Visit to Jallianwala Bagh is a connection to India’s Independence

I have visited two very important places this year intimately connected to Indian Independence; the cellular jail in Port Blair and the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. Needless to say both left me with a deep sense of grief laced with immense pride of belonging to a nation that has seen it all from riches to rags; dominance to slavery and yet remains resilient in hope that the wheels of time will turn around in its favour once againJallianwala Bagh

Around Jallianwala Bagh:

On a hot summer afternoon in Amritsar; I walked to Jallianwala Bagh. It was not much of a walk since I was literally put up in a hotel next door. The entrance gates opened into a narrow walkway which had a plaque on the adjoining wall with a brief description of Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.Jallianwala Bagh

A few metres ahead it opened out in a large lush garden surrounding by residential buildings. Many of these buildings have been earmarked as heritage property and are not in regular use. The garden was teeming with people, sitting under the trees; most of whom were finding some respite from the harsh sun on a sightseeing day around Amritsar.Jallianwala BaghI stood near the Jyot for a while in remembrance of the people who lost their lives nearly a hundred years ago. Jallianwala BaghLater I walked down the path to the memorial and then right towards the old brick wall. There were 36 bullet marks on that wall; highlighted with a white square around it. A plaque nearby explained the points with a map for visitors to identify the spots. The other buildings had similar marks, some identified and some unidentified. 1650 bullets were fired on that fateful day by Gen Dyer and his troops, only a handful remain identified on the buildings.Jallianwala BaghJallianwala Bagh

On the other side of the memorial is the Martyrs Well where innocent people who had gathered for a peaceful protest jumped in to save themselves. No one survived and 120 bodies were recovered later on.Jallianwala Bagh

I joined the people in the lawn finding my own little corner after a wee bit of walking in the summer heat. It was just another hot and dusty summer day nearly a century ago, when they gathered to chat after a visit to nearby Golden Temple, to rest just like us but perished for being at the mercy of the Imperial Lords. Their sacrifice did not go in vain and the Independence movement intensified in the subsquent years finally leading to breaking the shackles of Imperialism on 15th August, 1947Jallianwala BaghRowlatt Act ~ Precursor to Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

Last night I read an Article on India by Justin Rowlatt. Had he not specified with regret that he was the great grand son of Sir Sidney Rowlatt the president of the committee that drafted the draconian Rowlatt Act; I would not have even connected the dots. Alarmed by the increasing nationalist upsurge the Imperial Rule approved the legislation to arrest without warrant, indefinitely detain without trial and not allow appeals in court for political acts. There was nation wide unrest from March 1919 on this act christened as “No Dali, No Vakil, No Appeal”. 

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre ~ That fateful Baisakhi on 13th April, 1919

There was unrest in and around Amritsar after two revolutionary leaders Satya Pal and Dr Saifudding were taken into custody and transported to an undisclosed location. Notices of curfew imposition were pasted around town and read out through loudspeakers. Everyone was in a festive mood on Baisakhi day including farmers and visitors from nearby villages who had come to pay a visit to Harmandir Sahib next door. While some had gathered to peacefully protest, most were fleeting visitors who were spending a few moments of rest on the way after seeking blessings from Golden Temple. Jallianwala Bagh

Gen Dyer trooped in with his soldiers; locked all the exits and poured out bullets indiscriminately on the unsuspecting civilians. The 1650 rounds killed more than a 1000 people though official estimates are woefully low. He did not give notice to the public disperse but actually committed a mass murder for dis-obedience to his curfew call. There is no other parallel of such a brutal act in recent history. After being initially applauded he was punished and forced into retirement by the House of Commons in England. After 70 years, India still waits for an official apology.

Born Free

Born in post independent India my tryst with Indian Independence is largely from books, movies and a few oral accounts of grand uncles who had passionately joined the ranks of revolutionaries in their youth. Though I took independence for granted as most of my generation and later does, I was filled with a sense of gratitude for the named and the unnamed heroes of India who sacrificed their all to gift us that land to be born free. Jallianwala Bagh is one such place which holds the connection to the past; the link to the Independence movement that led to free India in 1947. Do visit Jallianwala Bagh if time, money and health permit !! a pilgrimage of gratitude.

Related Posts

Golden Temple ~ Abode of Peace and Calm

Golden Temple in Amritsar ~ Abode of Peace and Calm

After years of imagining and planning I was fortunate to be at the Golden Temple this year. It was the month of May and almost everyone warned me of the intense heat in Amritsar during this time of the year. When it is time for a brush with the divine it just happens. We cannot choose our time nor date for our birth and death, the same holds true to be at the feet of the divine.Golden Temple Amritsar

The entire area around the Golden Temple has been ear marked as the heritage area; all the buildings painted uniformly in a shade of brick and paved pathways lined with 3 point heritage lamp posts. At night it looks beautiful, straight out of those well lit streets in Paris. Vehicles are not allowed within the Heritage area limits so one less variable to deal with in an otherwise crowded street. I stayed in Hotel Abode located on the Heritage Street just about 5 minutes away from the temple enabling multiple visits during my stay.

