AMRITSAR (31º-38'N, 74º-53'E), principal holy city of the Sikhs, is the headquarters of a district (Amritsar) in the Punjab. The foundation of the town was laid in 1577 by Gurū Rām Dās (1534 81) when he inaugurated the digging of the holy tank Amrit-sar (amrit = nectar, sar = pool) on a piece of land which, according to some sources, was purchased from the residents of the neighbouring village of Tuṅg during the time of Gurū Amar Dās (1479-1574) and, according to other sources, was a gift from the Mughal Emperor Akbar (1542-1605) to Gurū Amar Dās's daughter, Bībī Bhānī married to (Gurū) Rām Dās. The habitation that grew around the sacred pool (sarovar) was initially called Ramdāspur, or Chakk Rāmdās, or simply Chakk Gurū. Gurū Rām Dās encouraged people from various trades and professions to take up residence here. The town expanded further under his son and successor, Gurū Arjan (1563-1606), who completed and lined the tank and constructed in its middle the holy shrine, Harimandar, now famous as the Golden Temple and also had two more tanks, Santokhsar and Rāmsar, excavated near by. It was on the bank of Rāmsar that he carried out the compilation of the Ādī Granth (later Gurū Granth Sāhib). With the installation on 16 August 1604 of the Granth Sāhib in the Harimandar, the shrine and the sarovar Amritsar surrounding it together became the central attraction of the town and a site of pilgrimage for Sikhs from far and near. In time, the town itself came to be called Amritsar.
Gurū Hargobind (1595-1644) constructed near the pool and opposite the Harimandar, the Akāl Takht, lit. Throne Eternal, where he sat in state dispensing the secular business of the community. He also gave two more tanks, Kaulsar and Bibeksar, to the town. Gurū Hargobind constructed a fortress, Lohgaṛh (lit. steel fort) on the western outskirts of the town. He soon came into conflict with the Mughal authority and was involved in a succession of skirmishes in and around the town. He decided to leave Amritsar early in 1635 and shift to Kīratpur, a town in the Śivālik foothills founded at his bidding by his son, Bābā Gurdittā, a few years earlier. None of the later Gurūs resided at Amritsar which was controlled during the rest of the seventeenth century by Gurū Hargobind's cousin, Miharbān, and the latter's son, Harjī, who headed the schismatic Mīṇā sect. It was only after the creation of the Khālsā in 1699 that Gurū Gobind Siṅgh deputed Bhāī Manī Siṅgh with a few other Sikhs to go to Amritsar and resume control of the town and manage the holy shrines there on behalf of the Khālsā Panth.
During the eighteenth century, Amritsar, like the Sikh community as a whole, witnessed many vicissitudes of history. It suffered repeatedly desecration and destruction until it was finally liberated upon the establishment of sovereign authority of the Sikh misls, principalities, over the Punjab in 1765. The town was thereafter under the control of several misl chiefs although its surrounding district was held by Sardār Harī Siṅgh of the Bhāṅgī misl. Different sardārs or chiefs constructed their own buṅgās or residential houses around the principal sarovarand also their respective kaṭṛās or wards encouraging traders and craftsmen to reside in them and over which each exercised exclusive control. The sacred shrines were however administered by a joint council comprising representatives of the chiefs who had made endowments in land for their maintenance. Even prior to the time of Sikh ascendancy, joint councils, known as sarbatt Khālsā(lit. the entire Sikh Panth), to take crucial decisions on political matters had been held at Amritsar. Now again with all misl chiefs having their buṅgās there, it became the common capital of the Khālsā. Devotees from far and near, free to visit the holy city after six decades of the severest persecution, flocked to Gurū kī Nagarī (the Gurū's town). So did businessmen and tradesmen to take advantage of the increasing pilgrim and resident population. Trade, commerce and crafts flourished in different kaṭṛās each having its own markets and manufactories. By the end of the eighteenth century, Amritsar had already become Punjab's major trading centre. Yet the town with its multiple command setup remained a confederated rather than a composite habitation until Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh (1780-1839) rose to power and consolidated the whole of the Punjab into one sovereign State.
