Punjab is a populous and prosperous area of the Indian subcontinent. The name “Punjab” comes from the Persian which means “five rivers”, referring to five major tributaries of the Indus – the Jhelum, the Chenab, the Ravi, the Sutlej, and the Beas.
Being well-watered and relatively flat, Punjab has always been one of the more prosperous regions. It used to be a province of the Mughal Empire, then the center of a Sikh Empire, and later part of British India.
Things To Do In Punjab
Tourism is principally suited for those interested in culture, ancient civilization, spirituality, and epic history. Punjab has a rich history incorporating Sikhism and Hinduism. Punjab is home to the celebrated Punjabi culture, royal palaces, historic battles, shrines, temples, and examples of Sikh Architecture.
Some of the smaller country towns are also a must for the person who wants to see the true Punjab, with their traditional homes, monuments, temples, farms, and everyday life.
The 7 most notable cities in Punjab are:
- Chandigarh — India’s first planned city. It is also the capital of both Haryana and Punjab
- Amritsar — a holy city with the center of Sikhism, the Golden Temple
- Jalandhar — an industrial center
- Ludhiana — an industrial city, sometimes called the Manchester of India
- Mohali — a satellite city of Chandigarh with interesting local temples
- Pathankot — municipal corporation in Punjab. Also, capital of the Pathankot district
- Patiala — a city with a rich cultural heritage
Chandigarh is the capital city. Chandigarh is also the capital of the state of Haryana, which used to be a part of Punjab. However, Chandigarh is not under the jurisdiction of either state but is administered by the central government and classified as a union territory.
For a detailed guide, please read Chandigarh Travel Guide.
The holiest of Sikh shrines, the Golden Temple, is in Amritsar.
For a detailed guide, please read Amritsar Travel Guide.
Harike Wetland is a diversity of wetland animals and plants. It was Harike Pattan Bird Sanctuary and is known for its many species of migratory birds. It is habitat for several endangered species such as the Testudines Turtle and Smooth Indian Otter.
Points of Interest
- Chandigarh, the modern city designed by French architect Le Corbusier
- Golden Temple, Amritsar
- Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar
- Wagha Border (between Amritsar, India and Lahore, Pakistan)
- Bhakra Nangal Dam across the Sutlej River
- Indus Valley civilization site at Ropar
- The Royal Punjabi Palaces and monuments of Patiala
- Ancient Fort (Purana Quilla) in Bathinda
- Mehdiana Sahib Gurudwara outside Manuke near Jagraon
- Gurdwara Nanaksar in Jagraon
- The Gurudwaras and historic monuments at Anandpur Sahib
- Hussaini Wala Border, Firozpur
- The Royal Palaces of Faridkot
- Historic monuments in Fatehgarh Saheb, Chamkaur Saheb, and Sirhind, which saw a lot of action during Guru Gobind Singh’s time as the 10th Guru of Sikhism
- The Gurudwara Bhabour Sahib, a Sikh place of worship, as well as several other holy places and an Ashram are located at Nangal
- Historic monuments in Nabha and Sangrur
- Shahpur Kandi fort and Madhopur headworks near Pathankot
- Ancient Buddhist and Hindu archeological sites at Sanghol in Fatehgarh Sahib and Dholbaha in Hoshiarpur district respectively
There are many museums here :
- Amritsar, Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum
- Angol Sikh War Memorial, Ferozeshah
- Govt. Museum Hoshiarpur
- Sports Museum, National Institute of Sports, Patiala
- Sanghol Museum
- Art Gallery at Sheesh Mahal
- Qila Mubarak Patiala, Museum of Armoury & Chandeliers
- Guru Teg Bahadur Museum
Best Time To Visit
Chandigarh has a humid subtropical climate with extremely hot summers and mild winters. The rainy season is in the middle of the year, although the rest of the months are not completely dry.
So, except the peak summer months (May and June), you can visit anytime.
Sikhism is the main religion and is practiced by the majority of the population. Hinduism is also very common and many temples can be found in almost every city and town.
There is a small Muslim minority left (most of the Muslim population migrated to the Pakistani side after Partition), and as well as some Jains and Christians.
Pro Tip: Try not to use the 1000 rupee and 500 rupee notes, especially not in smaller shops. Many shops, except the big retail chains, don’t accept credit and debit card so have some cash handy.
The most common language spoken is Punjabi (Gurumukhi script). Hindi and English are also spoken, mainly among educated people and in major cities as Amritsar, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Patiala, Jalandhar, but learning even a few words of Punjabi can be very helpful.
How To Get Here
Punjab is well connected with other major cities of India: Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, and Ferozepur are major junctions of Indian Northern Railways.
