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Amritsar is the largest and most important city in Punjab and is a major commercial, cultural, and transportation centre. It is also the centre of Sikhism and the site of the Sikhs' principal place of worship, the Harimandir, or Golden Temple. It was founded in 1577 by Ram Das, fourth Guru of the Sikhs, on a site granted by the Mughal emperor Akbar. Ram Das ordered the excavation of the sacred tank, or pool, called Amrita Saras ("Pool of Nectar"), from which the city's name is derived. A temple was erected on an island in the tank's centre by Arjun, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs. During the reign (1801-39) of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the upper part of the temple was decorated with a gold-foil-covered copper dome, and since then the building has been known as the Harimandir. The city was annexed to British India in 1849.
A short distance away from the Golden Temple is a spacious park, Jallianwalla Bagh, where on April 13, 1919, British colonial government troops fired on a crowd of unarmed Indian protesters, killing 379 of them and wounding many more. The site of the Amritsar Massacre, as this incident is now called, is now a national monument. Another violent political clash took place in Amritsar in 1984, when troops of the Indian army attacked hundreds of Sikh separatists who had taken up positions in and heavily fortified the Golden Temple. Conflicting reports indicated that between 450 and 1,200 persons were killed before the Sikh extremists were evicted from the temple.
Amritsar is a centre of textile and chemical industries and also engages in food milling and processing, silk weaving, tanning, canning, and the manufacture of machinery. The city lies on the main highway from Delhi to Lahore (GT road) and is a major rail hub. It is home to Guru Nanak Dev University, founded in 1969 as the leading educational centre of the Sikhs (with PhDs in nearly 30 disciplines, including Sanskrit and Pali). A medical, a dental, an arts, and a technical college are also located in Amritsar, and Khalsa College (1899) lies just outside the city. In the newer, northern section of the city is Ram Bagh, a large park that contains the summer palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (aka Sher-e-Punjab). [Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica; Sep 06]
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This museum records many events that deeply mark the Sikh psyche, in particular their wars of survival, monumental events, and the worst of the historical Muslim atrocities against the Sikhs, most under Aurangzeb. The stories behind these gruesome images are retold across Punjab. Most paintings have been commissioned in the last few decades.
|Jallianwala Bagh ▒|
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