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Amritsar - A City With Glorious Legacy - Book by Varinder Singh Walia

Publisher: Singh Brothers
Authors: Varinder Singh Walia (Author)
Page: 320
Format: Hardbound
Language: English
Product Code: SHE180
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Introduction To 'Amritsar - A City With Glorious Legacy' By Varinder Singh Walia

Amritsar is world-famous by virtue of its being historically prominent centre of Sikh religious sovereignty.

As a gateway in commercial network with Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan and with many of the European countries, the city is rated as one of the most worth-visiting places of the world.

Despite its strategic location on the Indo-pak border, the city maintains its Janus-faced demeanour towards promoting harmony and secularism in India as well as maintaining cordial relations with Pakistan.

The writings in this volume portray the ever-glorious chronicles that have remained a hallmark of the city since Guru-period in maintaining human-harmony, ever exhorting the national spirit, upkeeping its literary ambience and contributing towards overall Welfare of the people. With glittering traditions championed on the horizons of history by world famous dignitaries of the city, the information contained in the book stands testimony to its distinct secular character.


About The Author Of 'Amritsar - A City With Glorious Legacy'

Born on November 4, 1958, Varinder Singh Walia, presently Editor, Punjabi Tribune, Chandigarh began his life of letters in 1980 when he brought out Pulangh - a Punjabi monthly - and published his first book of short stories Khabarnama in 1983.

Appointed as Information Officer in Punjab Civil Secretariat in 1986, he worked as DPRO before he joined The Tribune Trust and worked at Amritsar where he penned note-worthy contributions in Amritsar Plus - a local pullout launched by The Tribune in 2004.

He has traveled extensively in India and abroad.

In 2007, he published his book of fiction Rukhan Di Dastan in Punjabi.


Summary Of 'Amritsar - A City With Glorious Legacy' By Varinder Singh Walia

Amritsar city is one of the major cities of Punjab in India. History reveals that under instructions from Guru Amar Das, the third Master, to propagate Sikh Faith, this city was founded by Guru Ram Das, his successor, in 1574 A.D. on the land bought by him for 700 rupees from the owners of the village Tung. (Earlier Guru Ram Das had begun building Santokhsar Sarovar in 1564 A.D. - according to one source in 1570). When Guru Ram Das built his residence here and moved to this place, it was known as Guru Da Chakk. Later, it came to be known as Chakk Ram Das. Guru Ram Das began excavation of the sarovar, the holy tank, in 1574. It was ready by 1581. This tank was renovated by Guru Arjan Dev in 1586. Since then this city has been known as Amritsar - the pool of nector.The foundation-stone of the Holy Temple - Drabar Sahib - is said to have been laid by Sain Mian Mir, a Muslim devotee , at Guru Arjan Dev's behest. In 1590, Guru Arjan Dev moved to the nearby village Wadali where Guru Hargobind was born on June 19, 1595. By 1601, the Darbar Sahib was fully ready. In 1603-1604, the first volume of Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture, was completed and was installed at Darbar Sahib on August 16, 1604.

It is here that the Akal Takhat - the throne of immortality - the seat of Sikh temporal power , was built by Guru Hargobind in 1609. Two flags representing temporal and spiritual authority and Sikh sovereignty were put up in front of the Akal Takhat. Here Guru Hargobind wore two swords (kirpans) of Miri Piri - temporal and transcendental authority - at the time of his installation as the Sixth Guru.

On April 13, 1634, the Mughal army attacked Guru Hargobind Sahib here; the beginning of conflict between the religious royalty of the Gurus and the imperial authority of the rulers. The Guru had to confront the Mughal forces at different times and then moved to a hilly place Kiratpur near Ropar. Thereafter Guru Har Rai, the seventh Guru, also spent his time there. Guru Harkrishan was bestowed Guruship here, who moved to Delhi where he left for his heavenly abobe at a very tender age. From 1635 to 1698, Amritsar remained in the control of the Mina family; the descendants of Pirthi Chand - the elder brother of Guru Arjan Dev. During this period, on November 23, 1664, Guru Tegh Bahadur did visit the town but he was not allowed to stay here. In April 1698, Bhai Mani Singh was appointed as the caretaker of the shrines of Amritsar.

