weaving of the Ilkal saree is a household enterprise involving the participation of female members. One Ilkal saree takes about seven days to weave and are produced on pit looms.

Mysore Silk: One of Karnataka’s most famous exports, the Mysore silk is synonymous with the city of Mysuru and the silk factory was founded in 1912 by Sri Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the Maharaja of Mysore. Initially, the silk fabrics were manufactured & supplied to meet the requirements of the royal family and ornamental fabrics to their armed forces. After Indian independence, the Mysore State Sericulture Dept took control of the silk weaving factory. The saree zari contains 65% pure silver and 0.65% of gold, which is also the most distinct feature of the saree, along with the use of genuine silk that gives it a natural sheen and rich texture. Karnataka produces almost 45% of the country’s mulberry silk. Mysore silk has also received geographical identification. Mysore Silks are also one of the most expensive silk sarees in India and this has led to the production of duplicate Mysore silk saree production and sales. To avoid these issues, KSIC has implemented a unique ID, hologram-based design, and unique identification barcodes woven on each saree produced.

Kerala

Kasavu Saree: Symbolic of Kerala’s tradition and culture, the traditional Kasavu saree was made by hand from cotton yarn with borders made of golden threads. Believed to have originated in the Buddhist era, the white and gold sarees are unique due to their natural hues, texture and gold border which adds to their elegance. No occasion in Kerala feels complete without the Kasavu saree. The term kasavu refers to the zari or gold thread used in the border of the saree and the name comes from a material used in the weaving and production of these sarees. The origin of the kasavu saree can be traced back to when women would wear a two-piece cloth called settu mundu, more popularly known as the mundum neriyathum. The mundum neriyathum rose in popularity during the Buddhist era, and its design has been inspired by the Greco-Roman attire, Palmyrene, a long piece of unstitched cloth with a coloured border.

The identity of the saree comes from the geographical cluster they are associated with. The Indian government has identified three clusters in Kerala – Balaramapuram, Chendamangalam and Kuthampully – that have been given a Geographical Indication or GI tag and all three clusters produce kasavu sarees. A plain saree with a simple border takes roughly around three to five days. Ones with motifs and heavier work take longer than that. The sarees are priced depending on the time taken on their production, along with the gold used in the zari or kasavu.

Madhya Pradesh

Chanderi: Emerging between the 2nd and 7th centuries, Chanderi sarees are produced from three types of fabrics – pure silk, cotton and silk cotton and are synonymous with the town of Chanderi which is on the boundary of Malwa and Bundelkhand. In the 11th century, the trade locations between Malwa, Medwa, central India and south Gujarat increased the region’s importance. Around 1350, Koshti weavers from Jhansi migrated to Chanderi and settled there and the textile business of Chanderi reached its peak during the Mughal period. Traditional coin, floral art, peacocks and modern geometric designs are woven into different Chanderi patterns. The saris are among the finest in India and are known for their gold and silver brocade or zari, fine silk, and opulent embroidery.

Maheshwari: Originating from the town of Maheshwar, the Maheshwari saree is made of silk and cotton in a variety of designs woven using brocade and zari. Dating to the 18th century, the sarees were initially made of pure silk, but over time, cotton also came to be used. An interesting story behind the origin of these sarees is that a famous queen had once ordered a large number of artisans and craftsmen from Surat and Malwa to design a unique saree of 9 yards, later termed the Maheshwari saree. These cloth pieces were used as special gifts for the royal guests of the palace. A unique feature of the Maheshwari saree is that each has a specific name of its own, which indicates its distinctness. The sarees may be plain at the centre and have neatly designed borders, or they may have different variations of stripes and checks. The sarees fall under 5 broad categories namely Chandratara, Chandrakala, Beli, Baingani Chandrakala and Parbi. The Baingani Chandrakala and Chandrakala are plain ones, while the Beli, Chandratara, and Parbi come with stripes or checks.

Maharashtra

Karvati: Hailing from the Vidarbha region, Karvati silks are made from Tussar with a grainy, textural feel. What is unique about the silk used in Karvati saris is that it is exclusive to this specific region that is rich in high-quality silk cocoons, straight from the wild. The tribes hailing from this area assume the responsibility of protecting the silk cocoons until they are ready to be harvested. The Tussar is unlike any other silk; it has a unique shade of deep yellow-brown.

The word karvat is a Marathi term that refers to a saw-tooth pattern. Karvati is the name lent to the style of the border rather than the fabric itself. What is different about the saree is the technique and the mixed usage of yarn. The border is woven out of mercerized cotton yarns with traditional temple motifs of various sizes, using an extra warp while the rest of the sari is woven using pure, hand-reeled Tussar silk which provides a texture that has irregular stubs all over. The saree is woven using a three-shuttle, tapestry style of weaving with a pit loom mounted with a wooden lattice dobby in the Nagpur style on the top of the loom. This means that it uses three different styles of weaving at the same time.

Paithani: Dating to the Satvahana Dynasty that ruled between the second century BC and the second century AD, Paithani sarees are fine silk handloom sarees get their name from the town in which they originated, Paithan in Aurangabad. Available in both six and nine yards, the most interesting part about the Paithani handloom is that both sides of the saree look the same, including the border and the pallu. This feature is the telltale sign of a handloom Paithani. As Paithani sarees are woven from naturally dyed threads, they can usually be found only in basic colours. Each saree usually has two dominating colours, one on the saree and the other on the border and pallu. The Paithani is characterised by borders of an oblique square design, and a pallu with a peacock design. Among other varieties, single-coloured and kaleidoscope-coloured designs are also popular. The kaleidoscopic effect is achieved by using one colour for weaving lengthwise and another for weaving width-wise.

The Paithani is a sari made of silk and zari with a plain weave, with weft figuring designs according to the principles of the tapestry. Traditionally, Paithanis had coloured, cotton muslin fields that often contained considerable supplementary zari patterning. However, in the 19th century, silk fields were also woven. Due to its proximity to the Ajanta caves, the influence of Buddhist paintings can be seen in the woven Paithani motifs. These sarees are made of silk in which there is no extra weft forming figures. Weaving could take between 18 and 24 months, depending upon the complexity of the design. In the days of Peshwas, the borders and the pallu were made of pure gold mixed with copper to give it strength spun into a fine wire called the zari. In recent times, zari is made of silver, coated with gold plating. In the border woven with a zari, ground-coloured silk patterns are added as supplementary weft inlay against the zari usually in the form of a flower or a creeping vine.

Odisha

Bomkai: Also known as the Sonepuri Saree, the Bomkai Saree is a handloom saree from the Bomkai village and has a GI tag. Usually made of cotton, these sarees are also made of silk for special occasions. During the time of Ramai Dev the then ruler of Patna, it was introduced in Sonepur. The borders and pallus are usually designed with fishes as it is believed to be a sign of success and affluence. The sari is normally dyed in red, black and white.

Khandua: A traditional bandha or ikat saree, Khandua is also known as Maniabandi or Kataki and is worn during weddings with a special type of fabric worn by Lord Jagannath which contain texts of the Geeta Govinda on them. The word Khandua in Odia translates to the cloth worn in the lower half of the body. Traditionally Kentuli Khandua is offered to Jagannath as lower cloth. The weaver communities of Maniabandha and Nuapatana of Cuttack traditionally wove this kind of fabric and during the rule of the Gajapatis, the sarees were made and transported to the Jagannath Temple. Nilakantha Deva, the King of Badakhemundi was offered khandua sari made of one piece of khandua silk called caukandika. Khandua is traditionally red or orange in colour with the red colour prepared naturally from the sal tree. The design motif has an auspicious elephant that represents Buddha surrounded by a trailing vine with peacocks in it, a large many-petaled flower, an animal  unique to Orissa known as Nabagunjara. The elephant in Khandua ikat from Nuapatana usually varies from elephant motives in ikat from the Sambalpuri saree as well as the ikat from other parts of Orissa. The Khandua has plain borders contrary to borders with motifs in the case of the other ikats from the state.

Pasapali: Also known as the Saktapar, the Pasapali saree is a bandha or Ikat handloom sari woven mainly in the Bargarh district. The name Pasapali is derived from pasa or gambling games using a chess board and these sarees have intricate check patterns of contrasting colours resembling the chess boards which gives it its name.

Sambalpuri: A traditional handwoven ikat where the warp and the weft are tie-dyed before weaving, the Sambalpuri saree is known for its incorporation of traditional motifs, all of which have deep symbolism in red, black and white that represent Odia culture. The high point of these sarees is the traditional craftsmanship of the Bandhakala, or the tie-dye art reflected in their intricate weaves, also known as Sambalpuri Ikkat. In this technique, the threads are first tie-dyed and later woven into a fabric, with the entire process taking many weeks. These sarees also have a Geographical Indication or GI tag associated with them. Traditionally, craftsmen created the ikats with images of flora or fauna or with geometrical patterns, but recently the ikats depict portraits and landscapes are also being designed. The unique feature of this form of designing is that the designs are reflected almost identically on both sides of the fabric. Once the fabric is dyed it can never be bleached into another colour. It is believed that this art migrated to western Odisha along with the Bhulia community who fled north India in 1192 after the fall of the Chouhan empire at the hands of the Mughals.

