History of Amritsar
The history of the city of Amritsar is intricately intertwined with the birth of the Sikh religion. It is believed that the formal birth of the city occurred in the year 1577. The Sikh Guru Ram Das with his son Guru Arjun Dev constructed a temple around a miracle pool with healing powers. Guru Arjan Dev encouraged traders and craftsmen to settle around the fledgling temple complex. The city then started on the path of religion and wealth.
The plundering adventurers targeting the North India for its riches almost destroyed this city in the 18th century. The Punjab province, then under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was a rich and almost independent state. Maharaja Ranjit Singh rebuilt the city, established the lost businesses of the traders and donated one hundred kilos of pure Gold for the temple. The city has a character of inviting trouble, from wandering plunderers and even ruling Mughals. The tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Govind Singh, founded the martial or the warrior class of Sikhs for defending the city and the Sikh religion.
The city maintained its reputation of being fiercely independent during India's freedom struggle against the British. The people of Amritsar were outraged at the Rowlatt Act, which was somewhat extreme form of the US Patriot's Act. The Act granted overwhelming powers to the rulers to detain any one without any proof and deny him the right to appeal. The demonstrations against the act continued and the British Government arrested and deported key leaders of Punjab to unknown locations.
The city of Amritsar was a big scene of protest on 13th April 1919 with more than 15000 people shouting slogans against the draconian Act. The British officers ordered firing on the crowd and felled about 20 of them. But the strong crowd defied the firing and killed four British officers and a Christian missionary, Marcella Sherwood. The city of Amritsar was being viewed as another Meerut of 1857 and fears were ripe of another uprising.
General Reginald Dyer imposed a ban on public assemblies but the people of Amritsar who had defied the British again assembled in large numbers in the Jalianwalla Bagh on the 13th of April. It was a peaceful gathering where men, women and children listened to the speeches against the Act. General Dyer and his troops blocked the only gate to the park and started firing on the peaceful crowd. The terrified women and children started jumping in a well near the boundary wall of the park to avoid the bullets. Soon the well was full with human bodies. The park was littered with bullet ridden innocent public. Thousands must have been dead that day, though the official toll was 379.
The massacre at Amritsar started a wave of unrest all over North India. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs joined hands against the colonial oppressor. The British in their bid to break the resolve of the people of Amritsar enforced stricter orders. The infamous 'crawling order', where everyone was made to crawl on the streets of Amritsar, was imposed a few days after the Jalianwalla massacre by General Dyer. The atrocities committed by one man on the city of Amritsar earned him the famous sobriquet, Butcher of Amritsar and also hundreds of thousands of British Pounds for his biography by Nigel Collett. The bullets did make numerous dents in the walls of the Bagh but not the fiercely independent spirit of the people of Amritsar.