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Golden Temple: The Ultimate Abode of God
Visiting Punjab is not complete if one does not visit the Golden Temple. The nucleus of Punjabi culture, Amritsar is also called a holy city only because it is home to the Golden Temple. Its foundation was laid by a Muslim saint, Hazrat Mian Mir Ji!

IF YOU TOUR Punjab, one of India’s prosperous States but do not visit the magnificent shrine, the Golden Temple, which is the pride of Punjab, you are missing not only one of the most important sights but also one of the historical wonders.

Amritsar, the nucleus of Punjabi culture and activities, is known as a holy city only because of the Golden Temple there.  Traditionally as well as popularly called the Harmandir Sahib, the abode of God, it is truly an enchanting sight.  The following are some of its features.

Darbar Sahib

The inner part of the shrine is known as Darbar Sahib, the bed of God where the Holy Scripture, the ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ piously rests under a canopy. Every visiting there pays obeisance to God and recites the Ardas. For those who commit a slip-up in life, it is the most sought-after place where confession is humbly made. Its verdict is accepted without demur if any Sikh commits a wayward act.

Darbar Sahib is the most-visited place by people from all walks of life. The shrine is managed by an autonomous body of the Sikh clergy known as the SGPC. All the religious activities of the Sikh faith are performed under the aegis of SGPC.   However, publication of books of religious significance (both in Punjabi and English) are not performed under the aegis of the SGPC.

Sikh Pilgrimage

It is one of the holiest shrines of the Sikh religion and the ultimate pilgrimage destination of the Sikhs. It stands in the midst of a square pool of water.  The pool of water is called Amrit Sarovar or the pond of nectar.

Thanks to its elegantly beautiful art, stunning architecture apart from its religious aura, today this wonderful temple has become the most-visited tourist spot of Punjab.  People, cutting across barriers like religion, caste, language and sect, not only from all over India but also from all corners of the world enjoy visiting this abode of God and savouring the religious experience.

Symbol of Sikhism

Indeed, the Golden temple is a symbol of unsullied faith in the dogma of Sikh-ism. All Sikhs derive their moral strength and belief from this place by reverentially following the tenets of Sikhism. The exterior and the upper storey of the shrine are gold-plated and shaped like a lotus which attracts onlookers and devotees as well.  The most distinguishing feature of this shrine is that it has gates on all the four sides, viz., south, north, west and east - it accepts visitors from all sides. 

The foundation of Harmandir Sahib

Our fifth guru, Guru Arjun Dev Ji of the Sikh faith, famous for his commitment to the service of humanity, designed the architecture of Harmandir Sahib himself.  The construction of the holy shrine took place after the city of Amritsar was founded in the year 1577 AD by his predecessor, Guru Ramdas Ji, the fourth guru of the Sikh faith. Guru Ramdas Ji had dedicated himself to uplift the Sikh faith.

He constructed the Harmandir Sahib in the midst of the tank; later, thanks to his great passion, he ensured construction of two more marvellous tanks, namely Santoksar and Ramsar, near the first one, using Mogul architecture. The plan to excavate the holy tank, which is called the Amrit Sarovar, (later known by its popular name, Amritsar) was chalked out by Amardas Sahib, the third Guru of the Sikh faith, under the supervision of Baba Budha Ji. The land for the site was acquired from the landlords (some say, from the Muslim King Akbar, by paying for it in gold) of the native village upon payment with an intention to establish a town and a holy shrine. Therefore, the construction work on the Sarovar and the town started simultaneously in the year of 1570 and both the projects were completed in 1577 A.D.

It is pertinent to mention that the foundation of the structure was laid by a Muslim saint, Hazrat Mian Mir Ji of Lahore in the year of 1588 on the auspicious day of Bikrmi Samvat, in the month of December. Assisted devoutly by prominent Sikh personalities like Baba Budha Ji, Bhai Gurdas Ji, Bhai Sahlo Ji and many others, the fifth Guru, Shri Guru Arjun Dev Ji himself supervised its construction. The most significant feature of this marvellous shrine is that Guru Arjun Dev Ji got it built at a lower level unlike Hindu temples which are erected at a higher level. With the construction of this temple, a symbol of new faith had arrived in Sikhism. The Golden Temple or Harmandir Sahib is today accessible to every person without the distinction of caste, creed, religion and sex. 

Installation of Guru Granth Sahib

In the year 1544, the Golden Temple was completed; in September, 1604, the Guru Granth Sahib, the wonderful holy scripture of  the Sikh faith was installed at Harmandir Sahib and with its installation, it became the pivotal point of religious as well as spiritual activities; specifically, a place of pilgrimage for all, including Hindus and Sikhs from near and far.  Next, Guru Arjun Dev Ji appointed Baba Budha Ji as the first Granthi – that is, he was assigned to read the Holy Scripture, the Shri Guru Granth Sahib which contains the hymns of the five gurus, including verses from both Hindu saints and bards.

Amritsar: A flourishing trading city

Thanks to the golden temple, Amritsar emerged as a flourishing trade centre in the State of Punjab, supplementing the cultural vibrancy of the city. Due to its popularity and vibrancy, Amritsar became a prominent centre of freedom struggle.  The population of the city has been increasing by the day owing to the growth of its economy. Hospitality is the added feature of this historical and cultural city.  Sikhs from all over the world desire to visit the Sri Harmandir Sahib which they call their own Tirath or pilgrimage centre, to pay obeisance by reciting the spiritual Ardas.