Punjab

Phulkari: Punjab’s folk embroidery, Phulkari which means floral work also includes motifs and geometrical shapes. In Punjabi, Phul means flower and Akari means the shape and so Phulkari means the shape and the direction of flowers which symbolise life. The main characteristics of Phulkari embroidery are the use of darn stitch on the wrong side of coarse cotton cloth with coloured silken thread. The traditional varieties of Phulkaris are large items of cloth and include Chope, Tilpatr, Neelak and Bagh. Sometimes, the Bagh is given separate categorisation of its own as on other varieties of a Phulkari, parts of the cloth are visible, whereas, in a Bagh, the embroidery covers the entire garment so that the base cloth is not visible. Today, in contemporary designs, the simple and sparsely embroidered dupattas and shawls made for everyday use, are referred to as phulkari, while clothing items that cover the entire body, made for special and ceremonial occasions such as weddings are called baghs or large gardens. The Phulkari continues to be an integral part of Punjabi weddings to the present day.

In the past, as soon as a girl was born, mothers and grandmothers would start embroidering Baghs and Phulkaris, which were to be given away at the time of her marriage. Depending on the status of the family, the parents would give a dowry of 11 to 101 Baghs and Phulkaris which were also passed from one generation to the next as heirlooms. The hallmark of Phulkari is making innumerable patterns by using long and short darn stitches. There were no pattern books and embroidery was worked entirely from the reverse of the fabric and the designs were not traced. Techniques and patterns were not documented but transmitted from word of mouth and each regional group was identified with the style of embroidery or design. The most favoured colour was red and its shades. Animals and birds represented success, beauty, pride, and goodwill and different fruits symbolised wealth, prosperity, and fertility. Wheat and barley stalks with ears were also common motifs. Silk and mulmul or soft cotton muslin fabrics were used because of their purity and longevity and it was believed that the virtue and character of a woman gave shape to the Phulkari.

There are different theories about the origin of Phulkari. One such belief is that this embroidery was prevalent in different parts of the country as far back as the 7th century, but survived only in Punjab. Motifs similar to the ones found in Phulkari are also found in Kashida of Bihar and some of the embroideries of Rajasthan. Another thought is that this style of embroidery came from Iran where it was called Gulkari, also meaning floral work.

Rajasthan

Gota Patti: Gota patti or gota work is a type of Indian embroidery that originated in  Rajasthan. Small pieces of zari ribbon are applied onto the fabric with the edges sewn down to create elaborate patterns. Gota embroidery is used extensively in South Asian weddings and formal clothes. Originally real gold and silver metals were used to embroider, but these were eventually replaced by copper coated with silver as it would become very expensive and today, even more, inexpensive options are available.

Kota Doriya: A handloom fabric, Kota Doriya is woven on a traditional pit loom in such a way that it produces square checks pattern on the fabric. The delicately wrought checks are locally known as khats. Onion juice and rice paste are smeared onto the yarn making it so strong that no additional finishing is needed. Kota Doriya sarees are made of pure cotton and silk and have square-like patterns known as khats on them. The chequered weave of a Kota sari is very popular with a very fine weave and weighs very little.

It is said that Jhala Zalim Singh of Kotah brought weavers from Mysore, in the mid-17th century, as they wove a characteristic small squared lightweight cotton fabric that looked like graph paper and was suitable for turbans. Since the weavers had come from Mysore, the fabric produced was called Kota Masuriya and was woven on narrow 8-inch looms to make the traditional paags or turbans and later on, broader looms were used for gossamer-light saris. Silk was added to the cotton in a 20:80 ratio approximately to give the sari strength. Nowadays hand woven silk Kota Doriya saris have also become popular. At first, the design known as a buti was small and regular but larger designs are now made according to fashion and taste. A very ornate saree can take one month to make and is an heirloom piece to be treasured. A genuine Kota Doriya sari will contain the GI mark woven in one corner indicating that it has been hand woven using real silver and gold thread.

Leheriya: Leheriya is a traditional style of tie and dye practised in Rajasthan which is bright in colour, with a distinctive pattern. The word Leheriya comes from the word leher, meaning wave and the tie-dye technique results in diagonal stripes, which look like waves on the fabric. To create diagonal stripes, the craftsmen use a special method of resist-dyeing, where the material, is rolled up diagonally length-wise and then tied tightly at intervals before the actual dyeing process begins. Delicate, light fabrics such as thin cotton voile, fine silk and chiffon are preferred, as they allow the colour to penetrate through the rolled cloth. The fabric is wrapped around a wooden pole, usually while it is still wet or in a semi-dry state. The thread that ties up the fabric acts as a resist, yielding a pattern of diagonal stripes after dyeing. The thickness of the thread and the distance between the ties may be varied to obtain stripes of different widths.

An astounding variety of Leheriya fabrics are produced using this simple process. A panchranga or five-colour design is the most auspicious since the number five is considered special in Hindu scriptures. Another beautiful pattern is the satranga, flaunting the seven colours of the rainbow.

Tamil Nadu

Kanjeevaram: A silk saree which is worn on special occasions, the Kanjeevaram or Kanchipuram is made in the Kanchipuram region. This saree has also been recognised and given the Geographical Indication tag by the Indian government. The sarees are distinguished by their wide contrast borders with temple borders, checks, stripes and floral patterns as traditional designs. The patterns and designs in the Kancheepuram sarees are inspired by the images and scriptures in South Indian temples or natural features like leaves, birds and animals and have rich woven pallus showing the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma and the epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. As of 2008, an estimated 5,000 families were involved in sari production with 25 silk and cotton yarn industries and 60 dyeing units in the region.

The saris are woven from pure mulberry silk thread, which along with the zari or gold thread comes from South India. To weave a Kanjeevaram saree. three shuttles are used. While the weaver works on the right side, his aide works on the left side shuttle. The border colour and design are usually quite different from the body. If the pallu has to be woven in a different shade, it is first separately woven and then delicately joined to the saree and the part where the body meets the pallu is often denoted by a zigzag line. In a genuine Kajeevaram silk saree, the body and the border are woven separately and then interlocked together. The joint is woven so strongly that even if the saree tears, the border will not detach and this differentiates the Kanjeevaram silk saree from the others. The sarees vary widely in price depending on the intricacy of work, colours, patterns, craftsmanship and materials used.

Koorainaadu: A traditional handloom weaving centre, Koorainadu sarees are by their checks and stripes pattern for which plain looms are used. It is made with pure silk and fine-twisted mercerized cotton yarn, in both warp and weft, in the ratio of 2:1, giving every Koorainadu saree a silk look. A peculiar characteristic of this saree is the formation of cotton checks by the interlacing of warp and weft during weaving which can be woven only by an experienced weaver. The sarees are hence stiffer and easier to hold the pleats which make them easier to wear. Koorainadu sarees are mostly worn by the womenfolk of the Hindu community green and yellow colours are used to make it auspicious and so it is often worn by married women wishing for long-lasting wedlock. The nine-yard Koorainadu saris are made with cotton or cotton and silk, in checks or striped patterns with a contrasting border in yellow. Saris with wide borders are called temple saris because they are offered to the deities in the temple.

Sungudi: Traditional cotton sarees from the Madurai area, Sungudi sarees are defined by the pattern of block prints and tie and dye designs. The origins of Sungudi can be traced back to the Sourashtrians who brought the art with them when they migrated to South India under the patronage of King Thirumalai Naicker in the 17th century. In Saurashtra, the word sungudi relates to the Sanskrit word sunnam meaning round, representing the circular dots that are printed on the fabric as a prominent and special motif.

The dots in the saris are said to be inspired by the cosmos which is why most Sungudi sarees remind one of a starry night. Tying the knots of the sari demands a great amount of precision from the craftsman. Ideally, a three-inch gap between the body and the zari border and also with the pallu lends a neat and symmetrical look to the crude dots. The designs are sometimes marked with a pencil on the fabric for ease in the process. The Sungudi art has seven basic designs that can be modified with different permutations and combinations to provide variety and highlight the creativity of the craftsman. The smaller the dot the better the expertise and this comes only with extensive practice and time. In the early days people used rudimentary methods like tying the knots with mustard or peppercorn seeds. Although this seems like a rural and unpolished method, its success lay in its simplicity. Authentic Sungudi is more than just tying knots. There is a lot of meticulousness that goes into producing a piece that looks effortless.  Once the knots are tied in the desired pattern, the sari is clamped which involves pleating, twisting, folding and wrapping it tightly before dyeing it for around two hours. Then the sari is subjected to two rounds of washing with cold water with an organic fixing agent followed by drying and ironing. The resultant fabric is a beautiful sheet like stars in the sky. In 2005 the art of Sungudi tie and dye got the GI recognition tag.

In the next part, the last one, we will do the last few states and also learn about some interesting saree drapes.

Festivals of India: Lohri

Today, Punjab will come together to celebrate the festival of Lohri. A celebration of the winter solstice, Lohri is is a popular Punjabi winter folk festival which is beloved in the Punjab region. The significance and legends about the Lohri festival are many and these link the festival to the region. It is believed by many that the festival commemorates the passing of the winter solstice. Lohri marks the end of winter, and is a traditional welcome of longer days and the sun’s journey to the northern hemisphere by Sikhs and Hindus in the region. Lohri is observed the night before Makar Sankranti, also known as Maghi, according to the solar part of the lunisolar Bikrami calendar and typically falls about the same date every year which is January 13 in the month of Paush and is set by the solar part of the lunisolar Punjabi calendar and in most years it falls around 13 January of the Gregorian calendar. An official restricted holiday in the Indian Punjab, Haryana and the National Capital Territory of Delhi, Lohri is not a holiday in the Pakistani Punjab, but It is, observed by Hindus, Sikhs and some Muslims there.

There are many folklores about Lohri which is the celebration of the arrival of longer days after the winter solstice. According to folklore, in ancient times Lohri was celebrated at the end of the traditional month when the winter solstice occurs with the day after Lohri celebrated as Maghi Sangrand.

