Heritage


How to spend 48 hours in Amritsar

Amritsar, historically also known as Rāmdāspur and colloquially as Ambarsar, is a city in north-western India in the Indian state of Punjab. It is situated near Pakistan and the Wagah border. Being the home of the picturesque Golden Temple, It is a popular religious and spiritual destination. It is also very well known for its local food and subsequently various food trails that tourists can cover to get a glimpse into Amritsari food. Amritsar has been witness to some of the most historical events around Partition and houses the Jallianwala bagh too. It is also the birth place of eminent personalities like guru Tegh Bahadur, the 9th Guru of Sikhs and of course contemporary celebrities like Kapil Sharma, Chef Vikas Khanna to name a few. 🙂
 
A lot of people indulge in shopping in Amritsar for local handwoven Phulkari (embroidery technique from Punjab) dupattas and suits or Punjabi Vadi, Paapad & Achar. Hence Amritsar in short – combines all the attractions of a tourist destination. Spiritualism, Diplomacy between two countries, History, Food, Shopping – what more can one ask for.

So when Vistara Airlines offered to fly me down to Amritsar for an all expense paid trip , I was quite excited. I was to spend 48 hours in Amritsar and cover all possible things that can be done in Amritsar in 2 days. Amritsar is well equipped with world class hotels. Vistara Airlines had made arrangements for our stay at Taj Swarna – a brand new property, not too far from the airport. After a welcome ceremony & quick hi-tea, we rested for a bit in our nice well equipped rooms. In the evening we had a diya lighting ritual. After dinner where the entire group interacted with each other, we awaited the Amritsar itinerary to follow in the next 2 days.

Here are a few things you can do in Amritsar in 48 hours.

Visit the Golden Temple

The main attraction of Amritsar, the magnificent, soothing and calming Golden Temple, is always full of tourists at all times. You can visit it any time but the best times to visit are early morning and late night. Both offer different glimpses of the temple – one of the day and one of the night. The road leading to Golden temple has now become pedestrian only and that area looks pretty much like that in a world class city! Cobble stone paths, fancy lamposts, with flower baskets! Uniform colours, patterns and name plates on all shops .. and VERY clean. Before visiting the Golden temple, keep in mind the fact that your head has to be covered at all times. So one needs to carry a scarf/stole or handkerchief with one. It is also mandatory to take off shoes AND socks both, dip your feet in a pool of water and then walk in to the Golden temple. 

Golden Temple

Golden temple

Once in, you can get into the queue to visit the sanctum sanctorum. If you reach early enough, you may even get a spot to SIT inside for as long as you wish. People can be usually seen meditating there or just reveling in the very tangible calming effect of the place . I did the darshan through the VIP line, thanks to arrangements made by Vistara Airlines.  On exiting one can have Kada Prasad. If you carry an extra box with you, you can get some extra helpings. It is worth the effort.

Over a 100,000 visitors are fed every day at the Golden temple. You can be one of them, or you can help in one of the tasks involved with serving food to such visitors.

Volunteers making rotis for visitors

Volunteers making rotis for visitors

Visit the Jalianwala Bagh

Right outside the Golden temple are various places of interest. One of them is the Jalianwala Bagh which witnessed one of the most horrific massacres that human kind has seen. It is now a memorial with a garden. One can see bullet holes in walls there as well as the well in to which many people jumped to escape firing. A solemn place but one worth visiting.
 
Memorial at Jalianwala Bagh

Memorial at Jalianwala Bagh

 
 

Walk along Heritage Street

This is the same road that leads to both Jalianwla Bagh as well as the Golden temple. It also has some other smaller temples as well. The place houses various shops for Phulkari, footwear, eatables as well sumptuous street food.
 
Walk along heritage street

Walk along heritage street

 
 

Shopping at Amritsar

You can visit markets like Hall Gate and Katra Jaimal Singh for punjabi juttis and stunning phulkari dupattas.
Phulkari

Phulkari

 

Eating out at Amritsar

Amritsar is one of India’s top most food destinations! One must visit the iconic Bharawan da Dhaba, opposite Town Hall, Makhan Fish and Chicken Corner (Basant Nagar, 21 A, Near Madaan Hospital, Majitha Road). Also try Pal da Dhaba (Hathi Gate) near Golden temple or Kesar da Dhaba. The heritage street outside Golden temple also houses a number of eateries to give you a taste of the local cuisine right after the temple visit. You can also visit Surjit Food Plaza which is popular with celebrities from all over the world. Kachoris, Samosas, Matthi, Firni, Kheer, Jalebi, Amritsari fish tikka, Amritsari kulcha, chur chur naan, sarson da saag, makki di roti, various kinds of lassi to top everything up, and a whole lot more can be indulged in.
Jalebis

