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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Golden Temple which is also known as Harmandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib, is one of the most important Sikh Gurdwaras of India, located in Punjab in the city of Amritsar. The construction process of this religious edifice started in the 16th century by Guru Ramdaas Sahib Ji, who was the fourth Sikh guru. The Adi Granth or the holy scripture of the Sikhs was completed by Guru Arjun in the year 1604 when it was installed inside this temple. One of the most sacred of all the Sikh temples in India, the Golden Temple houses the Guru Granth Sahib, which is the holiest of all Sikh scriptural texts. The temple attracts more than 100,000 people every day.
The Golden temple consists of four gateways which is the symbol of the openness of the Sikhs to people of all religions on this world. This building was reconstructed in 1764 by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia and another, Sikh Misls .
HistoryThe name Harmandir Sahib can be translated as the ‘Temple of God’. A tank was excavated in 1577 AD by Guru Ram Das the fourth Sikh Guru which came to be known as ‘Amritsar’ or the pool of the elixir for immortality. Thus the township which grew around it came to be known as Amritsar.
The site originally consisted of a small lake surrounded by woods on all sides, the sublime beauty of which turned it into a retreat for meditation for wandering sages and spiritual men since times immemorial. Even Lord Buddha is said to have meditated here. The site is said to have been frequented by Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikhism, and after his death it gradually emerged as an important shrine of the Sikhs when Guru Ramdaas started the construction process of the temple and enlarged this lake. When Maharaja Ranjit Singh consolidated the Punjab area and secured it from outside attacks in the early 19th century, he plated the top floors of the Gurdwara with gold, from which the temple derives its current name.
The temple land was acquired by earlier Sikh Gurus who either purchased it from the local zamindars or got it for free. During these times, plans were also made to establish a township in the surrounding area around this religious work. Construction work on the excavated tank known as the Sarovar and the town simultaneously began in 1570 and completed in around 1577 AD.
It was during the leadership of Guru Arjan that the full-fledged construction process started in 1588 AD. A foundation stone was laid in the same year by Guru Arjan Dev Ji. However, it is also suggested that the Guru got it laid by Hazrat Mian Mir Ji, a sufi saint from Lahore.
ArchitectureIt was the fifth guru of the Sikhs Guru, Arjan Sahib, who conceived the idea of the creation of a central praying ground for the Sikhs and the architecture of the Golden Temple was designed by him. The worldview of the Sikhs is strikingly reflected in the architectural features of the Golden Temple. Deviating away from the normal tradition of Hindu temples which were built on a high land, this temple was constructed at a level much lower level than the land encompassing it, so that the worshipers would require to descend some steps in order to enter the temple. Moreover unlike the Hindu temples, which generally consist of two gates, Harmandir Sahib temple has four entrances which symbolizes that the temple is accessible to all men irrespective of caste, sex and religion.
Built in the center of the tank, on a platform measuring 67 square feet, the temple has an arch at the shore end of the causeway known as the Darshani Deori. The arch is about 10 feet high and 8 feet 6 inches in breadth. The arch leads visitors to the bridge or the causeway which then progress to the main temple. The 13 feet wide path, known as the Pardakshna, encircles the main temple and leads to the Har Ki Paure or the ‘Steps of God’. One can hear the constant recitation of the holy text of Grantha Sahib at the Har Ki Paure.
The facade of the Gurdwara, which faces the lake is embellished with many cusped arches. The holy tank which is basically a huge lake fed by the water of the Ravi River, is also known as the Sarovar. The Gurdwara compound houses many shrines dedicated to past Gurus of the Sikhs, martyrs, and sages.
The three holy trees in the complex are connected with specific historical events. Most of the beautiful marble works and ornamental gilding which one sees today were added in the early 19th century, under the patronage of Hukam Singh Chimni and Emperor Ranjit Singh, the ruler of the Sikh empire in Punjab. It was Ranjit Singh who generously contributed to the Gurdwara and plated the top storey with gold in 1830.
Events and FestivalsThe Vaisakhi festival which commemorates the creation of the Khalsa, is an important festival which is celebrated in the Golden Temple. Other important days for the Sikh religion, like the birthday of Guru Nanak or the martyrdom day of Guru Teg Bahadur, are celebrated here with much fervor.
The Bandi Chhor Divas, which celebrates the day when Guru Hargobind along with 52 princes, was released from prison and is celebrated in the golden temple with much pomp. On this day, the temple complex is lit up with Diyas or small lamps and beautiful fireworks are displayed on the temple ground.
Other InformationVisitors can try a free meal of lentil soup and bread at the free kitchen run by the Gurdwara, which is the largest of its kind serving 100,000 people every day on average. One can also visit the Central Sikhmuseum at the main entrance of this Gurdwara. All men and women must keep their heads covered within the temple complex as a sign of deference.
How to ReachThe Sri Guru Ram Das International Airport is located nearly 8 miles from the temple complex and can be reached in 20 -30 minutes from the center of the city. From there, one can get many flights to places like Delhi, Jammu, Himachal Pradesh, and other parts of Punjab. The railway station in Amritsar has many trains which connect the city with other important cities of the country.
Similar Places of InterestVisitors to Amritsar must go to the neighboring state of Himachal Pradesh, especially the beautiful hills stations of Dalhousie, Manali, Dharamsala, and Shimla.
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Author: SubhasishMitra. Last updated: Feb 01, 2015