The festival is ancient, originating in the regions near the Himalayan mountains where winter is colder than the rest of the subcontinent. Hindus traditionally lit bonfires in their yards after the weeks of the rabi season cropping work, socialised around the fire, sang and danced together as they marked the end of winter and the onset of longer days. After the night of bonfire celebrations, Hindus would mark Makar Sankranti and go to a sacred water body such as a river or lake to bathe. Over the years, however, instead of celebrating Lohri on the eve of when winter solstice actually occurs, Punjabis started to celebrate it on the last day of the month during which winter solstice takes place.

The festival’s ancient significance is both as a winter crop season celebration and a remembrance of the Sun deity or Surya. Lohri songs mention the Sun god asking for heat and thanking him for his return. Other legends explain the celebration as a folk reverence for the Lord of fire or Agni or the goddess of Lohri. Yet another folklore links Lohri to the tale of Dulla Bhatti. The central theme of many Lohri songs is the legend of Dulla Bhatti who lived in Punjab during the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar. He was regarded as a hero in Punjab, for rescuing Hindu girls from being forcibly taken to be sold in slave market of the Middle East. Amongst those he saved were two girls Sundri & Mundri, who gradually became a theme of Punjab’s folklore. As a part of Lohri celebrations, children go around homes singing the traditional folk songs of Lohri with Dulla Bhatti’s name included in them. One person sings, while others end each line with a loud “Ho!” sung in unison. After the song ends, the adult of the home is expected to give snacks and money to the singing troupe of youngsters.

Some people believe that Lohri has derived its name from Loi, the wife of Saint Kabir. There is a legend amongst some people that Lohri comes from the word ‘loh’, which means the light and the warmness of fire. Lohri is also called lohi in rural Punjab. According to another legend Holika and Lohri were sisters. While the former perished in the Holi fire, the latter survived with Prahlad. Eating of til or sesame seeds and rorhi or jaggery is considered to be essential on Lohri day. Perhaps the words til and rorhi merged to become tilorhi, which eventually got shortened to Lohri.

Lohri is celebrated with a bonfire, the lighting of which during this winter festival is an ancient tradition. Eating sheaves of roasted corn from the new harvest and celebrating the January sugarcane harvest is how Lohri is celebrated. Sugarcane products such as jaggery and gachak or peanut candy are central to Lohri celebrations, as are nuts which are harvested in January. The other important food items of Lohri are radishes and mustard greens. During this time, it is traditional to eat gajak, sarson da saag with makki di roti, radish, ground nuts and jaggery as well as til rice which is made by mixing jaggery, sesame seeds and rice. In some places, this dish is called Tricholi.

In various places of the Punjab, about 10 to 15 days before Lohri, groups of young and teenage boys and girls go around the neighbourhood collecting logs for the Lohri bonfire. In some places, they also collect items such as grains and jaggery which are sold and the sale proceeds are divided amongst the group. In some parts of Punjab, there is a popular “trick or treat” activity which is engaged in by boys to select a group member to smear his face with ash and tie a rope around his waist. The idea is for the selected person to act as a deterrent for people who refrain from giving Lohri items. The boys will sing Lohri songs asking for Lohri items. If not enough is given, the householder will be given an ultimatum to either give more or the rope will be loosened. If not enough is given, then the boy who has his face smeared will try to enter the house and smash clay pots or the clay stove.

During the day, children go from door to door singing folk songs. These children are given sweets and savories, and occasionally, money. Turning them back empty-handed is regarded inauspicious. Where families have newly-weds and new borns, the requests for treats increases. The collections gathered by the children are known as Lohri and consist of til, gachchak, crystal sugar, jaggery, peanuts and phuliya or popcorn. Lohri is then distributed at night during the festival. Sesame seeds, peanuts, popcorn and other food items are also thrown into the fire. For some, throwing food into the fire represents the burning of the old year and start the next year on Makar Sankranti

The bonfire ceremony differs depending on the location in Punjab. In some parts, a small image of the folk Lohri goddess is made with gobar or cattle dung decorating it, kindling a fire beneath it and chanting its praises. The folk Lohri goddess is believed to be an ancient aspect of the celebration, and is part of a long tradition of the winter solstice celebrations manifesting as a god or goddess. In other parts, the Lohri fire consists of cow dung and wood with no reference to the Lohri goddess. The bonfire is lit at sunset in the main village square. People toss sesame seeds, gur, sugar-candy and rewaries on the bonfire, sit around it, sing and dance till the fire dies out. Some people perform a prayer and go around the fire. This is to show respect to the natural element of fire, a tradition common in winter solstice celebrations. It is traditional to offer guests til, gachchak, jaggery, peanuts and phuliya or popcorn. Milk and water are also poured around the bonfire by Hindus to thank the Sun God and seeking his continued protection. Chants of “Aadar aye dilather jaye” meaning “may honour come and poverty vanish” are chanted while moving around the fire.

In the northern union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, Lohri in Jammu is special because of various additional traditions associated with it like Chajja making and dancing, hiran dance and preparing Lohri garlands. Young children prepare a replica of a peacock known as Chajja. They carry this Chajja and then go from one house to other house celebrating Lohri. In and around Jammu, a special hiran or deer dance is performed. Selected houses which have auspicious ceremonies prepare eatables and children wear special garlands made of groundnuts, dry fruits and candies on the day of the festival.

Among some sections of the Sindhi community, the festival is traditionally celebrated as Lal Loi. On the day of Lal Loee children bring wood sticks from their grandparents and aunts and light a fire burning the sticks in the night with people enjoying, dancing and playing around the fire. The festival is gaining popularity amongst other Sindhis where Lohri is not a traditional festival.

Travel Bucket List: India – Punjab Part 6

After Jalandhar and Kapurthala, let’s move on to the last post in this series on the state of Punjab. Today’s two cities are Pathankot and Amritsar.

Pathankot
Located about 130 km north of Kapurthala and on the border between Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, and close to the border between Punjab and the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir, Pathankot is a border district, sharing an international border with Pakistan on its west. Due to its location, Pathankot serves as a travel hub for these three northerly states. The city is the sixth largest in the state and is situated in the picturesque foothills of Kangra and Dalhousie, with the river Chakki flowing close by. The city is often used as a rest-stop before heading into the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir, Dalhousie, Chamba, Kangra, Dharamshala, Mcleodganj, Jwalaji, Chintpurni and deep into the Himalayas. Pathankot also serves as the education hub for the nearby areas of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh with many students from rural areas of these states coming to Pathankot to complete their education.

An ancient city with historical significance, Pathankot’s ancient name may have been Audumbara. Numerous coins of antiquity found at Pathankot prove that it is one of the oldest sites in the Punjab region. Pathankot was the capital of Nurpur State and its name was changed to Dhameri Nurpur during the Akbar reign. The Pathania clan of Rajput derived its name from ancient name of Pathankot which was Paithan at that time. After the independence of India, Pathankot, has developed as an important township because of it’s strategic location which has prompted the establishment of an army presence and air force station. After the liberalisation of the Indian economy, Pathankot emerged as a commercial center of wholesalers and distributors of consumer goods and services, catering to Himachal Pradesh, J&K and northwest Punjab.

Nurpur Fort is a 900 year old fort, popular for its ancient Krishna temple located in the inner sanctum. It was built by Pathania Rajputs and later Shah Jahan named it after his beloved wife Nur Jahan. The fort was quite badly damaged during the 1905 earthquake and is located about 25 km away from Pathankot.

The Shahpurkandi fort is located approximately 20 km from Pathankot City and was built in 1505 by a Rajput chief named Jaspal Singh Pathania who was a subordinate of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. It was strategically located to have control over the Kangra and Nurpur region, but today, the fort is in ruins.

One of the most popular local shrines, the Mukteshwar temple is an ancient temple which is almost 350 years old and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The shrine is about 25 km from the city in the village of Doong on the banks of the river Ravi. Perched on top of the highest point in Mukteshwar, a beautiful hill station that got its name after the shrine, the temple lies approximately 2312 m above the sea level. The temple is the perfect location for breathtaking views of the area and you can click some wonderful photos from here. This grand temple is identified as one of the eighteen most important temples dedicated to Lord Shiva in the Hindu scripture. A white marble Shiva Linga is also present here which has a copper yoni. In addition to the Shiva Linga, there are idols of other deities as well including Lord Ganesha, Brahma, Vishnu, Parvati, Hanuman, and Nandi. There are some caves which purportedly date to the time of the Mahabharata. According to legend, the Pandavas stayed in those caves for a night during their exile. This temple is said to be 5,500 years old, dating it to the time of Mahabharata.[citation needed]The Mukteshwar temple is considered vital and holds a lot of significance for the community of iron ore miners known as ‘agaries’. You can trek to the temple and the trek is said not to be very challenging with the way up to the temple covered with fruit orchards and forests and the trek should take around 2 hours to complete.

Located in the village of Kathgarh, the Pracheen Shiv Mandir Kathgarh temple is renowned for its 6 ft high Shivalinga. Devoted to Lord Shiva and Parvati, this temple is 25 km from Pathankot on the confluence of the Beas and the Choch rivers. The temple is built in the Roman architectural style, housing two Lingas of light grey sandy stone of 6 feet and and 4.7 feet in height having an octagonal base with every side measuring 1.3 feet above the ground level, personifying Lord Shiva and Parvati respectively. These lingas stand 3.5 feet apart at the bottom, and incline towards each other, being just two inches away from each other at the top.

The Ashapurni Mandir is one of the oldest temples in Pathankot, dedicated to Mata Ashapurni, who is considered to be an extremely powerful deity. The Kanya Poojas and the annual festival of Navratri are celebrated at the temple with great enthusiasm.

Dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi, the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir is a famous temple in the region. It is one of the largest temples in Pathankot and has the idols of the deity in the main shrine and a large statue of Lord Hanuman in the courtyard. With ample space and greenery all around, the temple is a perfect attraction to quite a troubled soul.

The Ranjit Sagar Dam was built for irrigation and power generation on the river Ravi. It is a stunning work of engineering, the highest gravity dam in Asia and the biggest hydroelectric project in Punjab. 60% of the 32 billion cubic metre capacity reservoir formed falls in the Jammu and Kashmir region while the remaining 40% falls in Pathankot. The power plant has four turbines that generate 600 mw of total electricity.

The Hydraulic Research Station is a perfect attraction for engineers and engineering enthusiasts, especially those interested in hydraulics and civil engineering. The station has an impressive display of dam models and models of systems used for irrigation and one can make the most of the simulations and the research information readily available at the station.

Amritsar
This is a city that has been on my bucket list for more than a decade now. I have made failed plans to visit Amritsar three times now, the most recent being early this year before the panademic struck, making all travel in 2020 impossible! I am still hopeful that next year, I make it here.

The holiest of all cities in India for adherents of the Sikh faiths, Amritsar, also colloquially known a Ambarsar and historically known as Ramdaspur is home to the Harmandir Sahib or as we know it, “the Golden Temple”. Amritsar is the second-largest city of Punjab and is also one of the fastest growing cities of the state. In the mid 1980s the city was famous for its textile industry, but after the 1984 Sikh riots, the city faced a blow to its industrial growth but there are still many textile mills present in the city. Amritsar is famous for its Pashmina shawls, woolen clothes and blankets. The craft of the Thatheras of the Jandiala Guru in the district got became a part of the UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2014. Amritsar is very close to India’s border with Pakistan and one of the border crossing called Wagah is in the outskirts of Amritsar at a distance of about 28 km.

The Bhagwan Valmiki Tirath Sthal situated at Amritsar is believed to be the Ashram site of Maharishi Valmiki, the writer of Ramayana. As per the Ramayana, Goddess Sita gave birth to her twin sons, Lava and Kusha, sons of lord Rama at the Ramtirth ashram. A large number of people visit the Ramtirth Temple during its annual fair. Cities close to Amritsar which are Lahore and Kasur, both in today’s Pakistan, were said to be founded by Lava and Kusha respectively. During the Ashvamedha yagna by Lord Rama in the Ramayana, Lava and Kush captured the ritual horse and tied Lord Hanuman to a tree near what is today the Durgiana Temple.

Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh guru is credited with founding the holy city of Amritsar in the Sikh tradition. Two versions of stories exist regarding the land where Ram Das settled. In one, based on the gazette record, the land was purchased with Sikh donations, for 700 rupees from the owners of the village of Tung. According to the Sikh historical records, the site was chosen by Guru Amar Das and called Guru Da Chakk, after he had asked Ram Das to find land to start a new town with a man-made pool as its central point. After his coronation in 1574, and the hostile opposition he faced from the sons of Amar Das, Ram Das founded the town named after him as “Ramdaspur”. He started by completing the pool, and building his new official Guru centre and home next to it. He invited merchants and artisans from other parts of India to settle into the new town with him. The town expanded during the time of Arjan financed by donations and constructed by voluntary work. The town grew to become the city of Amritsar, and the pool area grew into a temple complex after his son built the gurdwara Harmandir Sahib, and installed the scripture of Sikhism inside the new temple in 1604. The construction activity between 1574 and 1604 is described in Mahima Prakash Vartak, a semi-historical Sikh hagiography text likely composed in 1741, and the earliest known document dealing with the lives of all the ten Gurus.

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre, involving the killings of hundreds of Indian civilians on the orders of a senior British military officer, Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, took place on 13 April 1919 in the heart of Amritsar, on a day sacred to them as the birth anniversary of the Khalsa, which is Vaisakhi day.

In Punjab, during World War I which took place between 1914 and 1918, 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 Ghadarites, almost all of whom were Sikhs. On 10 April 1919, Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew, two popular proponents of the Satyagraha movement led by Gandhi, 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 into a crowd of about 50,000 marchings on to protest to the deputy commissioner against the arrest of the two leaders. The crowd, however, was stopped and fired upon near the railway foot-bridge.

Three days later, on 13 April it was the traditional festival of Baisakhi and thousands of Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh. An hour after the meeting began as scheduled at 4:30 pm, Dyer arrived with a group of sixty-five Gurkha and twenty-five Baluchi soldiers. Without warning the crowd to disperse, Dyer blocked the main exits and ordered his troops to begin shooting toward the densest sections of the crowd. Firing continued for approximately ten minutes. A British inquiry into the massacre placed the death toll at 379. The Indian National Congress determined that approximately 1,000 people were killed.

Operation Blue Star which took place between 1 to 6 June 1984, was an Indian military operation ordered by Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India at that time to curb and remove Sikh militants from the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The operation was carried out by Indian army troops with tanks and armoured vehicles. Militarily successful, the operation aroused immense controversy, and the government’s justification for the timing and style of the attack are hotly debated. Official reports put the number of deaths among the Indian army at 83, with 493 civilians and Sikh militants killed. 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 3,000 Sikhs were killed in anti-Sikh pogroms.

The reason most people visit Amritsar, the Golden Temple, also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib, is the holiest shrines in Sikhism. Located right in the heart of Amritsar and is easily reachable from any part of the city, it is seen as a symbol of brotherhood and equality. The Golden Temple is just a small part of the vast complex known as Harmandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib to the Sikhs. You can’t describe the divinity which emanates from this place, you need to experience it. After going through a tumultuous period of demolitions, it was rebuilt by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1830 purely with marble and gold. The view of the resplendent shrine, glistening in the centre of the tank brings an infinite calmness to the soul. The spiritual focus of the complex is the tank, the Amrit Sarovar, which surrounds the glistening central shrine. Around the edge of the compound, there are more shrines and monuments. The Sikh Museum is located inside the main entrance clock tower which shows the oppression endured by the Sikhs at the hands of the Mughals, the British and the Indian Government of 1984. The Ramgarhia Bunga is a protective fortress located at the southeast end of the tank and is surrounded by two Islamic-style minarets. The Guru Granth Sahib or the Sikh holy book, is placed inside the temple premises every morning and returned to the Akal Takhat or the timeless throne, which is the temporal seat of the Khalsa brotherhood, every night. This ceremony is called the Palki Sahib, and it provides male visitors with a chance to participate in the veneration of this holy book. The Guru Granth Sahib is carried in a heavy palanquin. The male visitors form a line in the front and back of the palanquin, shouldering the burden for a few seconds before passing it on. This allows every person a chance to participate and rest. The ceremony takes place at 5 am and 9:40 pm during winters and 4 am and 10:30 pm during summer. The temple also has the largest kitchen in the world offering free langar food to people of all religions and faiths. The Guru-Ka-Langar is an enormous dining room located at the southeast end of the temple complex where an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 pilgrims a day come to eat after praying at the Golden Temple. The food is free of charge, but the pilgrims often make donations and offer help with the staggering pile of dishes to be washed. It is a humbling projection of the Sikh doctrine of hospitality, catering to everyone from paupers to millionaires. The food served here is vegetarian to ensure that all people can eat together here, as equals and is often touted as the World’s Largest Free Kitchen.

The Akal Takht or the Throne of the Immortal is the highest political institution of the Sikhs, founded by the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind in 1606. Located in the famous Golden Temple complex of Amritsar, the Akal Takht is one of the five Takhts of the Sikhs. The Akal Takht is meant to be a symbol of political sovereignty and justice, where the spiritual and earthly concerns of the Sikh people could be addressed and examined. Situated directly opposite the Harmandir Sahib, this creation was originally a 9-foot high concrete slab built by Guru Hargobind, Baba Buddha and Bhai Gurdas without any external help. The two tall flags symbolise the two swords of Guru Hargobind representing his spiritual authority or Piri and earthly power or Miri by the Akal Takht.Today, the structure is a modern five-story building with marble inlay and gold-leafed dome. The elevated platform inside stands as a symbol of rebellion against Emperor Jehangir, who had ruled that only an emperor can sit on a raised platform. Guru Arjan Dev used to sleep under the cot meant for the Guru Granth Sahib, now known as Kotha Sahib.

The Gurudwara Baba Atal Rai is located inside the Golden Temple complex built in honour of Baba Atal Rai, son of Guru Har Gobind Singh. The 9 storey octagonal tower represents a year in Atal Rai’s life. It is the tallest tower in Amritsar alongside the Kaulsar Sarovar. The last storey of the tower offers visitors a birds-eye view of the bustling town of Amritsar. Devotees believe that having a dip in the holy water of Kaulsar Sarovar brings mysterious wide-spread showers in Amritsar. The langar at the Gurudwara serves the visitors 24 hours a day and is said to be the only continuous langar in Amritsar.

Found within the Golden Temple complex, the Dukh Bhanjani Ber Tree is considered the most sacred tree in Amritsar. The 400-year-old jujube tree, situated on the eastern side of the great Amrit Sarovar, is greatly revered due to the legend and faith of Bibi Rajni, whose leprosy stricken husband was miraculously cured after a dip in the pond close to the tree. It was then named Dukh Bhanjani which means ‘eradictator of suffering’. The sacred pond in the Golden Temple Complex, believed to be the holy pond of healing prophecised by the third Sikh Guru Guru Amar Das Ji, was developed into the famous Amrit Sarovar. While the access to the Amrit Sarovar is restricted, a small portion of it next to the Dukh Bhanjani Beri Tree is available to devotees who wish to take a dip in the holy water. Visitors to the Golden Temple believe that doing so would cure them of their pain and afflictions and that they would receive blessings from the sacred tree.

