“What is the best meal you have had?”
One of the first place to pop up in my head on hearing this is Kesar da Dhaba.
Located in the narrow bylanes of Ramdaspur in Punjab, the place is always brimming with people. The crowd here ranges from families to food bloggers and from tourists to workers. The star attractions of the Dhaba are the Kadhai Paneer, Rajma-Chawaal and the wide variety of Rotis and Naans. The spices are just so perfectly balanced that they remain punchy but do not overpower other ingredients. They are really generous with the butter, so those of you looking for a heavy meal, this 102-year-old Dhaba is the place for you.
Ramdaspur is a lesser-known but a highly visited place in Punjab. The reason is that the city today goes by the name of Amritsar. And Kesar da Dhaba is one of the most loved places here.
A meal in Punjab is incomplete without a kulhad full of Lassi. An amazing Lassi can be easily found around any nook and corner of the city. It comes in various forms that include dry fruits, spices, plain, sweet and so on.
A walk and a nap are two of the best things that one can have after a good meal. I chose to stroll down the markets surrounding the dhaba. The numerous cloth markets and tailor shops make it a heaven for shopaholics. A 5-minute walk from the dhaba will bring you to Katra Jaimal, a wholesale cloth market. All variety of readymade and unstitched clothes can be picked up from here.
Katra Jaimal is also the place where I had one of the most awesome Rasmalais of all time. The man stations and his redi have several large vessels filled with ice-cold Rasmalai. The dish is just so firm yet melts in the mouth. The flavour of every single ingredient pops out individually yet harmoniously. The saffron and almonds gain such a rich taste that they feel heavenly.
My dinner for the night included the chats and sweets being sold in the area. Chhole bhature, Tikki chaat were among the best that I had. And to top it all off, a glass of masala induced Orange Juice.
From a platter full of spices, we move to a lake full of Nectar. The Sarovar (pond) that houses the Harmandir Sahib Gurudwara is called Amrit Sarovar – ‘the lake of nectar’. The Gurudwara, popularly called the Golden temple, is one of the holiest pilgrimage destinations for Sikhism.
The philosophy behind the construction of the Guru Sahib (the entire temple complex) is quite intriguing. The complex is open on all four directions, unlike any other temple at that point of time. The main building, however, is accessible only from one side. This is so that all the pilgrims are treated as equals while visiting this Darbar of God.
The temple’s aura always casts a spell over me. Right from the moment, I enter the complex and lay my eyes on the Golden Temple and its reflection on the perfectly calm lake, life comes to a standstill.
Of all my visits here, merely 3 or 4 photos have been clicked. The connect with the moment is so strong that I often forget that I am carrying my camera. After all, I visit as a pilgrim, never as a photographer. The line to enter the temple premise can get quite long depending on the time of your visit. The chants in the name of Waheguru and environment make even the wait immensely soothing. Once you cross over the lake and enter the Golden Temple, you enter a new Realm. A realm of tranquility, hope and enchantment. A few minutes of rest there, while being surrounded by prayers and gurbanis, rejuvenates one’s spirits and ignites new hope and energy. The energy is enough to keep me going till my next visit.
The Akal Takht, the museum, and the Langar hall are some places worth paying a visit to in the temple complex. The Akal Takht is where the Guru Granth Sahib is kept and is a very holy place. It suffered a lot of damage during the Operation Blue Star in 1984. The langar hall serves the langar and the prasad, which are quite delicious and filling in themselves. Thus making them must-haves. These sites remind of various ups and downs that the Gurudwara has seen over the past 3 centuries.
After food for the soul, it is time for food for the stomach. The Bade Bhai ka Brothers Dhaba is an excellent option for those looking for the restaurant/dhaba experience. Situated just opposite the Town Hall, it is a 10-minute walk from the temple. The food at Brothers ka Dhaba is just as delicious as one expects. A favourite among celebrities and politicians, the ambience of the place is also one of a kind. The Amritsari kulcha and chur-chur naan are a speciality of this place,
Jalianwala Bagh falls en route while going from the Gurudwara to the Dhaba. Jalianwala Bagh is a site of great national importance because a massacre at the site was one of the turning points of the freedom struggle.
Amritsar is no longer just a city for me. It is like a portal, where I enter scared, unsure and tired. And emerge confident, fearless and strong enough to take on any new challenge. My bond with the temple is not religious, it is spiritual. It is where I place my faith in when I am unable to have it in myself.
The Golden Temple may not fulfill your wishes, but it will give you the strength to accomplish them yourself.-Me.
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