Raṇjīt Siṅgh, chief of the Sukkarchakkīā misl, who first occupied, in 1799, Lahore, the traditional capital of the Punjab, and declared himself Mahārājā in 1801, extended his hegemony to Amritsar in 1805 when he took over from his traditional rivals, the bhāṅgī chiefs, their fort with its mint striking the Nānakshāhī rupee, and the famous Zamzamā gun. The fort of the Rāmgaṛhīā misl was occupied in 1815 and with the possessions of Rāṇī Sadā Kaur of Kanhaiyā Misl and Fateh Siṅgh Āhlūvālīā in Amritsar during the early 1820's, Raṇjīt Siṅgh's occupation of Amritsar was complete. He then constructed a double wall and a moat around the city with twelve gates and their corresponding bridges over the moat. Already in 1809 he had constructed the Gobindgaṛh Fort outside Lahaurī Gate complete with a formidable moat, three lines of defence and several bastions and emplacements for heavy guns. Amritsar thus had already become his second capital. The royal toshākhānā or treasury was kept in Gobindgaṛh Fort which was also used as the royal residence during the Mahārājā's frequent visits to the city before his palace in the city, Rām Bāgh, was completed in 1831. Several members of the nobility also raised palatial houses and beautiful gardens in and around the city. Raṇjīt Siṅgh devoutly provided liberal funds to have the dome and exterior of the holy Harimandar gold plated and to have the interior ornamented with fine filigree and enamel work and with decorative murals and panels in marble inlaid with coloured stone. Sardār Desā Siṅgh Majīṭhīā (d. 1832), who had been appointed manager of the holy shrines in the city since its occupation by Raṇjīt Siṅgh, donated gold for gilding the top of Bābā Aṭal.
During Sikh rule, Amritsar grew into a leading industrial and commercial city. The most important industry was textiles, particularly shawl and fine cotton cloth called sūsī. The shawl making industry received an impetus after a famine in Kashmīr in 1833, which led to the migration of a large number of skilled Kashmīrī weavers to the city. The raw material, pashmīnā wool, came from the trans-Himalayan regions of Ladākh, Tibet and Central Asia. Other important industries included silk weaving, carpet making, brass and copper ware and ivory goods.
Amritsar continued to enjoy its precedence as the holiest city of the Sikhs as well as the most important commercial and industrial centre in the northwest India even after the annexation of the Punjab to the British empire in 1849. According to the first ever official census in the Punjab conducted in 1855, Amritsar had a population of 112, 186 against 94, 143 of Lahore. Its population increased by 30, 000 during the next thirty years. In 1890, with its population of 152, 000, it was the 13th largest city in India. It was connected by rail to Lahore in 1862 and to Delhi in 1870. Both circumstances provided further fillip to its industry, trade and commerce. For textiles and shawl making, there were in 1883-84 nearly 4, 000 looms in the city. As for commerce, here is a quotation from W. S. Caine, Picturesque India (1891) :
The serai at Amritsar is one of the most interesting sights in India. . . . It is a great open space, surrounded by small houses, in which are lodged the travelling merchants from Central Asia. . . . Here are white-skinned Kashmiris, stout Nepalese, sturdy little Baluchis, stately but filthy Afghans, Persians, Bokharans and Tartars, and even the ubiquitous Chinaman. . . . These people bring to Amritsar the raw material for the great staple manufacture of the city, the soft down, or under wools of goats of the Great Tibet plateau and Kashmir, from which Kashmir shawls are woven. . . . Besides the shawls of home manufacture, Amritsar is the chief emporium for those of a similar kind made in Kashmir. . . .