Located on the banks of river Beas is Gurdwara Goindwal Sahib and around 50 km southeast of Amritsar. It is known as the 1st Sikh pilgrimage site and is where the 3rd Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Amar Das Ji, lived and preached for 33 years. It is also where he coined the idea of langar or community kitchen and where he built a baoli or well from where people of all caste, colour, creed and religion could drink from. The baoli constructed here has 84 steps and many believe that by reciting the Japji Sahib and taking a bath in this well will provide salvation and unity with the Divine by liberating the soul from 84 lakh cycles of living and dying.

The Durgiana Temple, also known as the Lakshmi Narayan Temple, bears a stark resemblance to the famous Golden Temple while also carrying the same sense of peace, tranquillity and spirituality. Within this historic temple lies a beautiful sarovar or lake where one can find idols of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu floating. Gur Shai Mal Kapoor, whose statue can be found at the main entrance of the temple, laid the foundation for this temple. The rare sculpture of the sitting Hanuman, considered one of a kind, is found in this temple. Apart from the main temple, one can find many subsidiary temples here. The Bara Hanuman Mandir is where Hanuman was said to be captured by the twins of Rama and Sita. The Mata Sitla Mandir which is dedicated to Sitla, an incarnation of Goddess Durga, sits beside a Shiva Linga and a brass lion. Idols of Sat Narain and Radha Krishna can be found in the premises of the Sat Narain Mandir and the Goswami Tulsidas Mandir is dedicated to Tulsidas where one can find a rare handwritten copy of the Ramayana.

The Shri Ram Tirth Temple was built to honour the birthplace of Luva and Kusha, the twin sons of Rama and Sita. Constructed in lime yellow stone, the temple dates back to the time of the epic Ramayana where Sita was given sanctuary in the Ashram of the sage Valamiki after being abandoned by Rama. The battle of Ram’s Ashwamedha force with Luv-Kush is said to have taken place here. The ancient temple organizes a five-day fair a fortnight after the festival of Diwali, where almost one hundred thousand pilgrims visit to seek blessings. Devotees take a dip in the ancient tank next to the temple on Purnamashi or the full moon night. A tradition called Tulla Torana is practised where lamps made of kneaded flour and ghee are released into the water on the night of the full moon. The practice of this tradition is said to wash away any sins and is said to please Lord Rama. There is a unique belief that the pilgrimage is not complete without giving money or food to charity to the needy.

The Mata Lal Devi Temple, popularly known as the Sheesh Mahal of Amritsar, is famous among pilgrims for its miraculous fertility-improving powers. The temple is dedicated to the female saint Lal Devi and is considered a miniature dimension of the popular Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu. The temple is decorated with shining mirrors that light up the area through the reflecting sunlight and numerous diyas. A man-made cave leads pilgrims to the Goddess’s shrine which can be reached only by crawling or bowing completely. Women from across the country visit this mystic temple in order to seek blessings to bear a child, as the mysterious temple is famous for its ability to improve fertility among women.

The Gobindgarh Fort is a historic fort which represents the glorious past of 257 years, starting with the Bhangi Misl era and ending with the Indian Army after The British East India Company. Gobindgarh Fort was first known as ‘Bhagian da Qilla’ and was built by Gujar Singh in the 1760s. The area has now been developed into a live museum and acts as a repository of Punjab’s history. The Tokshakhana which is now a museum in the fort was used to store the famous Kohinoor diamond. Maharaja Ranjit Singh enhanced the fort, adding elements which were influenced by the French architecture. The monument was opened to the public in 2017 after being restored. The bungalow, one of the attractions at the fort, used to serve as a residence to Garrison Commanders during the British era.

Located near the Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh is a public garden that also houses a memorial to commemorate the massacre by the British forces. Spread over 6.5 acres of land, Jallianwala Bagh is associated with one of the saddest days in Indian history when thousands of innocent people were killed on the orders of General Dyer as they gathered for a peaceful celebration of Baisakhi. The place has now been turned into a beautiful park and is managed by the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust. There is a memorial tablet at the entrance which serves as a record of history. A number of structures are present inside the premises which bear the marks of bullets that were shot at the civilians gathered at the park and a well in which many people jumped to save themselves from the onslaught of the bullets. It is estimated that over a 1000 people, from all religions, lost their lives in this brutal assault. Even after a century, you can still feel the sense of sadness that emanates from this place.

The Maharaja Ranjit Museum is right in the middle of Ram Bagh garden, and used to serve as the summer palace of the first king of the Sikh Empire, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, after whom the museum is named. The museum provides insightful information on the life of the first Sikh monarch, along with history, art and architecture of the Sikh community between the 18th and 19th centuries. Converted to a museum in 1977, the museum consists many artefacts and personal items of the Maharaja such as his armour and weaponry. It also displays fantastic paintings, various manuscripts and coins from centuries, long gone. The museum reflects the rich history of the Sikh empire. The paintings mostly depict scenes from the Sikh monarch’s court and camp. Among all of them, the most famous among observers is the one depicting the city of Lahore. The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm on all days except on Mondays and Public holidays with an entry fee of INR 10 per person.

The Partition Museum is the first-ever museum in the entire world to focus on the stories and trauma of the millions who had to suffer the consequences of the partition of undivided India. Located at the Town Hall in Amritsar and developed by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust (TAACHT), the museum is a part of the newly inaugurated Heritage Street at Amritsar, which begins from the Golden Temple and ends at the Town Hall. The collections at the Partition Museum include newspaper clippings, photographs as well as personal items that were donated by people who had witnessed and lived during the Partition. The museum is devoted primarily to the victims & survivors, and their lasting legacy. The partition of India saw the disorganised displacement of twelve million people to a new land, causing the painful demise of over two million people. The museum is open every day except Monday from 10 am to 6 pm and the entry fee for Indians is INR 10 and that for foreigners is INR 250 per person.

The Punjab State War Heroes Memorial and Museum showcases the bravery of Punjab. Built in both a traditional and modern architectural style, it houses a state-of-the-art gallery where Punjab’s martial tradition and military campaigns can be viewed. Numerous illustrations, photographs, paintings, artefacts, weapons and interactive panels can be found here, letting the tourists go back in time. The museum has a collection of photographs of the 1965 and 1971 war. A mural has been built to commemorate the work and pay tribute to the 21 Sikh soldiers who were martyred in the 1971 war. Tourists can travel back 3 eras, through the pre-British, British and post-independence periods with the special light and sound show organised here. The 7D auditorium is a must-do experience during your visit here, transporting visitors to the war zones of the past. The chief appeal of this fascinating museum is the 45-metre stainless steel sword preserved at the centre of the place. The sword represents the strength and courage of the people defending the nation at the peak hour of war. The glorious sword is placed on a water body with 3500 martyr names inscribed on the memorial wall. The decommissioned aircraft carrier ship MiG-23, INS Vikrant, and 3 tanks are also exhibited here. Open from 10 am to 5 pm every day, the entry fee for the museum is INR 100 per person.

Pul Kanjari, popularly known as Amritsar’s Taj Mahal, is a village located close the Wagah border. Historically significant, this place was the site where Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his troops would rest while travelling between Amritsar and Lahore. An important trading centre during the 18th century, the town was named after a small bridge built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh over the canal between Amritsar and Lahore for his favourite dancer Moran, a Muslim dancer from the nearby village of Makhanpura. Apart from the bridge, one can also admire the fortress of the Maharaja, which houses a Mosque, a Mandir, the Baradari and a Sarovar. A war memorial has been instituted to pay respect to the martyrs of the Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971.

Located at a distance of 28 km from Amritsar, the Wagah Border marks the boundaries between Indian and Pakistani borders, running along the Grand Trunk Road. People from all over the country visit this place to witness the Beating Retreat Ceremony that is held every day before sunset. The flag ceremony has been conducted by the Indian Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers since 1959. This ceremony includes the closing of the international gates and lowering the flags of both countries and is a spectacle to be witnessed. Every evening, just before the sunset, the soldiers from the Indian and Pakistan military meet at this border post to engage in a 30-minute display of military camaraderie and showmanship. Officially, the purpose of the ceremony is to formally close the border for the night and lower their respective national flags. During the build-up to the ceremony, the crowd engages in chanting the Indian national anthem, rounds of applause and Bollywood-style dancing on Hindi songs. The Beating Retreat Ceremony starts at 4:15 pm in winter and 5:15 pm in summer and lasts for about 45 minutes. Entry is limited, so make sure you are there at least an hour before the ceremony to make sure you are able to enter. The ceremony is a military practice carried out by the Indian Border Security Force and the Pakistan Rangers. It begins with a parade by the soldiers from both the sides, and ends with a coordinated lowering of the flags of both the nations. As the sun sets, the iron gate is opened, with an infantryman standing in attention at both sides of the gate. The flags of India and Pakistan are lowered simultaneously and then folded. The ceremony ends with a retreat that involves a brusque handshake between soldiers of both the sides followed by the closing of the gate.

Since the area is a very sensitive one, there is no mobile phone service available. There is proper seating arrangements for the visitors and select seats are reserved for women, while the general seating is allowed for men. Irrespective of where you sit, you should get a good view of the ceremony because the place is constructed like a stadium. There are separate stands for foreign tourists, and these stands are the second-best seat, just behind the VIP section. So if you are a foreign national, don’t forget to carry your passport to claim this seat. Cameras are permitted, but bags are prohibited. Lockers are available beside the entrance gate to keep your belongings at a cost of INR 50. There is no entry fee and seating is on a first come, first serve basis.