Jalebis

witness the Beating Retreat at the Attari–Wagah border

 Leave for the Wagah border well in time to reach there by 3:30pm to get good seats. There is a long walk after a point where vehicles are not allowed any further. You can not carry any bags to the border. Anything you carry has to be in your hands. After security check, you can grab seats at a vantage point to get a good glimpse of the fanfare and the ceremony. I had access to VIP seats thanks to my hosts – Taj Swarna & Vistara Airlines. The parade is held with much fanfare on both sides of the border. Patriotic songs are played interspersed by slogans like “Bharat mata kee jai“, “Jai Hind” and “Vande Mataram on our side of course. BSF soldiers from India & their counterparts on the other side, put on a display that tries to show them outdoing each other at every step. However beyond the ceremony, the same people are amiable and exchange sweets on important festivals. Thanks to my hosts, I got access to a part of the border where I could stand within a few inches of the border! A Pakistani ranger and an Indian counterpart stand within 3 feet of each other guarding their respective sections. Beyond this spot, only green fields can be seen, reminding one that borders are ONLY man made. I was jealous of the birds flying across both countries and even stray dogs crossing borders casually throughout the time I was there! It was quite amusing to see how humans have imposed these restrictions on themselves.
 
Dog crossing from India to Pakistan

Dog crossing from India to Pakistan

Beating the retreat at Wagah border

Beating the retreat at Wagah border

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beating the retreat at Wagah border

Beating the retreat at Wagah border

Beating the retreat

Beating the retreat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Places to Stay in Amritsar

There are a lot of world class hotels that provide comfortable accommodation in Amritsar, not too far off from all the attractions. I stayed at Taj Swarna since they were my hosts for this trip. My stay was very comfortable and the staff very amiable.

The lovely Taj Swarna

The lovely Taj Swarna

 Now that you know what all can be done in Amritsar in 48 hours, what are you waiting for? Book a flight & your stay at a hotel and get going!

 

 

 


The new Tata Tigor experience

Some readers of this blog may know that I really enjoy driving (to the extent of taking part in rallies and driving at F1 circuit etc) and I quite enjoy trying out the latest cars out there.

Recently I was invited by Indiblogger and Tata motors to try out their latest addition – Tata Tigor (it was yet to be officially launched then) and they chose a few handpicked bloggers from all over India, for the 2 day soiree. I was quite excited at the prospect because there were a whole lot of fun activities as well as a trip to the Transport museum in store.

So off I set one early afternoon in March to the 1AQ gallery. This gallery is perfect for holding a variety of events what with its manicured lawns with quirky statues and plush interiors. Over sumptuous lunch curated by my friends at Food talk india and catered by Olive kitchen and bar, all the bloggers got a chance to interact with each other, watch lot of interesting performances, try one’s hand at spray painting graffiti, explore the extraordinary coffee blend prepared specifically for us and watch & gulp mesmerising molecular gastronomy appetisers.

Perfumery at 1AQ

Sample perfumes gifted to us

Styling area at 1AQ

So we all got to try out a range of perfumes with notes ranging from woody, to fruity and we were presented whatever suited us best. Next up, at the styling section, were lined up a whole lot of accessories along with the playbooks for various “looks”. I chose the 60’s style look. I was accessorised with a scarf (that matched the colour scheme of Tigor) and a pair of hoops. 

 

The “stage” where performances were held

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we watched the performances we could try out the specific coffee blend made for this event. It consisted of 2 coffees from south India and one Brazilian variety. Overall it tasted super awesome. We were given sachets of the same to try at leisure and I must say I am hooked.

 

Coffee blend made specifically for the Tata Tigor event

Healthy salads

Molecular gastronomy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The spray painting graffiti wall

Parmesan buttermilk explosion with lime gel, dehydrated basil snow, faux tomato, avocado mousse

Plethora of desserts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lunch was to be eaten with the eyes and the mouth. There was a whole lot to watch and marvel at apart from wolfing down. The healthy salads, the molecular gastronomy shindig , the curated coffee and of course a plethora of desserts – left everyone satisfied. All this was brought to a plate near you by Olive kitchen and bar. While we had our lunch we watched some upbeat performances. There was a spray painting wall where everyone was encouraged to paint an adjective that came to their mind when they saw the new Tata Tigor.