Amritsar made great strides in the field of education after annexation. According to the Settlement Report of 1852 for Amritsar Khās (i. e. the town proper), there were (besides the centres of Sikh religious learning in various buṅgās and ḍerās) 18 schools, 6 run by Muhammadan teachers and 12 by Brāhmaṇs, imparting instruction to 1, 050 students. By 1882, there were in the city 132 maktabs and madarsās, 65 pāṭhshālās, 63 Gurmukhī schools and 24 Mahājanī schools with a total number of 4, 860 pupils on their rolls. The first English school, the Zilā School Amritsar, was opened in 1851 under a European headmaster with an annual government grant of Rs 5, 000. Christian missionaries opened other schools, the first of them in 1853. In 1870, the Christian Vernacular Education Society opened a Normal School for the training of teachers. It was a declaration in 1873 by four Sikh students of the Amritsar Mission School of their intention to embrace Christianity which led to the rise of a Sikh movement to promote rediscovery of the essentials of the teachings of the faith and education among the Sikh masses. It was at Amritsar that the first Srī Gurū Siṅgh Sabhā subscribing to these twin objectives was formed on 1 October 1873. The efforts of the Siṅgh Sabhā leaders culminated in the establishment in 1892 of the Sikhs' premier educational institution, the Khālsā College at Amritsar. At present the city claims a dozen colleges, including a medical college, as also the Gurū Nānak Dev University, established in 1969 in honour of quinquecentennial of Gurū Nānak Dev's birth. Besides, the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee, a statutory body representing the entire Sikh community, is running the Shahīd Sikh Missionary College here imparting instruction in Sikh religion and history.
In addition to incidents during the Kūkā uprise of the 1870's, what made Amritsar politically alive was the Jalliāṅvālā Bagh massacre of 1919 (q. v.). The Indian National Congress held its annual session of 1919 in Amritsar. October 1920 saw the rise of the Akālī or the Gurdwārā Reform movement when the Sikh saṅgat led by Akālī leaders, Kartār Siṅgh Jhabbar and Tejā Siṅgh Bhuchchar, occupied on behalf of the reformers the Akāl Takht, the pujārīs or officiants and the sarbarāh, i. e. manager, appointed by the government, fleeing the holy precincts. With the formation of the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee during the following month, Amritsar once again became the political headquarters of the Sikhs. Since then almost all morchās or agitations connected with the political struggle of the Panth have been launched and conducted from the Darbār Sāhib complex where the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee and its political counterpart, the Shiromaṇī Akālī Dal, have their main offices.
The growth of the city, population-wise, was irregular up to 1921. In fact, it was negative during the decades 1881-91 (-9. 96%) and 1901-11 (-5. 96%), the reason being the frequent epidemics and a decline in shawl trade caused by a change in fashions in Paris and in Europe as a whole. But the decades 1921-31 and 1931-41 saw a rapid increase (+65. 30 and +47. 64 per cent, respectively). The following decade again had a steep decline (-16. 69%), this time owing to the partition of the Punjab, resulting in the emigration from the city of almost the entire Muslim population to what became Pakistan after the independence of India. The loss of Muslim population was scarcely compensated by immigrating Hindus and Sikhs who preferred the security of the interior to settling down in a disturbed frontier city which Amritsar had then become. With the restoration of normal conditions, however, the population began to increase. The number recorded during 1991 Census was 7, 09, 456 including persons living in the cantonment area. Although Amritsar was founded by the Sikh Gurūs and continued to be the most important sacred city of the Sikhs, Sikhs formed only a minority of its population. Before partition Sikhs in Amritsar were, according to the Census of 1931, only 12. 09% against 49. 98% Muslims and 36. 94% Hindus. Even after the partition of 1947 with almost the entire Muslim population having emigrated, the Sikhs were 34. 18% against Hindus 64. 21% (last known figures of 1971 Census).
Population percentages notwithstanding, Amritsar still remains the holy city of the Sikhs dotted with Sikh shrines honouring the memory of Gurūs, martyrs and heroes. They are :
SRĪ HARIMANDAR SĀHIB. See SRĪ DARBĀR SĀHIB
AKĀL BUṄGĀ housing Srī Akāl Takht Sāhib. See AKĀL TAKHT
GURDWĀRĀ LĀCHĪ BER, a small, domed structure raised upon a marble-paved platform near the gateway to the Harimandar, is named after the berī (jujube) tree by its side which yields small (lāchī or cardamom-size) berries. According to tradition, Gurū Arjan used to sit under this tree and watch the digging of the sarovar, the sacred tank. Bhāī Sālho, a prominent Sikh of that time, also used to relax here after the day's labour at the tank. It is said that when Mahitāb Siṅgh Mīrāṅkoṭīā and Sukkhā Siṅgh arrived here to have the Harimandar liberated from the control of Masse Khān Raṅghaṛ, and chastised the desecrator of the holy shrine, they fastened their horses to this jujube tree before entering the building.