This ends my small series on the state of Punjab, one I have learnt a lot in the last few years from my helper R. This state, which along with West Bengal suffered the most during partition is one I hope to visit soon. Here’s a small documentary I saw some years back on the Samjhauta Express, a train that plies between Attari near Amritsar, India and Lahore, Pakistan. I recently rewatched it and thought it to be a fitting end to this series.

Travel Bucket List: India – Punjab Part 5

Today’s two Punjab cities are Jalandhar and Kapurthala, both in the notthwest region of Punjab.

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Jalandhar
Known as Jullundur during the British period, Jalandhar lies along the Grand Trunk Road, one of Asia’s oldest and longest major roads which is at least 2,500 years old and has linked Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent. It runs roughly 3,670 km from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh to Kabul, Afghanistan, passing through Howrah, Allahabad, Delhi, and Amritsar in India, and Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Peshawar in Pakistan.

The history of Jalandhar District comprises three periods — ancient, medieval and modern. It is said that the city may be named after Jalandhara, a demon king, who is named in the Puranas and Mahabharata. The city was founded by Devasya Verma as mentioned in Vedas. Other possibilities include that it was the capital of the kingdom of Lava, son of Rama or that the name derives from the vernacular term Jalandhar, meaning area inside the water,or the tract lying between the two rivers Satluj and Beas. The city was also part of the Indus Valley Civilization. Excavations in recent years have put the age of Jalandhar to be in the time of the Harrapan period. Jalandhar was conquered by the Ghaznavids during the reign of Ibrahim of Ghazni between 1058–89 and later formed part of the province of Lahore during the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire. The 18th century saw upheavals in Jalandhar amidst an anarchy caused by the disintegration of the Mughal empire and power struggles involving the Persians, Afghans and Sikhs. It was captured by the Faizullahpuria Misl in 1766, and in 1811 Ranjit Singh incorporated it within the Sikh Empire.

In 1849, following the annexation of the Punjab by the East India Company, the city of Jalandhar, now spelt Jullundur, became the headquarters of the Division and District of the same name. In the mid 19th century, British officials regarded Jalandhar as densely populated and farmed to capacity. This led to the district being a chief recruitment area for settlers to colonise the newly irrigated Punjab Canal Colonies in western Punjab. The Khilafat Movement started in the district in early 1920 to bring pressure on the government to change their policy towards Turkey. Mahatma Gandhi extended sympathy and support to this movement however in response the district was declared a ‘Proclaimed Area’ under the Seditious Meetings Act. The Partition of India in 1947 saw Jalandhar become part of India. The resulting rioting and violence caused by Partition led to major demographic change in the district, with the exodus of the large Muslim population and the arrival of Hindus and Sikhs from newly created Pakistan.

Jalandhar is famous for its sports industry and equipment manufactured in Jalandhar has been used in many international sporting games including the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, among others. It is also a hub for the manufacturing of hand tools and is famous for its leather industry.

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A 200-year-old Hindu temple the Devi Talab Mandir is located in the heart of the city. The main goddess in the temple is Goddess Durga, and the temple is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas in India. In recent times, the temple was renovated, and a few changes have been made to the original structure. The tank within the temple, which is just as old as the temple is considered to be sacred. You can also find a shrine for Lord Shiva inside the temple which depicts him seated on a tiger. The temple is open all day from 7 am to 8 pm.

The Sodal Mandir’s main is known as Baba Sodal and is worshipped by many. According to the legend, Baba Sodal accompanied his mother to the river bank even when told to stay home. Furious, the mother cursed her child and told him to drown himself. Baba Sodal asked his mother to repeat her orders, and when she did, he jumped into the water never to appear again. It is said that the boy transformed himself into a holy snake and bid adieu to the mortal world. A temple was built where this incident took place which is now called the Baba Sodal Temple. Devotees take a dip in the holy water reservoir beside the temple where Baba Sodal had jumped and thereservoir is now called called Baba Sodal da Sarovar. Every year on Anant Chodas, also known as Anant Chaturdashi a fair is held at Sodal Temple where pilgrims cutting across lines of religion and caste attend to enjoy the festivities and collect the blessings of Baba Sodal.

The Shiva Temple in Jalandhar was built by the Nawab of Sultanpur Lodhi and is located inside the Gur Mandi near Masjid Imam Nasar. The locals believe that the Nawab was attracted to a newly married Hindu girl but she, being a devotee of Lord Shiva, was saved by a serpent before he could deploy his devious plan to abduct her. Astonished by the sudden appearance of this serpent out of nowhere, the Nawab begged the girl for forgiveness and built this temple. The shrine has an unusual architectural design where its gate has been constructed in the style of a mosque while the remaining temple complex is in the Hindu style of architecture.

The Tulsi Mandir is an ancient temple which is dedicated to Vrinda, the wife of the demon Jalandhara and is located in Kot Kishan Chand. There is a tank on the side of the shrine that is believed to have served as the bathing place of the demon Jalandhara. Close by, within walking distance is the temple of Gupha which is dedicated to Goddess Annapurna, the Goddess of Plenty.

The Gurdwara Talhan Shaeeb Ji is the key gurudwara of the village of Talhan which is about 12 km east of the main Jalandhar city. This gurudwara is dedicated to Baba Nihal Singh and devotees flock here from all parts of the country because they believe that visiting this Gurudwara will increases their chances of moving overseas to study or work. Which is why, you will see offerings made here which are often in the form of plastic aeroplanes. This Gurudwara is famous for its annual Shaheedi Jor Mela or fair which is held in the memory of Shaheed Baba Nihal Singh.

Formerly known as Company Bagh, the Nehru Garden is one of the oldest parks in Jalandhar. The park was recently renovated with a musical fountain, fancy electric lights, an entrance via three gates located at different areas of the garden, children’s fountain and a play arena with slides and swings. The oldest clock tower of the city still stands as an attraction point of the park. A memoir for Mahatma Gandhi has been staged in the form of a white coloured statue and there is also a library documenting India’s history of her struggle for freedom. The garden’s lush green area decorated with trees and fragrant flowers welcomes locals and tourists alike to spend some time in their busy days.

Science City, otherwise known as Pushpa Gujral Science City is a haven for science enthusiasts. Located at a distance of 15 km from Jalandhar, it is spread across an area of 72 acres. It uses concepts from physical, applied, natural and social sciences, engineering, technology, agriculture, health sciences, energy, industries, human evolution, environment, ecosystems, Jurassic parks as well as other as other intriguing aspects of space, IT, nuclear science, robotics and biotechnology. There is a theatre, a digital planetarium as well as a climate change theatre which are used to educate people about science. If you are a science enthusiast, the Science City is a must see destination while in Jalandhar. The Science City is open from 9 am to 6 pm, though tickets must be brought before 5 pm. Children below the age of 3 enter free, while adults and children pay according to the various packages you can purchase to view specific exhibits in the centre. If you plan to bring in a professional video camera, be prepared to pay INR 100 extra while that for a digital camera, it is INR 50.

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The Jang-e-Azadi memorial is located at Kartarpur, on the Amritsar-Jalandhar Highway about 25 km northwest of Jalandar. A new memorial, it is spread over 25 acres of land and is a memorial for all the Punjabis who sacrificed their lives during the fight for Indian independence. The memorial also has detailed exhibits which showcases the Punjabi culture and has separate galleries for various themes as well as a tower called Shaheed-e-Minar which is 45 metres high. All the galleries in the memorial have massive domes which are shaped to look like flowers. Within the galleries, there are models which depict various scenarios from history which include historical details. Inside this memorial, the use of mobile phones is prohibited and photography is not allowed. The memorial is open from 10 am to 6 pm from Monday to Saturday and from 7 am to 7 pm on Sundays. Entry fees are INR 50 for adults and INR 30 for children.

Kapurthala
Known as the city of Palaces and Gardens, Kapurthala was the capital of the Kapurthala State, ruled by the Ahluwalia Dynasty, a princely state in British India. The secular and aesthetic mix of the city with its prominent buildings based on French and Indo-Saracenic architecture speak of its princely past. According to the 2011 Census, Kapurthala is the least populated city in India.

The history of Kapurthala is the history of the Ahluwalia Dynasty. The Ahluwalia Dynasty was founded by Baba Jassa Singh Sahib. The Ahluwalia dynasty takes its appellation from the village of Ahlu near Lahore. The ascendancy of the Ahluwalia Misal, continued uninterrupted until the period when the Misals were consolidated into the Sikh Kingdom under Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Sardar Fateh Singh, the then ruler of Kapurthala co-signed the Treaty of Amritsar in 1806, and entered into a treaty with the East India Company, to halt the increasing Maratha influence. The fortunes of Kapurthala State, that once extended from Jagraon to the Beas, fluctuated during the two Anglo Sikh Wars.

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Once the residence of the erstwhile Maharajah of Kapurthala state, Maharajah Jagatjit Singh, the Jagatjit Palace is the home of the Sainik School which trains boys for the National Defence Academy. The palace building’s architecture is based on the Palace of Versailles and Fontainebleau and is spread over a total area of 200 acres. It was designed by the French architect M. Marcel and built by a local builder Allah Ditta. It was built in the renaissance style with a sunken park in the front, known as Baija. Its Durbar Hall or Diwan-E-Khas is one of the finest in India, and the Plaster of Paris figures and painted ceilings represent the finest elements of French and Italian art and architecture. The construction of this palace started in 1900 and ended in 1908.

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Built in 1962 by Kanwar Bikram Singh, in the Indo-French style architecture, the Elysee Palace is now the MGN school, but is still worth a visit for its sheer architectural beauty.