 

 

Then we were all interviewed by a camera crew and took some group pics , had a lot of fun and left for our place of stay for the next day – Andaz, Delhi. Once we reached Andaz , we were allotted rooms on a sharing basis (now THAT was a first for me because I haven’t had the experience of sharing a room with a stranger and wouldn’t choose  it if it was left to me)!   We signed indemnification documents, copies of driver licenses et al – everything in preparation for the drive early next morning (6:30 am). The hotel rooms were nice, though not quite sound proof. We were welcomed with gujiya and a custom made chocolate for the event.

Welcome Gujiya

Customised chocolate

The room with a view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After settling down all the bloggers congregated for the pre-unveiling of the Tata Tigor. It was done with much fanfare.

Pre-Unveiling of Tata tigor

Pre-unveiling of Tata tigor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the pre-unveiling, we were introduced to the special twitter studio arranged for us that day where attendees could create videos or GIFs of themselves and share instantly. For the drive I was put together by 2 other women (one of whom who drove) and the 3 of us made some funny GIFs at the twitter studio, with the two “driving” women  pretending to drive and the other one sitting it out 🙂

Twitter studio

 

 

 

 

It was an early night for us because the next morning we all were to actually drive the brand new Tata tigor – both petrol and diesel variants. The ETD was 6:30am. So we all got ready, grabbed a very quick small bite (can’t really eat this early in the morning) and we were flagged off by representatives of Tata motors.

 

 

Flag off by Tata motors

The car was really comfortable to drive. Packed with modern features, we had a navigation route already set for us to follow. The route actually crossed my place in gurgaon and had it been on the way back, I would have certainly gone home :). The new Tata tigor is very stylish and comfortable. It is neither a sedan nor a hatchback and hence termed “styleback”. Though looks wise, space wise, and comfort wise, it is nothing short of a sedan. Measurement wise it is barely short of 4 metres. It is very easy to manoeuvre and has loads of boot space. On our drive lot of sound bytes were taken by the camera crew following us. Somewhere half way to the Transport museum at tauru, I exchanged seats and tried my hand at driving. The car has got a lot of power even for the diesel variant. What REALLY stands out are the 8 yes EIGHT Harman speakers in the car! All the more reason for a peppy drive. Tata motors has especially focussed on the car being stylish and it really does look it, going by the way the car was getting stared at during our drive. The colour we were driving (copper dazzle) was also quite eye catching. The car has a lot of little nooks and crannies for additional storage across the interiors. The brakes are also pretty impressive, I specifically checked out the braking system by applying sudden brakes. Soon we reached the Transport museum which actually is pretty close to Gurgaon.

 

There was a food truck waiting for us to serve us proper breakfast on our arrival. We grabbed a quick bite and explored the museum. It is a vast space. There are 4 floors full of lot of quirky stuff, historical stuff and basically has everything to do with transport.  And all of it is owned by  one person! Here’s a brief glimpse of the museum.

Transport Museum, Tauru

Transport museum – Tauru

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a car installation

Bajaj – a cult phenomenon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coin car – covered with 1 rupee coins!

Pakistani truck art

Art installation made with discarded parts of a cycle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A glider hanging at the museum

The reception desk made with a Morris Mini and a chair made with a Vespa scooter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The All new Tata Tigor styleback has been launched at the starting price of 4.7 Lakhs.  The Tigor is very well priced and suited for  Indian families that wants to upgrade from an entry level hatchback but still get a bigger car out of it.

 


Want to time travel? Visit Haveli Dharampura

If you have ever read Enid Blyton’s “The Faraway tree” series, you would remember how a different land used to come on top of the tree every time the trio of lead characters visited the tree top..and they would have fun, be mesmerised with the magic and then come back to their own land. How cool would it be if you knew some place where if you open the door you enter a different world, you partake, you enjoy and then you go back to your own world. Well now there IS one such place. Let me introduce you to Haveli dharampura.

Set in the bylanes of chandni chowk, ensconced in gali guliyan, where the lanes are so narrow, you can only walk – lies an old world land. As you enter the haveli’s heavy set doors you step into a different world. The world of squalor, grime and zillion electric cables tied in to precarious knots is left behind on the outside. What you face is a glimpse of the way nobles and courtiers used to live in Delhi, not so long back. The architecture is a pleasing and unique mix of Hindu, Mughal and colonial influences. You first encounter a verandah with a fountain in the centre, as is typical of many Indian havelis.. a central courtyard with a garden or fountain which used to cool the entire house built around it. The three storeyed haveli can be seen fully from here and well.. from all floors as well. Beyond the varandah is the Baithak or drawing room which now hosts the restaurant – Lakhori. Named after the bricks that the haveli is built with, it serves a cuisine with Mughal and Jain influences.. The same which evolved into the Chandni chowk food that everyone rushes to grab a bite of every now and then.