Geographical View

Harmandir Sahib is built at the centre of the Sarovar on a square platform.  Each side is about 150 meters long with a wide passage for circum-ambulation (parikrama) around it.   All the door panes are decorated artistically.  The doors open on to the bridge that leads to the building of the temple. The temple itself is a square of side 41 feet. The Darshani Deori is one of its important arches.  From the arch, one can have a full view of the Harmandir Sahib.

Atop the first floor, a four-foot high parapet rises on all sides and exactly atop the central hall of the main sanctuary, is the third storey. It is a tiny square room with three gates where regular recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib (placed under a bejewelled canopy) is undertaken religiously.

And atop this room stands a majestic dome (Gumbaz), with a lotus petal motif on it, supporting the kalash. In fact, many of its doors, domes and walls are covered in gold from the days of the famous king, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh.  Hence Harmandir Sahib is known as the Golden Temple. But devout Sikhs say the shrine, Shri Darbar Sahib, is the divine court of God.  Indeed, if we say that its architecture symbolizes the distinctive harmony between the Muslim and Hindu style of construction, it may not be an exaggeration. The day starts at 4 am at the Golden Temple with the rendering of instrumental Gurbani and continues until late hours as devotees stream in uninterruptedly through the four doors

Akal Takht

Facing the Harmandir Sahib, Akal Takht is the throne of the eternal and the seat of Sikh temporal authority. It is the most respected building as it has a historical connection with the sixth Guru, Shri Hargobind Singh Ji. Guru Ji used to sit on a platform from where he held court and issued edicts. Akal Takht manages the activities of the shrine and releases the edicts or verdicts against the guilty, wrongdoers, sinners or those acting against the tenets of Sikhism. Every Sikh is bound by the command issued by the Akal Takht.

The Mahabharata Connection

 It seems surprising but it is true that the five Pandava brothers visited the same spot where the Harmandir Sahib stands now. In the good old days, it was a thick jungle.  The Pandavas got really thirsty when they passed this way during their enforced exile.  Yudhistra, the eldest one, commanded one of his brothers to fetch some water from a pool nearby. When the brother deputed to fetch water did not return, Yudhistra sent the second brother in pursuit. The second brother did not return.  The third and the fourth brothers that Yudhistra sent also met with a similar fate.  A confused and flabbergasted Yudhistra had no alternative but to visit the pool himself to enquire about his brothers.  What he saw at the poolside shocked him - all his brothers were lying unconscious!  He heard the oracle explain why his brothers met this fate - each of them had partaken of the water from the pool before solving the riddle of nature. Yudhistra, being the wisest of all solved the riddle of nature as commanded and requested that all his brothers be revived.  The request was granted. 

The Buddha Connection

Mahatma Budha too stayed at the site where the Harmandir Sahib stands now. Siddhartha wished to attain Nirvana and chose this place to meditate for some time. In those days the land was spiritually-charged and commanded great respect. Later, owing to the decline of Budhism in India, the Buddhist influence waned in this area.  Human habitation ebbed and the area became a forest again.

Miraculous Place

Many miracles are associated with this place. The story is told of a good-hearted and cheerful girl, Rajni. She was the daughter of an egotistical king. On one occasion, when he was displeased with his daughter, the king ordered that Rajni be married off to a leper. The pretty but unfortunate girl and her leper-husband learned from hearsay of a pool of water where black crows, upon bathing in the said pool emerged as white doves!  They decided to visit the pool. After years of search, the couple located the pool and saw for themselves the black crows turning into white doves upon bathing in it. The leper-husband rolled down the slope into the pool and minutes later emerged, fully cured of leprosy! It is the same place where the pool of Harmandir Sahib stands now.

The Community Kitchen-Langer

Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Guru of the Sikh faith arrived here for the first time in 1502 with Bhai Mardana. He stated that the site was very pious and sacred. Bhai Tara Ji, a local landlord, pleased with the Guru’s statement, fetched some sweets for the Guru from his house. Guru Ji ate the sweet pudding, relished its sweetness and declared it a holy food or Amrit.  Bhai Mardana also praised the place as well as the magnanimity of the people around the place. Guru Ji blessed the site and said that the holy food, Langer, would always be served to one and all here. This marked the advent of the community kitchen or Langer at Harmandir Sahib.

Maharaja’s Contribution to Harmandir Sahib

Widely known for his magnanimity, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh too made a huge contribution to Harmandir Sahib. At the suggestion of one of his courtiers, he decided to beautify the shrine; to enhance its beauty, he arranged a gold leaf for the top half and decorated the enamelled marble right up to the bottom half of the building. The Maharaja took 27 years to complete this task and spent approximately 162 seers of pure gold valued at more than 66 lacs of rupees.

Selfless Service

Apart from free community kitchen or Langer, selfless service or seva by hundreds of devotees is undertaken here. They wash the dishes, clean the parikrama and serve Langer to 40,000 – 50,000 pilgrims from all walks of life regularly. Meditation (Simran) and Gurbani (Guru’s hymns) too are recited uninterruptedly all day here.


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