Around Golden Temple

My first glimpse of the Temple was in the late afternoon; a feeling of bliss washed over me as I walked down the steps under the clock tower towards the Amrit Sarovar.Golden Temple Amritsar

I took a clockwise round of the tank walking past the area where men were taking a holy dip,the gateway to the Langar and stopped near the small enclosure near the Dukh Bhanjani Tree (the place where pain and affliction is relieved).Golden Temple Amritsar

It was pretty crowded with devotees sitting around the Tharha Sahib looking at the Golden Temple and many others taking a dip here since it is believed to accumulate the blessings of visiting 68 holy places. There is an enclosure for women here to take a dip. I kept walking down the Parikrama Path turning around the Sarovar right upto Laachi Ber (tree under which Guru Arjan Dev rested while supervising construction of Harmandir Saheb). Darshini Deori or the entrance to the temple was right next. Golden Temple Amritsar

Slightly deterred by the serpentine queues,I entered Akal Takht Sahib the temporal centre for Sikhs and the resting place for Granth Sahib every evening. Granth Sahib is the Holy Book for the Sikhs like the Bible, Quran and Bhagvad Gita is for the Christians, Muslims and Hindus. It is the holiest place for the Sikhs. After a few minutes of quiet contemplation, I walked outside towards Gurudwara Yaadgar Shaheedan, the beautiful, marble structure with extensive stone work minakari on the walls.Golden Temple Amritsar

I stopped near the 500 year old tree in front of Information Office. This tree is in memory of Baba Budha Ji who was the first head priest of Harmandir Sahib. He would sit under the tree and supervise the digging of Amrit Sarovar and construction of Harmandir Sahib. He was named Boorah by Guru Nanak Dev and lived for 125 years witnessing the coronation of several Sikh GurusGolden Temple Amritsar

There is something surreal about this temple, there is order and method in spite of the surging crowd. Just find a place somewhere along the Amrit Sarovar and immerse yourself in the chants, watching the glittering Golden Temple. Some devotees just stretch out their mats or simply drift off to sleep on the marble The energy of the place is palpable and soothes everyone who arrives at its gate.

Inside Golden Temple

The entrance to the temple is a few steps lower which is a unique feature perhaps meant to keep our ego in check and remain level headed. After spending a few moments in prayer, I looked up at the ceiling of the temple laden with precious stones and I just could not keep my eyes off it. I headed to the terrace where I meditated for a while, completely lost in the moment.  I came down to the first floor and found a window seat position to to look below into the temple. I followed a few devotees to wipe the windows and railings with my dupatta as a token of service to keep the temple spotlessly clean.  It was a blessed day much beyond what I imagined. I would recommend everyone to spend time on the upper floors of the temple to experience complete bliss. The ample amount of Kadha Prasad (Flour Halwa with Ghee) received at the gate was a deliciously divine closure to my time within the temple

Golden Temple ~ Palki Sahib

The Palki Sahib is taken out twice a day to carry the revered Granth Sahib (Babaji) to and from Harmandir Sahib (Temple) to Akal Takht Sahib. Granth Sahib is treated as the Guru for the Sikhs.

  • 10.00pm every night – Harmandir Sahib to Akal Takht Sahib for night’s rest
  •  4.30am every morning – Akal Takht Sahib to Harmandir Sahib for day long prayer and worship

I had a narrow miss of this journey in the morning and was planning to show up the following day but Babaji had other plans for me.Golden Temple Amritsar

I walked around the temple that evening, had langar and was overwhelmed by the sight the glowing temple. I slowly trudged towards the entrance, watched the long queue and was wondering what to do when a group of people singing bhajan, carrying flags were entering through the gates. I was completely lost in their melodious rendition when the guard called out some of us standing close by that he would allow a few people to follow this group who were were on their way to bring Babaji to Akal Takht Sahib in the Palki Sahib. It appeared like a boon from heaven, I had tears in the eyes. I dont understand Gurmukhi and the only Gurbani I know is “Ik Onkar Satnaam, Karta Purakh….” which I sang to myself  and followed them with chants of “Wahe Guru”. I visited the Temple and watched the proceedings and later walked along with Palki Sahib in the exit pathway right up to Akal Takht Sahib.Golden Temple Amritsar

Golden Temple – History through the Ages

The 4th Sikh Guru Ram Das ji started the digging of the holy tank “Amrit-Sar” and the 5th Guru Shri Anraj Dev ji initiated the construction of Harmandir Sahib. He designed it as the ultimate centre of Sikhs with entrances from all four sides signifying openness of the Sikhs. The foundation stone was laid in 1588 by Hazrat Mian Mir a great Sufi Saint of his time. The construction was completed in 1604 and Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Book of the Sikhs) was placed within Harmandir Sahib by Guru Arjan Dev. The temple was attacked by the Afghans under Ahmed Shah Abdali in early 18th century who were subsequently crushed by Sikhs. It was restored in 1766 by Jassa Singh Alhuwalia and around 1800 it was gilded with 750 kg Gold by Maharaja Ranjit Singh earning the name “Golden Temple”.Golden Temple Amritsar