The Mughal chief of Patti tried to occupy Amritsar several times. One such attempt was made in April 1709. The Sikhs, under the command of Bhai Mani Singh and Bhai Tara Singh of Dall Wan, repulsed this attack. When Baba Banda Singh Bahadur occupied several areas in the Punjab, Bhai Mani Singh chose to leave Amritsar in order to avoid the Mughal attacks.

On December 30, 1711, the Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah granted Ajit Singh Palit the charge of Amritsar in order to use him against Baba Banda Singh Bahadur. After the death of Bahadur Shah, Ajit Singh Palit returned to Delhi. In 1721, Bhai Mani Singh returned to Amritsar and re-started regular worship. His first act was to solve a dispute between the Tat Khalsa and the Bandai Khalsa factions for the right to management of the shrines in Amritsar.

On March 29, 1733, a major gathering of Sikhs called the Sarbat Khalsa - a congregation, representing all Sikhs - was held at the Akal Takhat. It discussed the Mughal offer of Nawabhood which was refused. In April 1734, Bhai Mani Singh was arrested and was executed in Lahore on June 24, 1734.

In 1740, Massa Ranghar , a Mughal official, desecrated the Darbar Sahib. He was killed for this action by Bhai Sukha Singh and Bhai Mahtab Singh on August 11, 1740. In 1757 the Afghan army of Ahmed Shah Abdali demolished both the Darbar Sahib and the Akal Takhat. Baba Deep Singh led several thousand Sikhs were martyred. In 1762, the Darbar Sahib complex was demolished again by the Afghan army. On December 1, 1764, the Afghan army made another attack. Thirty Sikhs, led by Jathedar Gurbaksh Singh, fought against the mammoth Afghan army and were killed. In 1765, the Sikhs began re-construction of the shrine; its central part was ready by 1776.

Thus during the eighteenth century, Amritsar, like the Sikh community as a whole, witnessed many vicissitudes of history. It suffered repeated desecration and destruction until it was finally liberated after the establishment of sovereign authority of the Sikh misls and principalities in the Punjab in 1765. The town remained thereafter under the control of several misl chiefs, although its surroundings areas were held by Sardar Hari Singh of the Bhangi misl. Different Sradar or Chiefs constructed their own bungas or residential houses around the sarovar and also built up their respective Katras or property wards nearby, thus encouraging traders and craftsmen to reside there and over which the individual chiefs exercised their exclusive control. The sacred shrine was, however, administered by joint council comprising representatives of the chiefs who had made endowments in land for their maintenence. Even prior to the time of Sikh ascendancy, joint councils, known as Sarbat Khalsa, were there to take crucial decisions on political matters at Amritsar. Now again , with all misl chiefs having their bungas here, it became the common capital of the Khalsa. Devotees from far and near were free to visit the holy city almost after six decades of their severest persecution. And so did the businessmen and tradesmen got settled here to take advantage of the increasing pilgrims and resident population. Trade, commerce and crafts flourished on different katras, 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 complexes set up, remained a confederation rather than a composite habitation until Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) rose to power and consolidated the whole of the Punjab into one sovereign State.