BER BĀBĀ BUḌḌHĀJĪ, is an old jujube tree standing in the parikramā or circumambulatory terrace along the northern bank of the sacred pool. It is here that the celebrated Bābā Buḍḍhā, entrusted with the supervision of the digging of the tank, used to sit with his piles of digging tools and implements and other materials used for brick lining the sarovar and later for the construction of the Harimandar. A marble platform now surrounds the tree trunk.
GURDWĀRĀ DUKH BHAÑJAṆĪ BERĪ stands on the eastern flank of the sarovar by the side of yet another jujube tree known as Dukh Bhañjaṇī (lit. eradicator of suffering) Berī. The place is associated with the legend of Bībī Rajanī whose leper husband is said to have been cured of his malady by having a dip in the old pond which had existed here since ancient times. Gurū Rām Dās, hearing the report of this miracle, decided to develop the reservoir into a proper bathing tank. He is himself said to have given the tree the name Dukh Bhañjaṇī. People have a strong faith that water in this portion of the tank will heal their ailments.
GURDWĀRĀ THAṚHĀ SĀHIB, situated in a narrow street called Bāzār Thaṛhā Sāhib, a little way north of the Akāl Takht, commemorates Gurū Teg Bahādur's visit to Amritsar in 1664. Soon after assuming office as Gurū, he had come from Bakālā to pay homage at the Harimandar, but the priests in charge who belonged to the rival Mīṇā sect shut the doors of the holy shrine in his face. Gurū Tegh Bahādur then sat praying for some time at the spot now marked by Gurdwārā Thaṛha (lit. platform) Sāhib and then went back towards the village of Vallā. The Gurdwārā is a two-storeyed domed structure. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated on the first floor. The ground floor which gives the look of a basement cellar has a platform and the stump of an old tree believed to be the one under which Gurū Tegh Bahādur had sat.
GURDWĀRĀ MAÑJĪ SĀHIB, adjacent to the eastern boundary of the compound housing the Harimandar and the sarovar, is situated in what was formerly known as Gurū kā Bagh (the Gurū's garden). This was the place where Gurū Arjan used to hold the daily dīvān. A marbled platform marks the spot where the Gurū used to sit on a mañjī (cot) with the Sikhs squatting on the ground in front. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated in an adjoining room. A vast dīvān hall constructed in front of Mañjī Sāhib during recent decades now covers the whole of the former Gurū kā Bāgh.
GURDWĀRĀ GURŪ KE MAHAL, as the name signifies, marks the residential house of the Gurūs. It is situated west of the Akāl Takht across Gurū kā Bāzār street. Originally constructed as a modest hut by Gurū Rām Dās in 1573, it was enlarged and beautified by Gurū Arjan Dev and Gurū Hargobind. The old house has since been converted into a gurdwārā with the Gurū Granth Sāhib seated in a large rectangular hall. Besides the daily services, a special dīvān and Gurū kā Laṅgar are held on every Sunday following the first of a Bikramī month. The most important event of the year is the celebration of the birth anniversary of Gurū Tegh Bahādur who was born here on Baisākh vadī 5, 1678 Bk/1 April 1621.
