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.
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
Painted underside of a chajja (eaves)
Facade: Shiva flanked by angels
Another fine example of the city’s wood-craft tradition
Buxom ladies adorn embellished archways
Chajja underside: one overlooked by the vagaries of time
Classic colonial feature
A curiosity alright
Balcony at Thakurdwara Dariana Mal dedicated to Krishna
Such vibrant frescoes stand nary a chance with continuous clay-oven cooking in an adjoining room by the resident priest
Hanuman and Garud watch over the entrance at the Shahni Mandir
The gnarled and deified Bohar (Banyan) Baba. 500 years old, it remains untouched and buildings are simply built around its branches.
Chitta akhara: serai for (shy?) sadhus
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.