Golden Temple, Amritsar

18 Aug

The Harmandir Sahib (Punjabi: ਹਰਿਮੰਦਰਸਾਹਿਬ also Darbar Sahib (Punjabi: ਦਰਬਾਰਸਾਹਿਬ,), also referred to as the Golden Temple, is a prominent Sikhgurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. Construction of the gurdwara was begun by Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru, and completed by his successor, Guru Arjan Dev. In 1604, Guru ArjanDev completed the AdiGranth, the holy scripture of Sikhism, and installed it in the gurdwara. In 1634, Guru Hargobind left Amritsar for the Shivalik Hills and for the remainder of the seventeenth century the city and gurdwara was in the hands of forces hostile to the Sikh Gurus. During the eighteenth century, the Harmandir Sahib was the site of frequent fighting between the Sikhs on one side and either Mughal or Afghan forces on the other side and the gurdwara occasionally suffered damage. In the early nineteenth century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh secured the Punjab region from outside attack and covered the upper floors of the gurdwara with gold, which gives it its distinctive appearance and English name of “Golden Temple”.

The present day Golden Temple was rebuilt in 1764 by Maharaja Jassa Singh Ahluwalia (1718–1783) with the help of other MislSikhchieftains.The gold plating of all the domes of sriDarbar sahib was done by Maharaja Jassa Singh Ahluwalia‘sdescendents. Between 1802–1830Ranjit Singh did the sewa of adding gold plating and marble to the gurdwara, while the interior was decorated with fresco work and gemstones.

General

Harmandir Sahib is considered holy by Sikhs. The most holy text of Sikhism, the Guru GranthSahib, is always present inside the gurdwara. Its construction was mainly intended to build a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life and all religions to come and worship God equally.[1][5][5] Over two lakh (200,000) people visit the holy shrine per day for worship.

History

Harmandir Sahib literally means Temple of God. The fourth guru of Sikhism, Guru Ram Das, excavated a tank in 1577 CE which subsequently became known as Amritsar (meaning “Pool of the Nectar of Immortality”), giving its name to the city that grew around it. In due course, a splendid Sikh edifice, Harmandir Sahib (meaning “the abode of God”), rose in the middle of this tank and became the supreme centre of Sikhism. Its sanctum came to house the AdiGranth comprising compositions of Sikh gurus and other saints considered to have Sikh values and philosophies, e.g., Baba Farid, and Kabir. The compilation of the AdiGranth was started by the fifth guru of Sikhism, Guru Arjan Dev.

Construction of the Harmandir Sahib

Originally built in 1574, the site of the gurdwara was surrounded by a small lake in a thin forest. The third of the six grand Mughals, Emperor Akbar, who visited the third Sikh guru, Guru Amar Das, in the neighbouring town of Goindval, was so impressed by the way of life in the town that he gave a jagir (the land and the revenues of several villages in the vicinity) to the guru’s daughter Bhani as a gift on her marriage to BhaiJetha, who later became the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das. Guru Ram Das enlarged the lake and built a small township around it. The town was named after Guru Ram Das as Guru KaChak’,Chak Ram Das or Ram Das Pura.

During the leadership of the fifth guru, Guru ArjanDev (1581–1606), the full-fledged gurdwara was built. In December 1588, Guru Arjan initiated the construction of the gurdwara. He invited Muslim saint Mian Mir of Lahore in December 1588 to lay the first foundation stone. (December 1588 CE).

Some of the architectural features of the Harmandir Sahib were intended to be symbolic of the Sikh worldview. Instead of the normal custom of building a gurdwara on high land, it was built at a lower level than the surrounding land so that devotees would have to go down steps to enter it. In addition, instead of one entrance, the Harmandir Sahib has four entrances.

The gurdwara was completed in 1604. Guru ArjanDev, installed the Guru Granth Sahib in it and appointed Baba BuddhaJi as the first Granthi (reader) of it on August 1604. In the mid-18th century it was attacked by the Afghans, by one of Ahmed Shah Abdali‘s generals, Jahan Khan, and had to be substantially rebuilt in the 1760s. However, in response a Sikh Army was sent to hunt down the Afghan force. They were under orders to show no mercy and historical evidence suggests the Sikh Army was decisively victorious in the ensuing battle. Both forces met each other five miles outside Amritsar; Jahan Khan’s army was destroyed.