Golden Temple ~ “Langar”

Langar or Free Hot Meals are served in all Gurudwaras generally on Sundays but the one in Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) is special. It is served 24/7 to nearly 50,000 to 100,000 devotees every single day. Anyone can walk in, take a plate, spoon, bowl, glass and sit on the mats rolled out in the huge dining halls. Everyone is served as much as they want and are politely asked to deposit their plates for cleaning and make way for the others. The plates are washed and cleaned multiple times, wiped, dried and again distributed to next batch of devotees. It is clockwork in the entire langar area. While there are a few permanent employees, 90% of the people engaged in service in the kitchen or cleaning are sewadars or devotees serving other devotees. Golden Temple Amritsar Langar

I had the opportunity to walk around the kitchen where the flour is kneaded in automatic machines, rotis prepared on a production line like tawa and quintals of rice, lentils, milk and vegetables are used to prepare a simple delicious meal for the masses.Golden Temple Amritsar Langar Golden Temple Amritsar Langar

I noticed some people preparing rotis manually with utmost concentration. This is prepared in small quantity for the senior citizens who love the traditional taste.Golden Temple Amritsar Langar Golden Temple Amritsar Langar

I had my turn for langar relishing every morsel with love.Golden Temple Amritsar Langar

Golden Temple ~ Visiting Tips
  • Any time of the Year. The weather is pleasant between October and March
  • Temple is open through 3am to 10.30pm. The Best time to visit is in the morning around 3am.
  • Head has to be covered at all times. If you dont have any kerchief or dupatta on you then Cloth to cover the head is available for free near the entrance. Shorts are not allowed while walking inside the temple
  • Shoes have to be kept in the area assigned near the entrance, then hands and legs are to be washed before entering the spotless premises
  • Photography is allowed except inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple
  • Sikh Museum is above the Entrance Gate. Recently a 3D Show has been introduced on the Golden Temple which is at the basement right next to the Shoe Keeping Area which is a must visit.
  • The Langar is open 24/7 serving meals to devotees; do have a meal at the Langar to complete the divine experience
  • Stay at a hotel on the Heritage Street to visit the temple at different times of the day.
Related Posts

Waste to Creation ~ Rock Garden Chandigarh

These days there is a lot of buzz around re-use and recycle to manage our waste and Save the Planet. Nearly 60 years ago in 1957 a young goverment employee Nek Chand had started this endeavor in Chandigarh to create from waste which over the years transformed into the famous Rock Garden.Chandigarh-RockGarden-Entrance1

Thanks to the slow traffic on the way from Shimla to Chandigarh, I had very less time to see around Chandigarh. With barely 3 hours in hand in the morning, I set out for the Rock Garden from my hotel in Sector 8C. The least I was expecting was to haggle with an auto driver for the 3 km journey before an Uber came to my rescue !! The tree lined roads were wide, criss crossing in regular intervals to define the self contained sectors. vehicles moved about with a certain discipline and barely any one honked. An Indian city thriving without chaos is a rare sight. Le Corbusier and his team of architects in India seemed to have truly given shape to Pandit Nehru’s dream of Indian cities; sad that we could not replicate it all over. The French connection still exists on some of the boards within the park. Rock Garden Chandigarh

Nek Chand would quietly collect waste from different sites and give them a new life by turning them into dolls, animals, dancers, musicians and other figurines. Rock Garden ChandigarhHis work was discovered in 1975; literally 18 years after he had first started in a gorge next to the lake. Residents stood by him when it was facing demolition since it was created without approval until the government relented.Rock Garden Chandigarh

Walking through the garden, the waterfalls and the winding passages, I felt I was in a fort; which stood out in the midst of a modern grid patterned Chandigarh city.Rock Garden Chandigarh

The figurines made from waste sanitary ware and ceramics, the walls made from old terracotta pots;Rock Garden ChandigarhRock Garden Chandigarh

the dancers and musicians prettied up in colorful glass bangles and the jolly animals from stone pieces welcomed visitors into their world.Rock Garden Chandigarh

While school children monkeyed around jumping from wall to wall or clicking that selfie under the waterfall, it was a morning well spent.Rock Garden Chandigarh

I read somewhere in the park that Nek Chand was perhaps attempting to recreate his childhood home which was lost during partition or he was defining the universe bringing together the creatures and elements of nature as a symbol of unity.

I did stop by at the cafe for a snack which in my opinion was grossly over priced but then life’s little pleasures enjoyed under a tree or on a swing cannot be measured in money.Rock Garden Chandigarh

Travel Tip:

Opens between 9am and 5pm. Tickets priced at Rs 30/- (2016) Located next to Sukhna Lake in Sector 5. Avail the hop on hop off bus in Chandigarh which seem to be ideal for tourists in the city.