GURDWĀRĀ BĀBĀ AṬAL SĀHIB, a 9 storey octagonal tower, over 45 metres high, standing close to the Kaulsar pool about 200 metres southeast of the Harimandar, marks the spot where Bābā Aṭal Rāi, 9 year old son of Gurū Hargobind, passed away on 9 Assū 1685 Bk/ 13 September 1628. See AṬAL RĀI, BĀBĀ. A simple memorial in honour of Bābā Aṭal was raised on the site originally. The construction of the present edifice commenced after the Sikh misls had established their authority in the Punjab. The cornerstone was laid in 1770 and the first three storeys had been completed by 1784. The upper floors were raised by Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh during the 1820's. Sardār Desā Siṅgh Majīṭhīā contributed gold for gilding the dome at the top. The Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated in a small inner room on the ground floor. The first six storeys are larger than the upper ones which rise above the central sanctum. The doors on the ground floor, four in number, are decorated with embossed designs, on brass and silver sheets. Interior walls and the ceiling are covered with murals depicting scenes from the lives of Gurū Nānak, his two sons and nine successors, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's four sons and Bābā Buḍḍhā.
In olden days, the surroundings of Bābā Aṭal Sāhib (as the building is popularly called) were used as a cremation ground and the area was dotted with samādhs(memorial shrines) raised for eminent sardārs (chiefs), saints (holy men), and warriors. The shrine was taken over by the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee in August 1921. During the process of widening the parikramā, most of the samādhs were demolished. Those surviving include the ones commemorating Jassā Siṅgh Āhlūvālīā and Nawāb Kapūr Siṅgh.
GURDWĀRĀ MĀĪ KAULĀṄ DĀ ASTHĀN is on the bank of the Kaulsar tank, both the tank as well as the shrine sharing the name Kaulāṅ. Kaulāṅ was, according to tradition, the daughter (slave-girl, according to some sources) of Rustam Khān, Qāzī of Muzaṅg, a suburb of Lahore. She was of a religious bent of mind from the very beginning and, as she grew up, she became acquainted with the teachings of the Gurūs and turned a devotee of Gurū Hargobind. Her father did not quite approve of this and subjected her to the harshest treatment to dissuade her from the path she seemed to be carving for herself. But she remained adamant and fled home to seek refuge with Gurū Hargobind at Amritsar. Gurdwārā Māī Kaulāṅ dā Asthān, as the name signifies, marks the site of the house where she lived. After a few years she shifted to Kartārpur, near Jalandhar, where she died in 1629. The tank Kaulsar was got excavated by Gurū Hargobind for Kaulaṅ's convenience. It was rain-fed and remained neglected until desilted, cleaned and renovated in 1872 and connected to the haṅsli, or water channel bringing waters of the River Rāvī to the Amritsar sarovars, in 1884.
GURDWĀRĀ RĀMSAR stands on the bank of the Rāmsar sarovar, near Chāṭīviṇḍ Gate, on the southeastern side of the walled city. After the completion of the Harimandar, Gurū Arjan undertook the compilation of Ādi Granth, the Holy Book, now revered as Gurū Granth Sāhib. For this task, he chose a secluded site. The spot selected was then a shady nook, one km away from the bustle of the town. To make the surroundings more agreeable, he had a tank dug which was named Rāmsar after Gurū Rām Dās. Here, Gurū Arjan composed his famous Sukhmanī, the Psalm of Peace, and with Bhāī Gurdās as his scribe compiled the Ādi Granth during 1603-04. The present Gurdwārā Rāmsar, a small marble-lined hall topped by a gilded, fluted lotus dome built in 1855, marks the site of the Gurū's labours.
GURDWĀRĀ BIBEKSAR stands on the eastern flank of the tank Bibeksar got dug by Gurū Hargobind in 1628 for the convenience of such pilgrims as would prefer seclusion to the hustle and bustle of the immediate environs of the main shrine. The Gurdwārā lies northeast of Rāmsar between Chāṭīviṇḍ and Sultānviṇḍ gates of the walled city. The Gurdwārā was raised by Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh in 1833. The building for Gurū kā Laṅgar and a well were added in 1905-06. The Gurdwārā was controlled by Nihaṅgs until its management statutorily passed to the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee in 1925.