Ranjit Singh, Chief of the Sukkarchakkia misl, first occupied Lahore in 1799, the traditional capital of the Punjab, and then declared himself the Maharaja in 1801. He extended his hegemony to Amritsar in 1805 when he took from his traditional rivals, the Bhangi chief, their fort with its mint striking the Nanakshahi rupee, and the famous Zamzama gun. The fort of the Ramgarhia misl was occupied in 1815 and with the support of Rani Sada Kaur of Kanhaiya misl and Fateh Singh Ahluwalia in Amritsar during the early 1820s, Ranjit Singh's ocuupation 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 ha had constructed the Gobindgarh Fort outside Lahori 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 of valuables was kept in Gobindgarh Fort, which was also used as the royal residence during the Maharaja's frequent visits to the city before his palace in the city, Ram Bagh, was completed in 1831. Several members of the nobility also raised palatial houses and beautiful gardens  in and around the city. Ranjit Singh devoutly provided liberal funds to have the dome and exterior of Sri Darbar Sahib 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. Sardar Desa Singh Majithia (1768-1832), who had been appointed manager of the holy shrines in the city since its occupation by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, donated gold for gilding the top of the Gurdwara Baba Atal. Around 1830, Ranjit Singh had Muslim goldsmiths to gold plate some parts of the inner section of Sri Darbar Sahib. The gold-plating led to its being called the Golden Temple, although in Sikh circles it is known as Harimandar Sahib or Darbar Sahib.

In 1846, the British establishment themselves in the Lahore Darbar, with a resident in the court, and Amritsar became a place of frequent visits by the British. In order to maintain the sanctity of the city, H.M. Lawrence, the British resident, issued an order dated March 24, 1847, asking the English people to follow Sikh protocol while visiting Sikh places of worship. In 1858, a Municiple Committee was set up here. In 1862, train services between Lahore and Amritsar were started. Khalsa College, the first Sikh College, was established in Amritsar in 1892. In 1913, the city was electrified. In September 1915, the British declared Amritsar a Holy City. On April 13, 1919 General Reginald Dyer opened fire on the gathering at Jallianwala Bagh near Darbar Sahib where 379 people were killed and another 1200 were wounded. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (S.G.P.C.) and the Shiromani Akali Dal were established here in 1920.

The city figures richly in the history of the Sikhs and many of their sacred shrines are found in and around the city. The city is the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs. The city has central old city called walled city. It has narrow zigzag streets mostly developed in the 17th and 18th century. The city has a peculier example of introvert planning system which maintained a unique defence system during attacks on the city.

The city lies on the main Grand Trunk Road from Delhi to Amritsar connecting to Lahore in Pakistan. The city is also connected to most other cities such s New Delhi, Mumbai, and Calcutta by extensive network of rail system. The city also provides air connectivity to major Indian cities, as well as international cities such as Birmingham, Toronto , Dubai, Singapore, Tashkent, London etc from the Guru Ram Dass International Airport at Rajasansi. The airport is being developed for the increasing demand in future. A new International inbound and outbound terminal is operational and cargo terminal is also under construction.

The city is the administration centre for the Amritsar District - the city that has developed from a village pond to a prominent business centre.


Table of Contents For 'Amritsar - A City With Glorious Legacy' By Varinder Singh Walia


From the Editor's Pen - Amritsar: Sifti da Ghar xi
My Acknowledgements xvi

Section I

Glimpses of History

History Revisited 3
Forgotten Chapter of Glorious History 6
Did Guru Gobind Singh Ji Really Visit the Holy City? 8
A Panoramic Peep into the History of Punjab 11
A Golden Leaf from the Annals of Sikh History 14
Jallianwala Bagh Revisited 18
A Forgotten Hero 22
A Monumental Neglect 25
Historical Bhakna Village 29
A Peep into a Glorious Chapter of Indian History : Kamagatamaru 32
Shah Mohammad : The Chronicler of Jangnama 34
Great Escape to Kabul 37

Section II

Institutions of Greatness

City's Pride 43
Khalsa College: A Beacon of Light 47
A College with a Difference 50
Sangalwala Akhara's Unique Heritage 54
In Service of Society 57
Two Gems of Education, Architecture 60