The Jagatjit Club is an elegant building situated in the heart of the city based on the Greek Roman style of architecture. Its design loosely resembles the Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens and features the Coat of Arms of the erstwhile ruling family of Kapurthala with their royal motto “Pro Rege et Patria” which translates to “For King and Country”. The building has been used for a variety of purposes since it was constructed, it was used as a church in the early nineteenth century, as a cinema hall in the 1940s and now houses a local club which includes a well built badminton court, a card room and a dining hall.

The Shalimar Gardens are situated in roughly the centre of the city and provide an escape from the hustle-bustle of the city for locals and tourists alike. The Shahi Samadhs or the Royal Cenotaphs in the Shalimar Gardens emphasise the traditions of its ruling dynasty. Marble obelisks inside the red sandstone chambers, are memorials to the former rulers and their families. Nearby, a grand structure built in 1880 and built on a marble plinth, houses the Samadhs of Maharajas Kharak Singh, Jagatjit Singh and Paramjit Singh.

An example of the secular history of Kapurthala is the Moorish Mosque, a replica of the Grand Mosque of Marakesh, Morocco, which was built by the French architect, M Manteaux. Its construction was commissioned by the last ruler of Kapurthala, Maharajah Jagatjit Singh and took 13 years to complete between 1917 and 1930. It was then consecrated in the presence of the late Nawab of Bhawalpur. The Mosque’s inner dome contains decorations by the artists of the Mayo School of Art, Lahore. The Mosque is a National Monument under the Archaeological Survey of India. Its wooden model rests at the entrance of the Lahore Museum.

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The large and imposing red sandstone building which is now painted white of the State Gurudwara was consecrated in 1915 under Revail Singh. Built in the Indo-Saracenic style, it has vast expanses of marble flooring which make it very cool to the feet. Located in the center of the city on the Sultanpur road, it was recently renovated. There is a big park behind the Gurudwara building.

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The Gurdwara Ber Sahib is situated at Sultanpur Lodhi, which is one of the four sub-divisions of Kapurthala. This historic site is of great importance to Sikhism as it is said to be the very place where the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak, spent 14 years or more precisely, 14 years, 9 months and 13 days of his life . The place derives its name from a Ber or Zizyphus Jujuba tree said to be planted by Guru Nanak himself and under which he first uttered the Mool Mantra or the “Sacred Word or Revelation” of Sikhism.

The Panch Mandir or Five Temples is a place of reverence for all faiths. The temple complex is home to five small temples. Built during the reign of Sardar Fateh Singh, an extraordinary feature of this temple is that from the entry door, one can view all the five idols and pay obeisance to all. There is a temple, Mandir Shivala Dewan Banna Mal Gautam in Nawanshahr in Punjab which is replica of the Panch Mandir in Kapurthala.

The Kanjli Wetlands, on the western Bein rivulet at the outskirts of the city, has been included in under the Ramsar Convention. It is a common site for bird watching and boating. An enormous project is currently being undertaken here to develop it into a destination for bird watching replete with modern-day facilities. Sadly the Kanjli Wetlands have been in a state of neglect lately with little attention being given by the authorities to the condition of flora and fauna and its surrounding infrastructure.

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The Harike Wetland also known as “Hari-ke-Pattan”, with the Harike Lake in the deeper part of it, is the largest wetland in northern India. The wetland and the lake were formed by constructing the headworks across the Sutlej river in 1953. The headworks is located downstream of the confluence of the Beas and Sutlej rivers just south of Harike village. The rich biodiversity of the wetland which plays a vital role in maintaining the precious hydrological balance in the catchment with its vast concentration of migratory fauna of waterfowls including a number of globally threatened species has been responsible for the recognition accorded to this wetland in 1990, by the Ramsar Convention, as one of the Ramasar sites in India, for conservation, development and preservation of the ecosystem. This man-made, riverine, lacustrine wetland spreads into the three districts of Tarn Taran Sahib, Ferozepur and Kapurthala in Punjab and covers an area of 4,100 hectares. This wetland is at a location of about 35 km southwest of Kapurthala.

Travel Bucket List: India – Punjab Part 4

After Patiala, let us travel about 100 km further westwards and slightly north to the city of Ludhiana and then southwest about 150 km from Ludhiana to the city of Bhatinda in this blog post.

Ludhiana
Punjab’s largest city and the largest city north of Delhi, Ludhiana has an area of 311 sq. km and stands on the Sutlej River’s old bank, which is about 13 km south of its present course. Often referred to as India’s Manchester City, the city is an industrial centre of northern India. Ludhiana has also been ranked as the easiest city in India for business according to the World Bank and is home to the Punjab Agricultural University, the largest agricultural university in Asia. Over the years, Ludhiana has established itself as a major trade hub in Northern India due to the presence of industries such as textile manufacturing, cycle parts, and steel.

A city dominated by the small scale industries producing industrial goods, machine parts, auto parts, household appliances, hosiery, apparel, and garments, Ludhiana is Asia’s largest hub for bicycle manufacturing and produces more than 50% of India’s bicycle production of more than 10 million each year. Ludhiana produces 60% of India’s tractor parts and a large portion of auto and two-wheeler parts. Many parts used in German cars such as Mercedes and BMW are exclusively produced in Ludhiana to satisfy the world requirement and it is one of the largest manufacturers of domestic sewing machines. Hand tools and industrial equipment are other specialties of the city.

The apparel industry of Ludhiana, popularly known as Ludhiana Hosiery industry provides employment to millions of people and produces India’s largest share of winter clothing. It is especially known for its woollen sweaters and cotton T-shirts with the majority of India’s woollen clothing brands being based here. Ludhiana is also famous for its industry of shawls and stoles and satisfies the demand of major domestic and international brands, which is why it is often dubbed as the Manchester of India. Ludhiana also has a growing IT sector with multiple software services and product companies having development centres in the city.

Ludhiana gets its name from the Lodhi Dynasty, which is believed to have founded the city in 1480. During the reign of the Mughal emperor Akbar the area formed part of the Sarkar of Sirhind. Chakar, Talwandi Rai in 1478 AD, Raikot in 1648 AD and Jagraon in 1688 AD were founded by the Rai family of Raikot. In the latter period of Mughal rule the western part of the district was leased to the Rais of Raikot. By the early eighteenth century, they had become semi-independent of the Mughals. The villages in Ludhiana district remained independent and under the rule of local powerful village Sikh chieftains, from 1707 to 1835. In 1747 Ahmad Shah Durrani invaded and battled the imperial army near Khanna. Although the Mughals were able to stop Ahmad Shah, his subsequent invasions weakened the Mughals, which allowed the Rais to take control of Ludhiana town in 1760. During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Ludhiana became an important British cantonment. Initially, in 1805, Ranjit Singh occupied Ludhiana. However, in 1809, the British decided to curb his advance eastward and sent troops to confront him. Ranjit Singh was forced to sign the treaty of ‘perpetual friendship’ with the British, which confined his activities to the right bank of the Sutlej. British troops were permanently stationed in Ludhiana and the Cis-Sutlej states came under British protection. There was also the battle of Saragarahi fought on 12 September 1897. In 1947 due to violence and strife between the communities, most of the Muslim population in the city left for Pakistan.

So what can we, as a tourist see and visit in this city?

Locally known as Purana Qila or Old Fort, Lodhi Fort was built by the Muslim ruler Sikander Lodhi around 500 years ago and is a grand structure which now lies in ruins due to poor maintenance. The fort stands on a large piece of land which has now been encroached from all sides. The fort was erected as a military castle to stop intruders from entering the city. What was once the gateway to Sikander Lodhi’s empire and the pride of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, now lies forgotten and in ruins. Surprisingly, a large percent of the local population is not even aware of the whereabouts of this fort. This majestic castle shows traces of its grand past, of its once beauty, great architecture, lush green landscapes, and a splendid view of the river Sutluj.

The 200-year old Phillaur Fort started life as a serai constructed by Sher Shah Suri at Phillaur, which was converted to a military fort and a post office by Shah Jahan and later used by the British as a part of the military camp. Designed by Dewan Mokham Chand, general of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the magnificent Phillaur Fort has a distinct European architecture designed by the Maharaja’s Italian and French generals. It has an extensive moat and its outer walls were used for defence attack. This ancient fort is now being operated as a police training centre and as a fingerprint bureau.

With lush green landscapes and a toy train, the Rakh Bagh Park of Ludhiana is a hot local favourite spot for children, joggers and walkers. Revamped from the British Era the toy train is a children’s favourite and never ceases to grab the attention of the children as it rides around the park. For the morning and evening walkers there is a jogging track that encloses the park. The park is surrounded by tracks for bicycle riders and it houses exercising machines on the children’s play area. There are food joints in and around the park’s premises so the visitors can munch on refreshments and also a swimming pool for learners. Renovations, landscaping and beautifications are planned for the popular garden which is usually crowded throughout the day.

The Nehru Rose Garden is a beautifully landscaped garden in the heart of the city sprawling over an area of 27 acres, and home to over 17000 plants and 1600 varieties of roses. The vast lawns are the perfect picnic spot with water fountains around it. Every night the fountains are illuminated with colorful lights and music. This garden is one of the oldest and largest leisure spots in Ludhiana, established in the year 1967. The rose garden provides a space for jogging and walking track within the enclosure. Apart from the fountains and landscape, the garden holds a planetarium at its entrance, boat rides in the artificial pool and mini zoo. The annual rose festival, one of the most significant cultural events held every year, attract thousands of visitors around India.

Constructed by the Punjab government in 1999, the Maharaja Ranjit Singh War Museum pays homage to the brave soldiers and educate people about their role in the defence. Named after Maharaja Ranjit Singh, this museum has a statue of the king sitting on a throne at the entrance. The museum has more than twelve galleries with different sections for ancient history, post-independence, wars that India fought at its borders, war heroes, the Indian armed forces and is an extensive memoir of India’s past. Don’t forget to watch the light and sound show, which is organised every evening.