GURDWĀRĀ ṬĀHLĪ SĀHIB is connected with yet another sarovarSantokhsar close to the Town Hall in the heart of the old city. Santokhsar, 148x110 metres and next only to Amrit sarovar in size, is said to be the first tank the digging of which was commenced by Bhāī Jeṭhā (later Gurū Rām Dās) in 1564 under the direction of Gurū Amar Dās. But before long Bhāī Jeṭhā was called back to Goindvāl, and Santokhsar remained half-dug until Gurū Arjan Dev completed it in 1588. It fell into neglect during the turbulent eighteenth century and was resurrected only in 1903 after the municipal committee of Amritsar had declared it a health hazard and threatened to fill it up. Although in 1824 it had been connected to a canal-fed channel, orhaṅslī to make it independent of the vagaries of rainfall, the channel had become choked with silt and the tank was turned into a receptacle for locality garbage. A complete desilting was carried out in 1919 through kār-sevā (voluntary free service) under Sant Shām Siṅgh and Sant Gurmukh Siṅgh. The Gurdwārā derives its name from a ṭahlī tree, Dalbergia sisoo, of which only a stump now remains near the main gateway. It is believed that this was the tree under which Gurū Rām Dās and after him Gurū Arjan stood supervising the excavation of the tank. The Gurdwārā comprising a rectangular hall on the western side of Santokhsar sarovar is next to the Ṭāhlī Sāhib stump as one enters the walled compound enclosing the sarovar and the shrine.
GURDWĀRĀ CHAURASTĪ AṬĀRĪ, lit. a tall house at a road crossing (chaurastā, in Punjabi) is located by the side of a plaza at the end of Gurū kā Bāzār in the heart of the old city. It is dedicated to Gurū Hargobind who occasionally came here to rest. The plaza was the site of the initial encounter with an imperial force that attacked the Gurū in 1629. The original house was demolished under the orders of the British officials soon after the annexation of the Punjab, in order to widen the plaza. The present building, smaller in size, has the Gurū Granth Sāhib seated on the ground floor. Besides daily prayers, special congregations take place on the first and the fifth day of the light half of every lunar month.
GURDWĀRĀ LOHGAṚH SĀHIB, about one km to the northwest of Harimandar, marks the site of a fort of the same name (lit. fort of steel) constructed by Gurū Hargobind for the defence of the town. The main battle of Amritsar between the Gurū and an imperial force under Mukhlis Khān in May 1629 was fought here. The present Gurdwārā stands on the ruined mound of the fort, which was razed by Ahmad Shāh Durrānī during one of his invasions in the mid-eighteenth century. The nearby gate in the city wall constructed by Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh is also known as Lohgarh Gate.
GURDWĀRĀ PIPLĪ SĀHIB, about 1. 5 km west of Amritsar Railway station towards the Khālsā College, marks the spot where a large saṅgat, column of devotees, coming from Afghanistan and northwestern districts of the Punjab to take part in the excavation of the main Amritsar tank was welcomed by Gurū Arjan, who came forward personally to receive them and who subsequently made it into a resting place for saṅgatscoming to Amritsar from that direction. The Gurdwārā is connected by a 150 metre link road to the main Sher Shāh Sūrī Mārg near Putlīghar. It came into prominence again in 1923 when crowds of volunteers for the kār-sevā or desilting operation of the Darbār Sāhib tank first assembled here and then proceeded to the work site in a procession on 17 June 1923. The Gurdwārā was reconstructed during the 1930's. Besides the daily services, a fair is held here on the occasion of Basant Pañchmī (January-February).
GURDWĀRĀ SHAHĪDGAÑJ BĀBĀ DĪP SIṄGH near the Chātīviṇḍ Gate of the walled city commemorates the martyrdom of Bābā Dīp Siṅgh (q. v.) of the Shāhīdmisl, who, coming from Damdamā Sāhib (Talvaṇḍī Sābo) in Baṭhiṇḍā district to liberate the Darbār Sāhib, which had been attacked and desecrated by the Afghān invaders, was mortally wounded here on 11 November 1757. Jassā Siṅgh (d. 1803) of Rāmgaṛhīā misl raised a memorial platform on the site which was developed into a gurdwārā by Akālī Phūlā Siṅgh (d. 1823). It was managed for long by the descendants of Sardār Karam Siṅgh of Shahīd misl, and was handed over to the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee in 1924. The surrounding estate owned by the descendants of Jassā Siṅgh Rāmgaṛhīā was also donated later to the Gurdwārā Shahīdgañj.
