Best travel experiences in Punjab

Punjab's large-hearted hospitality can only be experienced, not explained.
Image courtesy: ©Punjabiyat

Punjab’s cities, culture and cuisine are one of the most vibrant in India. The ebullience of their performing arts, their proud martial and sporting traditions, and the scenic beauty of their farmlands is matched by the faith and element of generosity that makes them unique. Here are the top experiences on your trip across Punjab.

Farm Stays

Punjab’s green and golden fields and lush fruit orchards provide the perfect setting for a tryst with rural life. The farm stays come with tractor rides, fresh home- cooked Punjabi food and crackling bonfires. Above all, they provide a chance to spend time with expansive Punjabi hosts whose large-hearted hospitality can only be experienced, not explained.

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Hola Mohalla, Anandpur Sahib

 

Image courtesy: ©Punjab Tourism Board

This celebration of the martial arts tradition of the Sikhs transforms the quiet, holy town of Anandpur Sahib into a veritable fairground where daredevilry, showmanship, devotion and faith get rolled into a colourful spectacle. Spend a day during this festival to get a first-hand insight into the very best Punjab has to offer: a proud tradition of bravery, large heartedness and intense faith.

Virasat-e-Khalsa, Anandpur Sahib

Image courtesy: ©Lonely Planet/Pallavi Pasricha

The Virasat-e-Khalsa in the Sikh holy city of Anandpur Sahib is a remarkable tribute to the culture and history of Sikhism and Punjab. The uber modern design of the sprawling building, the handiwork of an Israeli architect, is striking. Inside the museum, instead of just a row of exhibits, eye-catching artefacts and state of the art technology highlight all facets of this colourful state.

Palki at Golden Temple, Amritsar

Watch the grand procession in which the Sikh holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, is moved in a flower-bedecked golden palki every night at 10.30pm from Harmandir Sahib to the Akal Takht. A similar ceremony takes place in the morning when the when it’s taken back to the temple and it’s called Prabat Pheri.

Partition Museum, Amritsar

Image courtesy: ©Partition Museum

The first-ever museum on Partition powerfully captures those troubled times through exhibits highlighting real-life stories, newspaper clippings, personal artefacts of affected people and much more. A must visit to get a perspective on the trauma that 1947 brought to millions of ordinary people caught on the wrong side of the newly drawn up borders.

Heritage Street, Amritsar

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In its new avatar, the road from where you walk down to the famed Golden Temple now makes for a perfect introduction to this historic city. The once crowded has been widened and made pedestrian friendly with bright illumination in the evening, and now counts as a tourist highlight in its own right.

Food trail in Amritsar

Amritsari kulcha at Monu Kulcha Hut, Amritsar
Amritsari kulcha at Monu Kulcha Hut, Amritsar
Image courtesy: ©Lonely Planet/Pallavi Pasricha

In this city that indisputably wears the title of Punjab’s food capital, make ample room for a culinary overdose. The breads here such as the Amritsari kulcha are as famous as dishes like butter chicken and succulent tandoori chicken, fried fish and even the humble dal takes on a whole new avatar. Nigh impossible to cover all from an inexhaustible list in one visit: experience a few at least: Giani’s tea, Brijwasi’s chaat; Ahuja’s lassi; Gurdasram’s jalebi, Monu Kulcha’s Amritsari kulcha, Billa’s chicken, Kulfa, Kanha’s puri choley, and Lubhaya Ram’s aam papad.

Attari Border Ceremony

Image courtesy: ©Matt Munro/Lonely Planet

Set aside an afternoon on your visit to Amritsar for the ceremonial lowering of flags and the closing of gates every evening at the Attari Border by the Indian and Pakistani border guards. Cheering crowds who pack the stands on both sides and the almost choreographed high kicks and strident posturing of the soldiers have turned this half-hour ceremony into a spectacle infused with a heady dose of patriotism, singing, cheering, dancing and flag-waving.

Shopping in Patiala

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This city was once a trendsetter in couture under the kings of Patiala, famed for their pomp and style and some of that tradition lives on. The town’s crafts are best sourced by scouring the lanes and bylanes of its fascinating local markets: there is an array of footwear or juttis that you can match with every outfit, hair extensions called parandis, a version of the traditional salwar known as the patiala salwar. Adaalat Bazaar is a great place to shop for these.

Guru ka Langar

While in Punjab, take part in a langar at a gurudwara to get a first- hand insight into the great values of sharing, equality and service that this centuries-old Sikh tradition stands for. At the langar or community kitchen all barriers of faith, economic or social status disappear as diners sit on the floor as equals to share a simple, free meal. The langar at the Golden Temple in Amritsar runs round the clock and serves between 50,000 to one lakh people daily.