The Punjab Agriculture University Museum on the outskirts of Ludhiana, displays artifacts from the 18th and 19th centuries of life in rural Punjab. Also known locally as the Ajaib Ghar and opened in 1974, the museum is inspired by the open-air museum in Copenhagen. The museum houses various rural farming tools and several other artefacts and resembles the traditional houses in rural Punjab with long paths flanked by water channels on either side. The Museum is a hybrid of the agricultural and cultural portrayal of Punjab where one can visit the goat farm, cow farm, and horse farm. The museum depicts the rural life of Punjabis and showcases their culture in the form of household equipment used in the ancient time, pottery, coins, musical instruments, dress, jewellery, juttis (shoes), handicrafts, etc. The models of miniature mountains, rivers and water reservoirs are the crowd pleasers. The exhibit has a long path with water channels on both sides and a beautiful facade in its 4000 sq.ft of land. The 100-yard long path makes way to the etched wooden door of the museum with which holds the antique repertoire of the 18th century Punjab. This historic building houses a rare object made of six layers of camel skin. The culture of Punjab comes alive at the museum as it features traditional instruments like tumba, sarangi, vanjhili and nagara. Open daily from 9 am to 1 pm and then again from 2 to 4 pm, you will need around two to three hours to finish seeing this place. There is an entry fee of INR 10 per person for the museum.

The Gurudwara Charan Kanwal is located about 35 km from Ludhiana, in the village of Machhiwara. The serene ambiance and the beautiful aesthetic architecture of the Gurudwara attracts many tourists. Legend has it that when Aurangzeb’s army attacked, Guru Gobind Singh resisted their onslaught and escaped into the woods of Machhiwara. Here, he rested and slept under a tree where he recited ‘Mitar Pyare nu’. The old Jand tree is still preserved outside the Gurudwara. Daya Singh, Man Singh, and Dharam Singh were his three companions who found him at the site. The place he stepped on marks the site of Gurudwara Charan Kanwal, the feet of Guru Gobind Singh compared to a lotus flower. Every December, an annual congregation fair is held that marks the days of Guruji’s stay during the 9th and 10th of the Punjabi month of Poh the days Guruji stayed at Machhiwara which is also the best time to visit this Gurudwara.

Famous as the memoir of Guru Gobind Singh, the Gurudwara Nanaksar Jagraon is situated on the banks of Nanaksar Sarovar. In the year 1975, the Sikh Saint Baba along with his followers established the Gurudwara in Kaleran. A dominant feature of this shrine is the annual festival held every year for five days in August. It is attended by nearly one-lakh devotees. This beautifully structured edifice houses three separate shrines around its premises namely Gurdwara Sahib Patshahi Pehli, Gurdwara Sahib Patshahi Chhevin and Gurdwara Sahib Patshahi Dasvin. This six storied structure is beautifully architectured with large marble floors and a Sanctum. The nearby villages offer the Langar, a communal meal of Sikhs to the Gurdwara hence the place is not just known for its peace and solace but also brotherhood. The Prakash Divas of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Guru Hargobind Ji and Shahidi Divas of Guru Arjan Dev Ji along with the Jor mela are the significant festivities that are celebrated with great pomp and enthusiasm from 13th-17th of January every year.

The village of Alamgir which is located about 10 km from the centre of Ludhiana is the location of the the Shri Manji Sahib Gurudwara, more commonly known as Alamgir Gurudwara. In 1761, Guru Gobind Singh reached Alamgir soon after the Mughals executed his mother and siblings. Upon arriving the village, it is reported that the Guru shot an arrow into the ground from which a spring appeared. A lady with leprosy who bathed in that spring was cured. Ever since then, the place is known as Tissar or Arrow Lake. It is prophesied that whoever visits the holy spring with faith will be cured of his worries and pain. The guru was also presented with a horse by a devoted follower. A prominent highlight of this place is the palanquin or Manji that carried the Guru to his place which is till date preserved in the Bhora Sahib or the underground shrine, hence the name Manji Sahib. The langar hall of Shri Manji Sahib is among the biggest langar halls of all the Sikh shrines with the capacity to serve hundreds of people for free in one go.

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The Rara Sahib Gurudwara is visited by devotees from different parts of Punjab and outside the state. The Rara village was converted into Rara Sahib after the visit of the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind-ji in the 17-century. And the Gurudwara was constructed in the 20-century with the visit of Sant Isher Singh-ji and Sant Kishan Singh-ji into this architectural beauty. One thing that attracts tourist to the Gurudwara is a continuous rendition of paath and kirtan day and night every single day without a break.

The Pir-I-Dastgir Shrine which is the tomb of the muslim saint, Abdul Kadir Galani, is located inside the Ludhiana Fort and is known for its unique architecture and design. Visited by both Hindu and Muslim pilgrims from around the city the tomb belongs to the members of Shah Shuja’s family whose belongings can be seen here. Take some time from your hectic trip to spend some hours in this beautiful place which will give you a sense of peace and calm.

Bhatinda
Travelling about 150 km west of Ludhiana, we arrive at one of Punjab’s oldest and fifth largest cities – Bhatinda. Nicknamed City of Lakes because of the numerous artificial lakes in the city, Bhatinda is also home to two thermal power plants.

According to Henry George Raverty, the city was previously known as Tabarhindh and the name was changed to Bhatinda to conform to the local phonetical pronounciation. The earliest mention of Tabarhindh occurs in the Jami-Ul-Hakayat written about 607 Hijri or 1211 AD. In 1004, Mahmud of Ghazni besieged the local fort, which was located on the route from the northwest into the rich Ganges valley. In 1189, Muhammad Ghori attacked and occupied the fort of Bathinda. Prithvi Raj Chauhan, the ruler of this region, managed to recover possession of the fort thirteen months later in 1191 after the First Battle of Tarain. In 1634, a battle named Battle of Lahira, which occurred at Lahira in Bathinda, was fought between Guru Hargobind and Mughals. In 1754, the town was conquered by Maharaja Ala Singh, the Maharaja of Patiala and since then it followed the history of erstwhile princely state of Patiala. With the dawn of independence and merger of Patiala and East Punjab States into a division called PEPSU, Bathinda become a full-fledged district with headquarters at Bathinda city. The first and only empress of the Delhi Sultanate Razia Sultan was imprisoned in the Chauhan Durg fort in Bathinda.

Qila Mubarak’s origin can be traced back to the period between 90 and 110 AD, and it is the oldest surviving fort in India, known to historians. Since the fort is located en route from the northwest, it was also known as Tabar-e-Hind or the gateway to India. Located in the middle of the city, this majestic architecture looks similar to the shape of a boat. Owing to its robust structure, it served an essential role in the defence strategies of Punjab. Razia Sultana, the first empress of the Delhi Sultanates, was kept imprisoned in this fort after she was defeated and dethroned. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikhs, had also visited this place. These historical associations make the Qila Mubarak a place of particular interest, especially amongst history lovers. The fort is open on all days except Mondays from 9 am to 5 pm and there is no entry fee to visit this monument.

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The lush 10-acre Rose Garden is a perfect spot for a short excursion or enjoy a picnic. If you love to be surrounded by natural roses, you must visit the garden during winters. The sight of natural flowers blooming amidst the mesmerizing aura of the place, is surely worth a visit. The garden is open from 5:30 am till around 10 pm.

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The Chetak Park is a must visit tourist site. A park full of lavish greenery and beautiful flower bed, the Chetak Park is a delightful pause in a hectic day. Surrounding the Chetak Lake in the Cantonment area, this park is a perfect place for picnickers. It also offers water boating and bird watching to its visitors.

Nestled 10 km off the Cantonment area, the Zoological Garden is a sort of mini zoo and a popular picnic destination for the locals as well as the tourists. The plant nursery is maintained by the forest department and is a kid favourite too.

The Mazaar of Peer Haji Rattan is a popular place for people of all faiths. It is commonly believed that anyone who prays here and seeks blessings will see their prayers answered. The Mazaar has a common boundary wall with a gurdwara and mosque, which attests to the religious harmony of this place.

The Takht Sri Damdama Sahib is one of the 5 takhts or Seat of Temporal Authority. In Sikhism, Takhts are religious places which hold significant importance and the Takht Sri Damdama Sahib is where the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, assembled and instituted the Holy Book of Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahibji or the Adi Granth, which was originally compiled by Guru Arjan Dev Ji, and added the verses of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji, the ninth Guru and his father. Damdama which means a place to breathe and find peace, is why Guru Gobind Singhji came here after fighting a tumultuous battle against the Mughals and having his sons die a tragic yet heroic death with two of them- Sahibzada Fateh Singh and Sahibzada Zorawar Singh- being bricked alive in Sarhind, now known as Fatehgarh Sahib, and Sahibzada Ajit Singh and Sahibzada Jujhar Singh dying leading the Sikh armies to battle. This is why this is such an important place of worship for the adherants of the Sikh faith.

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Situated 15 km off Bhatinda, the Lakhi Jungle is a forest shelters an ancient Gurdwara where Shri Guru Nanak Dev delivered Shri Japuli Sahibs or one lakh which is one hundred thousand holy sermons, which is where the name Lakhi comes from. The 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh has also marked the holy place with his visit.

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Located 29 km from Bhatinda on the Bhatinda- Mansa Road, the Maiser Khana Temple is an important place for the followers of Hinduism. It was built to honor Jwalaji and the goddess Durga. People generally visit this area when two melas or fairs are held. Not only Hindu devotees, but alo Sikh devotees make a beeline to the temple during the fairs.

In the next post, we will visit two more cities in Punjab!