Haryana and Punjab

The flat, open and richly cultivated plains of Haryana and Punjab witnessed some of ancient India's most significant battles. Kurukshetra, Krishna's battlefield in the Mahabharata, and Panipat, where Muslim power was established, lie in Haryana just north of Delhi. Today, however, it is the Punjab, peopled by the gregarious and industrious Sikhs, which is the foremost of the two states. Although only 2% of the Indian population, the Sikh contribution to the life and character, not to mention cuisine, of Northern India, greatly outweighs their relatively meagre numbers. Amritsar's Golden Temple, one of the great treasures of North India and compared by many to the Taj Mahal, is the holiest centre of worship for the Sikhs, whose roots lie in the soil of the Punjab. Le Corbusier's specially designed capital, Chandigarh, modernist in conception and secular in spirit, could scarcely stand in greater contrast. Ironically many now seem to visit Chandigarh more for the quixotic delights of Nek Chand's 'Rock Garden' than for its European architect's alien buildings. Haryana has a less distinct identity, culturally subsumed by the capital city which it surrounds, and for most visitors will simply serve as a transit state on their way elsewhere.

Through extensive irrigation Haryana and Punjab have become the most productive states of India. Most of the major towns and cities of the region are close to the Grand Trunk Road, the great highway from Peshawar to Kolkata which Rudyard Kipling described as “the backbone of all Hind”. These two states also hold the key to Delhi's water supply, giving them powerful political leverage that has been regularly applied in the past when things have not been going their way.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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