Golden Temple (Sri Harmandir Sahib) (The abode of God) (Punjabi: ਹਰਿਮੰਦਰ ਸਾਹਿਬ), also Sri Darbar Sahib (Punjabi: ਦਰਬਾਰ ਸਾਹਿਬ, Punjabi pronunciation: [dəɾbɑɾ sɑhɪb]), informally referred to as the Golden Temple, is the holiest Gurdwara of Sikhism, located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. Amritsar (literally, the tank of nectar of immortality) was founded in 1577 by the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das. The fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan, designed the Harmandir Sahib to be built in the centre of this holy tank, and upon its construction, installed the Adi Granth, the holy scripture of Sikhism, inside the Harmandir Sahib. The Harmandir Sahib complex is also home to the Akal Takht (the throne of the timeless one, constituted by the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind). While the Harmandir Sahib is regarded as the abode of God’s spiritual attribute, the Akal Takht is the seat of God’s temporal authority.
The construction of Harmandir Sahib was 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. Accordingly, as a gesture of this non-sectarian universalness of Sikhism, Guru Arjan had specially invited Muslim Sufi saint, Hazrat Mian Mir to lay the foundation stone of the Harmandir Sahib. The four entrances (representing the four directions) to get into the Harmandir Sahib also symbolise the openness of the Sikhs towards all people and religions. Over 100,000 people visit the holy shrine daily for worship, and also partake jointly in the free community kitchen and meal (Langar) regardless of any distinctions, a tradition that is a hallmark of all Sikh Gurdwaras.
The Golden Temple, located in the city of Amritsar in the state of Punjab,is a place of great beauty and sublime peacefulness. Originally a small lake in the midst of a quiet forest, the site has been a meditation retreat for wandering mendicants and sages since deep antiquity. The Buddha is known to have spent time at this place in contemplation. Two thousand years after Buddha’s time, another philosopher-saint came to live and meditate by the peaceful lake. This was Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of the Sikh religion. After the passing away of Guru Nanak, his disciples continued to frequent the site; over the centuries it became the primary sacred shrine of the Sikhs. The lake was enlarged and structurally contained during the leadership of the fourth Sikh Guru (Ram Dass, 1574-1581), and during the leadership of the fifth Guru (Arjan, 1581-1606), the Hari Mandir, or Temple of God was built. From the early 1600s to the mid 1700s the sixth through tenth Sikh Gurus were constantly involved in defending both their religion and their temple against Muslim armies. On numerous occasions the temple was destroyed by the Muslims, and each time was rebuilt more beautifully by the Sikhs. From 1767 onwards, the Sikhs became strong enough militarily to repulse invaders. Peace returned to the Hari Mandir.
The temple’s architecture draws on both Hindu and Muslim artistic styles yet represents a unique coevolution of the two. During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), Hari Mandir was richly ornamented with marble sculptures, golden gilding, and large quantities of precious stones. Within the sanctuary, on a jewel-studded platform, lies the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture of the Sikhs. This scripture is a collection of devotional poems, prayers, and hymns composed by the ten Sikh gurus and various Muslim and Hindu saints. Beginning early in the morning and lasting until long past sunset, these hymns are chanted to the exquisite accompaniment of flutes, drums, and stringed instruments. Echoing across the serene lake, this enchantingly beautiful music induces a delicate yet powerful state of trance in the pilgrims strolling leisurely around the marble concourse encircling the pool and temple. An underground spring feeds the sacred lake, and throughout the day and night pilgrims immerse themselves in the water, a symbolic cleansing of the soul rather than an actual bathing of the body. Next to the temple complex are enormous pilgrims’ dormitories and dining halls where all persons, irrespective of race, religion, or gender, are lodged and fed for free.
Amritsar, the original name of first the ancient lake, then the temple complex, and still later the surrounding city, means “pool of ambrosial nectar.” Looking deeply into the origins of this word amrit, we find that it indicates a drink of the gods, a rare and magical substance that catalyzes euphoric states of consciousness and spiritual enlightenment. With this word we have a very clear example of the spirit, power, or energetic character of a particular place becoming encoded as an ancient geographical place name. The myth is not just a fairy tale. It reveals itself as a coded metaphor if we have the knowledge to read the code: The waters of Amritsar flowing into the lake of the Hari Mandir were long ago – and remain today – a bringer of peacefulness.
The Harmandir Sahib literally means the Temple of God. Guru Amar Das had ordered Guru Ram Das to create a nectarous tank as a place for worship for the Sikh religion. Guru Ram Das instructed all his Sikhs to join in the work, under Bhai Budha’s superintendence, and engaged labourers to assist them. He said that the tank of nectar should be God’s home, and whoever bathed in it shall obtain all spiritual and temporal advantages. During the progress of the work, the hut in which the Guru first sheltered himself was expanded for his residence; it is now known as the Guru’s Mahal, or palace.
In 1578 Guru Ram Das excavated a tank, which subsequently became known as Amritsar (Pool of the Nectar of Immortality), giving its name to the city that grew around it. In due course, the Harmandir Sahib, was built in the middle of this tank and became the supreme centre of Sikhism. Its sanctum came to house the Adi Granth 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 Adi Granth was started by the fifth guru of Sikhism, Guru Arjan.
Some of the architectural features of the Harmandir Sahib were intended to be symbolic of the Sikh world view. 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, Sri Harmandir Sahib has four entrances.
Time to travel: – The best time to visit Amritsar is October to March.
There is an international airport in Amritsar. Taxi can be reached from there by the guru.
Rail and road
Amritsar is located on National Highway 1, about 500 km from Delhi. Bus service (ordinary and deluxe) is available from all the major cities in the surrounding states to Amritsar. Buses are running 24 hours from any place on National Highway 1.
Amritsar is connected to all major cities of India by rail route. Amritsar, Shan-e-Punjab or Shatabdi train from old Delhi and New Delhi can be reached in five to seven hours. Rickshaw from Amritsar station can be reached by the guru.