Amritsar Heritage Walk in the Punjab

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With my summery affair with the Himalayas temporarily yet firmly in the deep-freeze, I turn a bereft gaze towards that more accessible point of interest: a much-reviled, oft-overlooked, dust-laden, ever-sweltering Punjab. But we’re talking winters here. When it is at its glorious best and welcoming most. When freshly sown fields are turning a tentative green on a less fiery sun’s watch. When frosty mornings merge swiftly into hazy afternoons and smoky evenings. When NRIs descend in their droves for the aptly-termed ‘wedding season’ and that customary visit to the Golden Temple.

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Absurdly, my own last visit to Amritsar transpired during a brain-frying ruthless summer. With a relentless sun bearing down on a city plagued by heat-induced somnolentia, it was evident there would be no re-living my gluttonous  marathon. The assigned task out of the way, there was little else to occupy my time, save Punjab Tourism’s newly introduced heritage walk through the historical albeit congested by-lanes of the inner city. Just as well the city had yet to wake up; even better I didn’t succumb to early morning torpor. For it was to unravel an incredible array of traditional town-planning expression hidden from view by time, grime and (metal) twine.

 Latticework facade in wood

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Painted underside of  a chajja (eaves)

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Facade: Shiva flanked by angels

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Another fine example of the city’s wood-craft tradition

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Buxom ladies adorn embellished archways

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Chajja underside: one overlooked by the vagaries of time

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Classic colonial feature

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A curiosity alright

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Balcony at Thakurdwara Dariana Mal dedicated to Krishna

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Such vibrant frescoes stand nary a chance with continuous clay-oven cooking in an adjoining room by the resident priest

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Hanuman and Garud watch over the entrance at the Shahni Mandir

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The gnarled and deified Bohar (Banyan) Baba. 500 years old, it remains untouched and buildings are simply built around  its branches.

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Chitta akhara: serai for (shy?) sadhus

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Another sooty yet undeniably brilliant fresco.

NOTE: The two hour guided walk commences twice-daily from the Town Hall and culminates at the Golden Temple entrance gate.  

Puneet Sidhu
Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu, travel enthusiast and the author of Adrift: A junket junkie in Europe is the youngest of four siblings born into an aristocratic family of Punjab. Dogged in her resistance to conform, and with parental pressure easing sufficiently over the years, she had plenty of freedom of choice. And she chose travel.

She was born in Shimla, and spent her formative years at their home, Windsor Terrace, in Kasumpti while schooling at Convent of Jesus & Mary, Chelsea. The irrepressible wanderlust in her found her changing vocations midstream and she joined Singapore International Airlines to give wing to her passion. She has travelled extensively in Asia, North America, Australia, Europe, South Africa and SE Asia; simultaneously exploring the charms within India.

When she is not travelling, she is writing about it. Over the past decade or so, she has created an impressive writing repertoire for herself: as a columnist with Hindustan Times, as a book reviewer for The Tribune and as a contributor to travel magazines in India and overseas. Her work-in-progress, the documenting of colonial heritage along the Old Hindustan-Tibet Road, is an outcome of her long-standing romance with the Himalayas.
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