The entrance to Goel Sahab ki Haveli! The Verandah with the fountainA picture of the dilapidated look the Haveli bore before resurrection A seating room next to the restaurant

The day I visited this old world gem, I met Vidyun Goel the hostess and was treated to a sumptuous collection of dishes from an elaborate menu. Here are some of them. In ascending order of appearance these are – cucumber chaat canapes, palak patta chaat, murg ke paarche, golgappe, galouti kabab, kadak roomali masala, dahi bhalla, Berry’s delight, aloo gobhi mattar deconstructed, kadai chicken (served in a roti), mutton korma, paneer parantha with kashiphal kee sabji, makhane kee kheer, mango kulfi and paan kulfi both wrapped in a chocolate shell .. There was so much more to nibble at that somewhere I quite forgot to take pics and just immersed myself in the gastronomic experience.

Food at Lakhori

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The three storeys of the haveli above the ground floor, have 13 fully furnished rooms – the 14th was converted into a spa. These rooms are divided into Jharokha Rooms, Diwan E Khas Rooms, and Shahjahan Suites. If I am not wrong they are named after various gates of Delhi – the old city. The rooms have the vintage old world feel but are fully equipped with all modern amenities and most importantly, well, modern bathrooms :). As dear readers may note, one may live in this land for a while before retreating to one’s own world. But it wasn’t always like that. Built around 1887 AD, the haveli rooms were divided and subdivided by their owners into nearly 64 rooms! The restoration that took about 8 years, 45 lakhs, 50 specialised masons and labourers was a slow and painful journey with no precedent. Finally we see it restored to its old world glory and the ambience quickly takes us back to an era we haven’t actually ever seen. The credit of all this goes to heritage lover & MP Mr. Vijay Goel, his son Siddhant Goel & their entire family. I hope that other havelis in that area follow suit and somehow manage to do the same because the government is also offering them restoration assistance funds.

Glimpse of the rooms

Apparently the previous owners had a dream that there was a safe in the basement under the ground.. they dug up that precise spot and lo and behold! There indeed WAS a safe under the ground! They claim that it was empty but then who knows what *really* happened when this tijori was opened 🙂 . I wish my dreams told me about buried treasures!

Underground Tijori!

Here’s a look at the views from the top floor .. you can see all the floors from every floor. Makes me miss the old world architecture where you could see all the family members and talk across floors. You can also see Jama masjid from the terrace. There’s another rooftop restaurant at the terrace called the “baradari”. The terrace has a new piece of architecture built into it borrowed from the Rajasthan havelis. The panorama shows the view from the absolute top with Vidyun also in the picture.

View of all the floors from the top floor Jama Masjid viewed from the haveli  The rooftop restaurant Some rajasthani architecture

View from the roof of the haveli & Vidyun in the panorama

 

Apart from being a heritage hotel the Dharampura haveli also has a lot of exciting things for its guests. It houses a tiny art gallery with images from the olden times of Chandni chowk. It will perhaps showcase exhibitions of modern artists too. Apart from this they also have a tiny library section with a cosy seating area next to it. They have a shisha room as well and of course there’s the spa. And did I mention that they also have an elevator? It sure is much needed.

Art Gallery & library seating

 

The magic of the old world would not be complete without the kathak performances that have been started now. They are organised every Friday, Saturday, Sunday along with a fixed dinner menu. Unfortunately I haven’t witnessed any, but can only imagine how breathtaking it would look. There are other activities for the guests, like Kabootar baazi (pigeon flying) and patangbaazi (Kite flying).

Pigeon flying - a popular sport in chandni chowk

A view of the balcony at the haveli and the narrow lane and a different world it looks upon.

Balcony at the haveli Narrow lane and a different world outside

 Here’s a glimpse of the “Now an Then” provided by the folks at Haveli Dharampura

Now and then - provided by Haveli Dharampura

Now and then – provided by Haveli Dharampura

There are just a handful of heritage hotels in Delhi but all of them are from the colonial era from what I know. Haveli Dharampura has, by far the oldest heritage in Delhi! Being in the heart of THE delhi, it has a unique advantage for travellers, who want to explore Delhi and don’t want to be located very far from the centre of attraction. These walls have seen lot of centuries, exchanged hands with a lot of owners and under all that plaster and paint lies the soul of a haveli that lives on and has been witness to many stories. You must go and have a conversation with it some evening.

 

Contact info:

2293, Gali Guliyan, Dharampura, Delhi-6

Tel.: 011-23261000, 011-23263000

E-mail: info@havelidharampura.com
reservations@havelidharampura.com