Section III

Literary Legacy

An Ode to Punjabi Culture : Bhai Vir Singh 65
City's Patriotic Muse : Nanak Singh Novelist 68
A Proud Legacy Dies in Dust : Lala Dhani Ram Chatrik 70
Preet Nagar Dream Dies a Painful Death 72
Cradle of Writers 75
'Garden of the Beautiful Girl' in Ruins 78
A Giani , A Gurmukh and A Musafir 81
Giant of Punjabi Literature 83
Hindi Novel's First Cradle 87

Section IV

Stars of the City

Dr Manmohan Singh 91
Treasure Trove of History Neglected 94
Bhagat Puran Singh 98
Dr Kiran Bedi 100
Honouring One's Own 102
Citizen Dang 105
Global Family of the Gills 108
Amritsar: Mecca for Eye Surgery 111
Comrade Parduman: The Man Behind Pension Schemes in India 115
Sohan Singh Josh: A Forgotten Hero 119
Man who made Efforts to Avert the Operation Bluestar 123
Saga of Shaurya Chakras 125

Section V

Cultural Confluences

Unique Cult of Anand Marga 131
Peshawaris Strive to Keep their Identity Alive 133
A Bit of Bihar in Punjab's Heart 136
Jangams add Colour to the City's Spectrum 138
Enterprising Himachalis in the City 140
Jains of the Holy City 143
A Bit of Marwar in the Holy City 145
From the Land of Paradise to the Holy City 148
West of Orissa, East of Punjab 152
A Rags-to-Riches Story 155
Historical Harmony viz Punjab and Bengal 159
City's Burma Connections 162
A Tale of Two Cities 165
Date with Dayton Sikhs 168
From Cafe Culture of Los Angeles to 'Lassi' of Rajasansi 171
Eat, Drink and Be Amritsari 174
Matter of Faith 177

Section VI

Artists and Artistes

Striking the Right Chord: Mohammad Rafi 181
The Rich Life of an Artist who was a Pauper 185
Art and Life of Phulan Rani 188
Tinsel Town Tinkle 190
City Actors Shine in Film on Baba Deep Singh Ji 193
Balle-Balle From Amritsar to L.A. 196
Art of Breaking Barriers 198

Section VII

Minorities of Distinction

Rai Sikhs: Tigers of Border Belt 203
Struggling to Keep the Sacred Flame Alive: The Parsis 205
Free Massons' Confidential Code 209

Section VIII

On Horizons of Heritage

Whither Devotion to Heritage? 215
Callous Neglect of Historical Monuments 219
Sifti Da Ghar in Neglect 225
A Tale of Plunder 228
Edifices of Pride: The Historical Gates 231
The Rise and the Fall 233
Ponds, Tanks - Relics of a Bygone Era 236

Section IX

Of Trades and Travails

Ancient Bazaars of Holy City: Shoppers' Delight 241
Amritsar Awaits Export Boom 244
Delicate Wraps from the City 247
Modernisation Beats Life out of Pots and Pans Industry 249
City of Kirpans 252
Playing with Fire 256
Turban Clinics in the City 258
Topiwalas 260
Opium Trade Transcends All Borders 263
Amritsar is the Worst Drug-Affected 266

Section X

Viraasat Villages

800 Years of Sultanwind 271
Fatehabad: Once the Capital of Ahluwalia Misl 275
Sirhali: A Village Steeped in History 278
Islamabad: A Sanctuary for Bhagat Singh 281
Kaleyaanwala Khooh at Ajnala 285
Vandalisation of Border Heritage 287
Repository of Rare Treasure : Mallu Nangal 289
Shiva Temple Gets a Facelift 292
Nothing 'Bura' about this 'Bhala' Village 294
Narli Village has Matchless Records 296
From a Historical Town to a Decrepit Village 300

Section XI

Indo-Pak Ties

Indo-Pak Trade 305
The City's Gold Link with Pakistan 308
Indo-Pak Ties Being Fed on Pure Basmati Rice 311
Rakhi Strings Strengthen Indo-Pak Ties 313
Samjhauta Express : Let the Train Run 315
Such a long Journey from Attari to Wagah 319


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