GURDWĀRĀ SHAHĪDGAŇJ BĀBĀ GURBAKHSH SIṄGH, a small shrine standing in a narrow bāzār behind the Akāl Buṅgā, commemorates the saga of heroism of Bābā Gurbakhsh Siṅgh Nihaṅg and his twenty-nine comrades who faced a Durrānī horde in December 1764 and fell to the last man fighting in defence of the Harimandar.
DHARAMSĀLĀ BHĀĪ SĀLHO JĪ, near Gurdwārā Gurū ke Mahal, commemorates the name of Bhāī Sālho (d. 1628), a devout Sikh who served Gurū Rām Dās, Gurū Arjan, and Gurū Hargobind. Entrusted with the general administration of the nascent town, he was popularly called kotwāl, the police chief, of Amritsar. The Dharamsālā was his residence as well as his place of work. A nearby pond, called Bhāī Sālho's Ṭobhā (lit. pond), was filled up by the British in 1863. The Dharamsālā has since been converted into a gurdwārā, - a two-storeyed building topped by a gilded dome with ancillary buildings such as Gurū kā Laṅgar and residential rooms for officiants.
GURDWĀRĀ DARSHANĪ DIOṚHĪ represents the gateway to Amritsar during its infancy built by Gurū Arjan. As one entered the new habitation through it, paths led to Gurū ke Mahal on the right and the Harimandar on the left with no houses in between to obstruct a glimpse (darshan, in Punjabi) of the two holy places. Hence the name Darshanī Dioṛhī (dioṛhī= portal or gateway). Converted into a small gurdwārā, it now stands amidst the crowded Bāzār Māī Sevāṅ, near its junction with Gurū kā Bāzār.
GURDWĀRĀ DAMDAMĀ SĀHIB, located between the railway line and the Sher Shāh Sūrī Mārg about 3 km east of Amritsar railway station, is dedicated to Gurū Tegh Bahādur who halted here for some time on his way from Amritsar to Vallā in 1664 (See Gurdwārā Thaṛhā Sāhib). Damdamā means a place for a brief halt. As the news that the Gurū had been denied entry into the Harimandar by the Mīṇā priests spread, the Amritsar saṅgat, mostly women, came out to see him. They went first to the Darbār Sāhib and, learning that the Gurū had already left, they with a view to atoning for the impudence and folly of the priests, followed him. They caught up with him at this spot and begged his forgiveness for what had happened and entreated him to return and visit the holy shrine with them. Gurū Tegh Bahādur declined their request to go back, adding that he had no complaint or rancour against anyone. He pronounced this blessing for the women : Māīāṅ rabb razāiāṅ (Ever blessed by the Lord be the ladies). Construction of the present building of the Gurdwārā was started in the beginning of the twentieth century by Sant Siṅgh Kalīvāle, a trader in limestone.
Some other sacred spots in Amritsar are Har Kī Pauṛī, a flight of steps going down to the water level behind the Harimandar; Aṭhsaṭh Tīrath, a gilded kiosk constructed by Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh along the southern bank of the sarovar, and Thaṛhā Sāhib, a small shrine between Aṭhsaṭh Tīrath and Ber Bābā Buḍḍhā Jī commemorating Gurū Amar Dās and Gurū Arjan.
Besides spots and shrines sacred to the Sikhs, Amritsar has many other places of interest, the better known among them being the Durgiāṇā Mandir, a Hindu temple built during the 1930's on the model of the Golden Temple; Jalliāṅvālā Bāgh, the site of the tragedy of 13 April 1919; Gobindgaṛh Fort constructed by Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh; and Rām Bāgh gardens and palace where Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh used to put up during his frequent visits to the city.
Major Gurmukh Siṅgh (Retd.)