The Harmandir Sahib Complex and areas in its vicinity

The gurdwara is surrounded by a large lake or temple tank, known as the Sarovar, which consists of Amrit (“holy water” or “immortal nectar”). There are four entrances to the gurdwara, signifying the importance of acceptance and openness. Inside the gurdwara complex there are many shrines to past Sikh gurus, saints and martyrs (see map). There are three holy trees (bers), each signifying a historical event or Sikh saint. Inside the gurdwara there are many memorial plaques that commemorate past Sikh historical events, saints, martyrs and include commemorative inscriptions of all the Sikh soldiers who died fighting in World Wars I and II.

In 1988, after Operation Black Thunder, the government acquired a narrow peripheral strip of land (including buildings) in order to use their space as a security buffer. The acquisition process involved the displacement and relocation of a large number of residences and businesses. However, the project met with a strong resistance from both moderate and militant Sikh organisations and had to be abandoned following the murder of a senior government-employed engineer connected with the project. The project was revived only in 1993 by the Deputy Commissioner Karan Bir Singh Sidhu, who was also appointed as the project director of what became popularly known as the Galliara Project. He changed the concept of the periphery from that of a security belt to that of a second parikarma and created a serene landscape that was fully consistent with the ethereal beauty of the Harmandir Sahib. This was done in quiet consultation with the ShiromaniGurdwaraPrabandhak Committee (SGPC). Present-day pilgrims can travel by foot in the Galliara; no vehicles are permitted.

In keeping with the rule observed at all Sikh gurdwaras worldwide, the Harmandir Sahib is open to all persons regardless of their religion, colour, creed, or sex. The only restrictions on the Harmandir Sahib’s visitors concern their behavior when entering and while visiting:

  • Maintaining the purity of the sacred space and of one’s body while in it:
    • Upon entering the premises, removing one’s shoes (leaving them off for the duration of one’s visit) and washing one’s feet in the small pool of water provided;
    • Not drinking alcohol, eating meat, or smoking cigarettes or other drugs while in the shrine
  • Dressing appropriately:
    • Wearing a head covering (a sign of respect) (the gurdwara provides head scarves for visitors who have not brought a suitable covering);
    • Not wearing shoes (see above).
  • How to act:
    • One must also sit on the ground while in the Darbar Sahib as a sign of deference to both the Guru Granth Sahib and God.

First-time visitors are advised to begin their visit at the information office highlighted in the map and then proceed to the Central Sikh Museum near the main entrance and clock tower.

Artwork and monument sculptures

Much of the present decorative gilding and marblework dates from the early 19th century. All the gold and exquisite marble work were conducted under the patronage of Hukam Singh Chimni and Emperor Ranjit Singh, Maharaja of the Sikh Empire of the Punjab. The DarshaniDeorhi Arch stands at the beginning of the causeway to the Harmandir Sahib; it is 202 feet (62 m) high and 21 feet (6 m) in width. The gold plating on the Harmandir Sahib was begun by Emperor Ranjit Singh and was finished in 1830. The Sher-e-Punjab (Lion of the Punjab) was a major donor of wealth and materials for the shrine and is remembered with much affection by the Punjabi people in general and the Sikh community in particular. Maharaja Ranjit Singh also built two of the other most sacred gurdwaras in Sikhism. This was because Maharaja Ranjit Singh had a deep love for the tenth guru of Sikhism Guru Gobind Singh. The other two most sacred gurdwaras in Sikhism, which he built, are Takht Sri Patna Sahib(initiation or birth place of Guru Gobind Singh) and Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, the place of Guru Gobind Singh’s Sikh ascension into heaven.

Celebrations at Harmandir Sahib

One of the most important festivals is Vaisakhi, which is celebrated in the second week of April (usually the 13th). Sikhs celebrate the founding of the Khalsa on this day and it is celebrated with fervour in the Harmandir Sahib. Other important Sikh religious days such as the martyrdom day of Guru TegBahadur, the birthday of Guru Nanak, etc., are also celebrated with religious piety. Similarly Diwali is one of the festivals which see the Harmandir Sahib beautifully illuminated with Divas/Diyas (lamps); lights and fireworks are discharged. During these special occasions many thousands of people visit the holy shrine named Harmandir Sahib Most Sikh people visit Amritsar and the Harmandir Sahib at least once during their lifetime, particularly and mostly during special occasions in their life such as birthdays, marriages, childbirth, etc.

 

 

 

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