Places To Visit In Amritsar & Chandigarh For The Vision-Impaired
Sagar Baheti, our vision-impaired guest writer, has been to 31 countries and counting. Not letting his low vision put a wedge in his travel plans, Sagar inspires us all at Enable Travel to overcome our fears and think beyond our limitations. Read on for more on his family holiday, when he toured the top places to visit in Amritsar, including the famous Golden Temple, and in Chandigarh.
Holidays with your parents and siblings are the best time to satisfy your time with family, especially given the busy lifestyles we lead these days. My parents enjoy exploring places that offer experiences filled with history and culture, and we’d decided that Amritsar would be our next holiday destination. It was winter and just the ideal time to visit the northern part of our country, so we took an extended weekend vacation to Amritsar and Chandigarh.
The first thing that we wanted to do after reaching Amritsar was to indulge in some inviting Punjabi food. And with so many places to eat in Amritsar, we chose to eat at one of the famous local dhabas – the Kesar da Dhaba, which has been run by the same family for generations. After feasting on some delicious dal makhani, Amritsari chole and parathas, all we wanted to do was surrender to a short siesta. But like most tourists, we wanted to make the best use of our time and cover as many places to visit in Amritsar as we could; so we made our way to the glorious Golden Temple.
1. Golden Temple: One Of The Top Places To Visit In Amritsar
Originally known as Harmandir Sahib, the sanctity of the Golden Temple touches the hearts of believers and non-believers alike. The calm inside the temple and the sincerity of disciples who work selflessly to feed people in the langar (free meal) is simply heart-warming. I felt a sense of serenity enveloping my conscious the moment I laid my eyes on the glorious marvel in front of me.
After we explored the main temple, we chose to sit by the lake for a bit. I dipped my hand in the lake, creating ripples in the quaint waters, with the orange and black fish circling around randomly. Some devotees were taking a dip in the holy waters, praying to the almighty, and the chanting of holy words took me on a spiritual odyssey. And before we knew it, the sun had set and the gold-plated building was lit by yellow lights that made it look nothing less than a glittering palace. I could, honestly, spend an entire night in awe of this glorious structure.
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2. Jallianwala Bagh
For the next day, we planned a visit to the Jallianwala Bagh, a memorial garden that makes you relive one of the most infamous incidents of Indian history. It was at this place on Baisakhi (Punjabi New Year) in 1919, where British soldiers opened fire on thousands of bystanders, who were gathered to celebrate the festival.
Today, this memorial stands as a poignant structure that pays homage to the fallen victims of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. The well-preserved walls still have visible bullet marks that sent chills down our spine. The 50-minute-long sound-and-light display recounts the tragic events of that day from the view point of Udham Singh, an Indian revolutionary. We spent some time walking around, discussing the sacrifice of our fellow Indians, and came out with a greater respect and appreciation for the freedom fighters.
To distract ourselves from the intense history lesson and to set the mood right, we chose to indulge in some shopping. There are many options and places to visit in Amritsar for some shopping, and we chose to explore the market around Jallianwala Bagh before we took off for the Wagah Border. We came across many jutti shops and bought a few juttis for each of us, since it’s not very easy to find these traditional footwear in Bangalore. As for shopping in Amritsar for clothes, one can visit the Katra Jaimal Singh Market, which is just 10 minutes from Jallianwala Bagh.
3. Wagah Border
After covering the top two places to visit in Amritsar, our next destination was the Wagah Border. Falling between Amritsar (India) and Lahore (Pakistan), this famous border hosts a flag-lowering ceremony every evening of the year. The ceremony before sunset has the border security forces of both countries officially close the border for the night. From the Golden Temple, we drove roughly one hour to Wagah Border, which has a stadium-like structure to accommodate the hundreds of people who come to witness the ceremony at the border. Lasting about 45 minutes, the Wagah Border ceremony starts at 4:15 PM during winters and 5:15 PM during summers, and visitors usually arrive an hour before the ceremony to get in the gate.
Late in the evening, we returned to our hotel and decided to retire early that night as we planned to leave early morning for Chandigarh. It’s ideal to leave at the first crack of dawn to avoid traffic and you also get to enjoy some delicious breakfast on your way.
