The glamour of a settling Punjab

Prajakta Joshi
Saturday, 9 February 2019

Picking up pieces from scarred past, the state is moving towards becoming a peaceful tourist abode of the future

With its alluringly golden mustard fields and architectural marvels that remind of a glorious past, Punjab, that was once tainted with terror, is now amongst the most commonly visited tourist destinations in the country. From several parts of India, lakhs of tourists visit the state every year. 

While the Sikh separatist movement that scarred this land is still peeping through small outfits protesting in different parts of the world, to the tourist’s eye, Punjab seems quiet and peaceful. The strict security and surveillance measures, that are unusually efficient for many other similar destinations in the country, do remind one of its sensitive nature and vicinity to the Pakistan border.

A recent visit to Amritsar, one of the largest and most popular cities in the state, was an eye-opener for me and showed me the appeal that Punjab has on the people from all over the country. While the government has been developing forts and potential tourist destinations across the state, it’s Amritsar that has a maximum footfall of the tourists.

“People want to visit Golden Temple, and therefore the maximum number of enquiries for Punjab from Pune and around are for Amritsar,” said Nilesh Bhansali, President, Travel Agents Association of Pune (TAAP).

He also stated that the Pune-Chandigarh flight that started a couple of years ago has also added to the tourist inflow to Punjab from Pune. However, no other city in the state is as popular as Amritsar, although nowadays, people have also started visiting Ludhiana, Bhansali said.

To enhance the experience and preserve the beauty of its monuments, the area around the Golden Temple has been barred for entry of vehicles. One can either take a walk down the beautiful promenade that hosts local market with shops and stalls, all painted in the same vintage colour, or take a ride in the e-rickshaws while visiting the Golden Temple.

This is one of the most impressive attempts by the government to make the tourists fall in love with the city. Apart from the small lanes and bylanes, dhabas and cycle rickshaws have preserved the city’s old world charm, the new age buildings, malls and post hotels have also made the city high-profile tourist friendly.

Along with the Golden Temple, the beating retreat ceremony every evening at the Wagah Border that is merely 35 km from the city is a major crowd-puller.

However, the beating retreat at the Wagah-Atari border, that seemingly fills the thousands of Indians attending the drill with pride and patriotism hosted by India’s Border Security Force every evening is something that needs a timely update. While the drill that represents rivalry to be symbolic of brotherhood between the two nations, more peaceful gesture would have been a better show for both Indians and Pakistanis given the present attempts of collaboration between the two countries. However, all we get is a show off wherein both the countries try to hail their countries louder than each other. Unlike other places, the tourists get a dose of nationalism like no other place.

The Gobindgarh fort, a fort ruled over by Maharaja Ranjit Singh is developed by Punjab Tourism to be one of the best examples of the same. There are 7D shows depicting the life and work of the emperor, to the live shows that shout out culture and patriotism. However, the museums and war memorials that have preserved the historical artefacts remain unattended and ignored by tourists visiting.

“Most of these museums are very recent additions to the tourist attractions of the city. Most of them have been opened to the public hardly a few years ago, and hence, have a lower exposure and popularity. They will eventually be a part of the regular itinerary, as they get promoted by the visitors in coming years,” Gagandeep Singh, a travel agent in Amritsar said.

While all is good and peaceful in the state, the government and management have still put all the safety measures in place to ensure the safety of locals as well as visitors. The Golden Temple with thousands of visitors each day has one of the best CCTV camera coverage that any temple in the country could have. With the kar sevaks ready to help the devotees all the time, the temple staff too is on its toes all the time. A clean and beautiful premise is closely monitored by volunteers in a room full of CCTV feed throughout the day. At most other monuments as well, the security personnel carry out a thorough checking at the entrance.

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