AMRITSAR, or UMRITSAR, a city and district of India, in the Lahore division of the Punjab. The city has a station on the North Western railway 32 m. E. of Lahore, its position on which has greatly assisted its development. Amritsar is chiefly notable as the centre of the Sikh religion and the site of the Golden Temple, the chief worshipping place of the Sikhs. Ram Das, the fourth guru, laid the foundations of the city upon a site granted by the emperor Akbar. He also excavated the holy tank from which the town derives its name of Amrita Turas, or Pool of Immortality. It is upon a small island in the middle of this tank that the Golden Temple is now situated. About two centuries afterwards, in the course of the struggle between the Sikhs and the Mahommedans, Ahmad Shah Durani routed the Sikhs at the great battle of Panipat, and on his homeward march he destroyed the town of Amritsar, blew up the temple with gunpowder, filled in the sacred tank with mud, and defiled the holy place by the slaughter of cows. But when Ahmad Shah returned to Kabul the Sikhs rose once more and re-established their religion. Finally the city and surrounding district fell under the sway of Ranjit Singh at Lahore, and passed with the rest of the Punjab into the possession of the British after the second Sikh war. The Golden Temple is so called on account of its copper dome, covered with gold foil, which shines brilliantly in the rays of the Indian Sun, and is reflected back from the waters of the lake; but the building as a whole is too squat to have much architectural merit apart from its ornamentation. Marble terraces and balustrades surround the tank, and a marble causeway leads across the water to the temple, whose gilded walls, roof, dome and cupolas, with vivid touches of red curtains, are reflected in the still water. The temple was considerably enriched by the spoils taken by Ranjit Singh in his conquests. The population of Amritsar in 1901 was 162,429. A Sikh college for university education was opened in 1897. The other public buildings include two churches, a town hall and a hospital. Amritsar is famous for its carpet-weaving industry. It was the first mission station of the church of England in the Punjab.
The district is bounded on the N.W. by the river Ravi, on the S.E. by the river Beas, on the N.E. by the district of Gurdaspur, and on the S.W. by the district of Lahore. Amritsar district is a nearly level plain, with a very slight slope from east to west. The banks of the Beas are high, and on this side of the district well-water is not found except at 50 ft. below the surface; while towards the Ravi wells are less than 20 ft. in depth. The only stream passing through the district is the Kirni or Saki, which takes its rise in a marsh in the Gurdaspur district, and after traversing part of the district empties itself into the Ravi. Numerous canals intersect the district, affording ample means of irrigation. The Sind, Punjab and Delhi railway (North Western) and Grand Trunk road, which runs parallel with it, afford the principal means of land communication and traffic. The area of the district is 1601 sq. m.; pop. (1901) 1,023,828, showing an increase of 3% on the previous decade. It is the headquarters of the Sikh religion, containing 264,329 Sikhs as against 280,985 Hindus and 474,976 Mahommedans. The principal crops are wheat, pulse, maize, millet, with some cotton and sugar-cane. There are factories for ginning and pressing cotton.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)