4. Rose Garden, Chandigarh
Heading straight to the leisure valley of Chandigarh, we chose to explore the Zakir Hussain Rose Garden, which by the way is the biggest rose garden in Asia! The vibrant colours, heady scents and insight on medicinal plants only reminded me of the abundance that nature has to offer. I felt nothing short of grateful to have had a chance to soak in the calming vibe of this new place. One could simply bring in a picnic and enjoy their time by the garden’s pond as a great way to enjoy the experience.
For the vision-impaired and the blind, meandering in the serenity of the garden results in an exquisite sensory experience; I’m still basking in the sweet sensory memories of it all. And, as for wheelchair users, there are many tracks in this garden that are wheelchair-accessible, making it one of the best places to visit for the disabled.
The best time to visit the rose garden in Chandigarh is during the Rose Festival in February, when the grounds are at their liveliest. While rose displays are arranged by artisans, the garden also hosts folk dances, musical shows, joy rides and exhibitions by local painters. March, when the flowers are in full bloom, is another great time to be here.
Travel Tip: Regardless of which month of the year you make it to the Zakir Hussain Rose Garden, Chandigarh, allow yourself a couple of hours to fully explore it.
After experiencing this calm and delightful atmosphere to our heart’s content, we took a photo stop at the replica of Eiffel Tower made at the leisure garden.
5. The Rock Garden, Chandigarh
We then headed out to our next destination – the Rock Garden, one of the most famous places to visit in Chandigarh. Spread over 40 acres, and as beautifully designed as the city, this is probably the most visited attraction in Chandigarh. It’s an open-air exhibition of mosaic-form art pieces made from home and industrial waste.
There are three parts of this park, the first which has statues of human forms, animals and pots made from broken tiles, tube lights, bangles, etc.; the second part has a beautiful waterfall and an amphitheatre; and the third part has statues of life-sized camels and elephants. An art lover could spend upto 3 hours in the park getting inspired by the use of waste materials that have been turned into a beautiful form of art. City dwellers like us also enjoy being amid lush green environ that this garden offers in abundance.
Travel Tip: Winter is the best time to visit the Rock Garden, Chandigarh.
The Rock Garden, Chandigarh, timings are as follows:
April – September: 9:00 AM-7:00 PM
October- March: 9:00 AM- 6:00 PM
It was the last day of our holiday and we chose to visit Kalagram, a little artisan village close to Chandigarh. This place offers a great collection of handmade art pieces, crafts and handloom cloth, and my mother, like any other women would, wanted to shop on her holiday. With the largest exhibition of art and crafts in India, this place also houses a museum that boasts of a great collection.
There are many more things to do and placed to visit in Chandigarh, the first planned city of independent India, but we were pressed for time. Soon, we returned from our short holiday that definitely enriched me in many ways.
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How Did I Cope With My Low-Vision On This Trip?
1. I’m very vocal and accepting of my disability. That’s the first step every disabled person needs to work towards, to help themselves think beyond their own condition. While I’m travelling independently or with Enable Travel, I ensure the airlines or the travel agent I’m travelling with is fully aware of my condition.
2. My family would take pictures of things I couldn’t see with my naked eye, given my low vision, they would then zoom in to the image for me to be able to see the minute detailing on the iconic structures, artefacts and such.
3. Being around my family was comforting and allowed me to try out different applications like voice over for navigation that helped me plan our holiday better.
Among all the places to visit in Amritsar, the Golden Temple left me mulling over the sincerity with which the volunteers did their seva (service), looking after the temple and serving food to approximately 40,000 people a day in the most disciplined way. In fact, 35% of pilgrims visiting this glorious shrine don’t even belong to the Sikh religion, such is the fame of the Golden Temple. Irrespective of the caste, status, wealth or creed, everybody is made to sit on the floor for langar (free meal), symbolising the central Sikh doctrine of equality. If we, as a larger society, elevate ourselves to selfless service, the world outside can be as peaceful as inside the Golden Temple.
Read more articles by Sagar here
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