The Golden Temple also known as The Harmandir Sahib is a symbol of unity, equality and human brotherhood. The Golden Temple is located in the city Amritsar, Punjab. It was built by Guru Arjan, a Sikh guru in the 16th century. The Golden Temple is known for its unique Sikh architecture but still maintaining its secular policies. People irrespective of their differences based on cast, creed or race are allowed to seek the blessings and spiritual solace. This is depicted by the four entrances to get into the Temple symbolizing the openness towards all people irrespective of their religion. Guru Granth Sahib the holiest text of Sikhs is the soul of this temple and is always present inside the Gurudwara. The Harmandir Sahib’s main purpose is to serve as a place of worship for both men and women from all walks of life and serving its purpose more than one lakh people visit the holy memorial every day. The Gurudwara in its divine state teaches us the lessons of humility and impartiality.
Amritsar literally means “ Pool of the Nectar of Immortality “. It is believed that Guru Ram Das the fourth guru of Sikhism excavated a tank in the 16th century which consequently was called as Amritsar, giving the same name to the city that grew around it. The Harmandir Sahib means “ The Domicile of God “. It is believed that in due course this Sikh edifice, The Harmandir Sahib rose in the middle of this tank which further lead to this place to become the ultimate centre of Sikhism.
Guru Arjan Sahib is the architect of Sri Harmandir Sahib. He visualised the initiative of constructing a central hub of worship for the Sikhs. It is believed that the construction work on the tank started around 1570. It is a common fallacy that the foundation stone for this monument was laid by the Sufi saint Mian Mir but the truth is that the foundation stone was laid by the architect Guru Arjan Sahib himself. Sri Harmandir Sahib has Four entrances and the Temple is relatively lower level than the surrounding ground level so that devotees would have to step down in order to enter into the temple which is contradictory to the usual practice of building temple on highlands. The complete construction of the Gurudwara was completed in 1604. Further The Guru Granth Sahib was installed in it by its architect Guru Arjan and Baba Budha was appointed as the first reader also called as Granthi. History says that the Golden temple was attacked by the Afghans and was significantly rebuilt in the 1760’s.
THE HARMANDIR SAHIB
The main Temple is encircled by a holy tank known as the Sarovar which contains the holy water called as “ Amrit ”. There are many memorials to past Sikh gurus inside the temple complex. Dedicatory inscriptions of all the Sikh soldiers who sacrificed their lives during world wars I and II and many other memorial plaques are also present inside the temple complex as a token of honour. Three holy trees also called as “ bers ” are present inside the temple complex each signifying a historical event or Sikh saint.
There lies no restriction based on religion, colour, creed or gender keeping with the rules observed at all Sikh Gurudwars. But when it comes to the behaviour of the visitors the Harmandir Sahib has few restrictions. Prime importance is given to the maintenance of purity of the sacred place. Visitors are expected to remove their shoes, wash their feet in the small pool of water and wear a head scarf as a symbol of respect. The Harmandir Sahib more than a place of religious importance runs one of the world’s largest free kitchen. It serves more than one lakh people on average every day. Flat bread and lentil soup is served in the meal. First time visitors before proceeding to the main temple complex are advised to begin their visit at the information centre.
The Harmandir Sahib has both fascinating as well as a violent history attached to it. Down the years the temple experienced attacks by afghans, Mughals and even Indian army during Blue star operation.The coating of gold over the temple was severely damaged during the Blue Star operation. These tragedies left the temple in need of reconstruction. The ladies of Sikh community voluntarily contributed their gold ornaments for renovation of the damaged areas. Another feature which attracts the entire visitors is the service mind of the Sikhs. The services like cleaning of the temple and surroundings, safeguarding the foot wears of the visitors, cleaning of vessels are being carried out by the devotees. While coming to the temple all the devotees are happily making them involved in such services for some time without the command or request of anyone, considering it as a part of their worship. A museum functioning in the Temple helps a new visitor to have a general idea about the Temple and its history.
The historical place Jalian Wallah Bagh, the monument of one of the very disastrous massacre during the Indian Independence War, is in close proximity to Golden Temple. Another prominent place where one can find a pulse brimming patriotism and a transformation from devotion to nationalism which is about 40 km from the historical monument is “The Wagah Border”, the frontier of India and Pakistan.
ARTWORK AND SCULPTURES
The canopy of the Harmandir Sahib is made with gold and decorated with precious stones. Almost most of the present decorative trimming and the marble works in the temple dates back to the 19th century. All these eminent works were conducted under the patronage of Emperor Ranjit Singh, Hukam Singh Chimni and Emperor Ranjit Singh. At the beginning of the causeway to the Harmandir Sahib there stands an arch by name “The Darshani Deorhi arch” which is 203 feets high and 20 feets wide. The gold plating on the Harmandir Sahib was begun by Ranjit Singh and was finished in 1830. Maharaja Ranjit Singh is affectionately remembered as a major patron of wealth and resources for the shrine including the gold plating on the Harmandir Sahib.
“ Vaisakhi “ is the most prominent festival celebrated in the second week of April. This festival is usually celebrated on 13th of April with passion and dedication in the Harmandir Sahib as a tribute to the founding of Khalsa on this day. Other important occasions such as Guru Nanak’s birthday, martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur are also celebrated with religious importance. The Harmandir Sahib is beautifully illuminated with lamps on these occasions thus adding its beauty.