Renting a car or taxi is one of the best ways to get around in Punjab. You can also hire an experienced driver. (Hiring a taxi with driver is inexpensive and it is, in fact, safer if you are accustomed to driving in India).
Note 1: Like most of India, navigating traffic in Punjab can be a hair-raising experience. It is common to see the owner of the car sitting in the back with a driver driving the car.
Note 2: You can also rent two-wheelers if you know how to ride them. For the local people, it is the most popular mode of transport.
An auto rickshaw, or auto or rickshaw or tempo in popular parlance, is a three-wheeled vehicle for hire. They typically have no doors or seat belts. Generally yellow or green in color and have a black or green canopy on the top.
An auto rickshaw is generally characterized by a tin/iron body resting on three small wheels, a small cabin for the driver in the front and seating for three in the rear. Hiring an auto often involves bargaining with the driver.
Buses are available in most towns in Punjab. They go all over the country. The bus service has improved considerably in the last 2-3 years with the introduction of deluxe and air-conditioned buses.
Main entry routes are from Delhi via Ambala or via Delhi-Jind-Sangrur or Delhi-Hissar-Bathinda sections. NH44 (formerly NH 1) runs from Delhi to Panipat and on to Ambala.
While it is widely popular, there is a misconception in some Western countries that Punjabi cuisine is completely curry-based. One of the main features of Punjabi cuisine is its diverse range of dishes, whose level of spiciness can vary from minimal to very high.
Home-cooked and restaurant-made Punjabi cuisine can vary significantly. Restaurant-style cooking uses large amounts of clarified butter, known locally as desi ghee, while home cooking is done with liberal amounts of butter and cream, and concentrates mainly upon masalas (blends of spices).
There are also different regional preferences. For example, people in the area of Amritsar prefer stuffed parathas and milk products. The area is well known for the quality of its milk products. There are certain dishes which are exclusive to Punjab, such as mah di dal and saron da saag.
Punjabi cuisine can be non-vegetarian or completely vegetarian. Due to Sikh and Hindu religious beliefs, beef is a banned item, neither consumed nor sold in Punjab.
There are a variety of pulse, bean and/or lentil preparations that one should try. Common preparation generally includes being soaked overnight, or for at least 8 hours, and then gently simmered on the embers of a tandoor along with ginger, garlic and a few other garam masalas (whole spices like cardamom, coriander, cumin, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, mace, and bay leaf).
These are then combined with a tangy masala base which could include tomato or dried mango (amchur powder) or even pomegranate seeds (anar dana). The typical character of the bean or whole lentil preparation is that the shape of the vegetable remains intact, but the gentlest pressure would make it into a paste.
Dollops of cream and butter are sometimes provided for a rich, finishing touch. Garnishing is usually done with shredded coriander leaves and ginger.
Must Try Food
Some very popular Punjabi foods should not be missed. These include:
- Samosas – a fried or baked pastry with a savory filling
- Butter chicken
- Shahi paneer – Indian cheese
- Paneer pakora – Indian-style cheese fritters
- Pakoras – fried snacks that come in a variety of flavors and ingredients
- Punjabi flatbreads – the bread may be made of different types of flour and can be made in various ways such as being baked in a tandoor, dry baked on a tava, shallow fried, or deep fried
Food from Tandoor
The tandoor allows for tasty chicken, lamb, and fish preparations. Some that you might be familiar with include:
- Seekh Kebab
- Reshmi Tikka
- Malai Tikka
- Tandoori Chicken – traditionally roasted in a tandoor, that has been covered in a yogurt and spice marinade
Sweet desserts are popular. Some popular ones include:
- Jalabee – a wheat batter that is shaped into pretzel or circle form, fried and soaked in syrup
- Gulab Jamun – A prepared milk solids dessert, often mixed with spices, rolled into a ball and fried at low heat. Commonly soaked in a sweet syrup with spices and garnished with nuts or fruit
- Kulfi – A milk dessert similar to ice cream
- Kheer – Rice pudding flavored with spices and often also with nuts
If you see or smell something that seems good, do not hesitate to try it; you are unlikely to be disappointed.
Punjabi people are usually kind at heart. You will most likely not feel threatened while you are there, but take the usual precautions.
Make sure you pay attention to your surroundings. Pickpocketing is common in some parts. Put your wallet in your front pocket; don’t carry a lot of things at one time; don’t carry original copies of passports, visas, etc.
To be on the safe side, avoid being in crowded places and getting stuck in protests or rallies. Try to walk in groups especially at night or in isolated areas.
Public displays of affection are not usually tolerated, especially non-straight.
Bribing the police is not recommended although is a common practice as power, bureaucracy, and corruption are rooted deep in the overall government structure.
December 17, 2018 9:37 pm
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