Tread lightly at Jallianwala Bagh, for you walk on tragic ground. Only a stone’s throw from the astonishing Golden Temple, it is hard to imagine anything bad could happen in such a peaceful place.
But it was on this spot in 1919 that the British Indian Army fired 1,650 rounds into an assembly of 20,000 Punjabis. The brutality of the attack, in which up to 1,000 people died and many more injured, shocked the nation and is widely seen as triggering the beginning of the Indian nationalist movement.
The only way in or out of the park is on foot through a narrow passageway – the same passageway through which the army entered on that fateful day, and the same one the soldiers blocked as they massacred the assembled crowds.
Today, Jallianwala Bagh is a public garden, housing an elegant red-sandstone monument honouring the dead. And on the other side of the memorial is the Martyrs’ Well, into which innocent people threw themselves in an attempt to escape the bullets.
This serene park is a place for reflection and introspection, but its tragic past is still very tangible. Look closely and you’ll see the bullet holes that pepper the stone walls of the park’s perimeter. Be prepared to be moved.
Jallianwala Bagh is a place of great pain in Indian history. The best way to get the most from your visit is to be respectful and to pay attention to what the plaques, museum, and the well-versed guides (if you have one) can tell you.
Note the hedges cut into the shape of gunmen, facing into the park as a reminder of the tragedy that occurred here. The impressive monument to the dead, in the centre of the park, was built after independence in 1947 and later joined by an eternal flame.
The Martyrs’ Well claimed the lives of hundreds of men, women and children desperately seeking refuge from the gunfire and a museum there documents the tragedy in full.
While the site’s memorial is the major attraction, many locals and sightseers choose to stop at Jallianwala Bagh simply to take a rest under a tree, on one of the shaded seats spread across the park. This beautiful place is a great spot for quiet reflection if you need a break from your hectic schedule.
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The park is in central Amritsar, less than a kilometre away from the Golden Temple. It is on a main road and accessible by tuk tuk, bus or taxi. However, if you are coming from the Golden Temple, choosing to walk will mean you’ll avoid the busy Amritsar traffic.
Jallianwala Bagh is open all week to the public for free. The memorial is open all week between 6am and 9pm in summer and 7am and 8pm in winter.
Jallianwala Bagh is a public park, so there is no dress code. But remember, this is a memorial to a massacre, so think conservative.
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