Harimandir Sahib

The Harmandir Sahib also Darbar Sahib, informally referred to as The Golden Temple, is a prominent Sikh gurdwara 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. In 1604, Guru Arjan completed the Adi Granth, the holy scripture of Sikhism, and installed it in the Gurdwara. In 1634, Guru Hargobind left Amritsar for the Sivalik 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 Golden Temple is considered holy by Sikhs because the eternal guru of Sikhism, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, is always present inside it and its construction was mainly intended to build a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life and all religion to come and worship God equally. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the holiest literature in the Sikh religion, the tenth guru of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh, on 7 October 1708 at Nanded made it the eternal Sikh Guru and the leader of Sikhism. Anywhere in the world where the Guru Granth Sahib is present is equally holy and precious to Sikhs. Amritsar is the location of Harmandir Sahib.

Its name literally means Temple of God. The fourth guru of Sikhism, Guru Ram Das, excavated a tank in 1577 AD 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 Adi Granth comprising compositions of Sikh gurus and other saints considered to have Sikh values and philosophies like Kabir. The compilation of the Adi Granth was started by the fifth guru of Sikhism, Guru Arjan Dev.

Construction of the Harmandir Sahib
Originally built in 1574, the site of the temple 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 Bhai Jetha, 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 Ka Chak', Chak Ram Das or Ram Das Pura . During the leadership of the fifth guru, Guru Arjan Dev (1581”“1606), the full-fledged Temple was built. In December 1588, the great Muslim Sufi saint of Lahore, Hazrat Mian Mir, who was a close friend of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, initiated the construction of the temple by laying the first foundation stone (December 1588 AD). A mason then straightened the stone but Guru Arjan Dev told him that, as he had undone the work just completed by the holy man, a disaster might come to the Harmandir Sahib. It was later attacked by the Mughals. The temple was completed in 1604. Guru Arjan Dev, installed the Guru Granth Sahib in it and appointed Baba Buddha Ji 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. He himself was decapitated by commander Sardar Dayal Singh.

The Harmandir Sahib Complex and areas in its vicinity
The temple is surrounded by a large lake, known as the Sarovar, which consists of Amrit ("holy water" or "immortal nectar"). There are four entrances to the temple, signifying the importance of acceptance and openness; ostensibly, this concept is reminiscent of the tent of the Old Testament patriarch Abraham, whose tent was open on all four sides in order to be able to welcome travelers from all directions. Inside the temple 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 temple there are many memorial plaques that commemorate past Sikh historical events, saints, martyrs and includes 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 Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak 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 temples ( 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 temple provides head scarves for visitors who have not brought a suitable covering);
    • Not wearing shoes (see above).
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 Darshani Deorhi 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 temples 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 temples in Sikhism, which he built, are Takht Sri Patna Sahib (intiation 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 Teg Bahadur, the birthday of Guru Nanak, etc., are also celebrated with religious piety. Similarly Diwali is one of the festivals which sees 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.

Reaching the Harmandir Sahib from abroad
For the global Sikh pilgrim or international tourist visitor the fastest way to reach the Harmandir Sahib is by air travel. The holy city of Amritsar, where the Harmandir Sahib is located, has a rapidly expanding modern airport called Amritsar International Airport. The airport can be reached directly by the international traveller from most major cities of the world including London and Toronto. Moreover, there is a rapidly expanding array of international hotels in the holy city that can be booked for overnight stays. Lonely Planet Bluelist 2008 has voted the Harmandir Sahib as one of the world’s best spiritual sites.

Operation Blue Star
Between 3 June and 6 June 1984, the Indian Army led by General Kuldip Singh Brar brought troops into the Harmandir Sahib to arrest Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. He and some followers had taken refuge in the Harmandir Sahib, and resisted the police who sought to arrest him for suspected acts of terrorism. Mark Tully and Satish Jacob wrote : "All ... terrorists were known by name to the shopkeepers and the householders who live in the narrow alleys surrounding the Golden Temple....The Punjab police must have known who they were also, but they made no attempt to arrest them. By this time Bhindranwale and his men were above the law." The Harmandir Sahib complex and some of the surrounding houses were fortified. The Statesman reported on 4 July that light machine-guns and sophisticated self-loading rifles were known to have been brought into the compound. Indira Gandhi ordered the army to launch Operation Blue Star. Fierce fighting ensued between Bhindranwale's supporters and the soldiers, in which many of Bhindranwale's supporters were killed along with many soldiers. An official account tallies the deaths of 83 soldiers and 492 civilians. However, many journalists abroad and in India consider the pilgrim death toll to be much higher.. The Harmandir Sahib complex also suffered much damage due to the fighting, especially the holy Sri Akal Takhat Sahib. Many Sikhs regarded the attack as a desecration of their holiest shrine and their alienation had deep and dramatic consequences. Sonia Gandhi in 1998 officially apologized for the assault on the holy Harmandir Sahib as a great mistake. In 1986, the repairs performed on the holy Sri Akal Takhat Sahib, which the Rajiv Gandhi Government had undertaken without consultation, were removed. A new Sri Akal Takhat Sahib was completed in 1999 by Kar Seva (free pilgrim service and work).

In Popular Culture
  • The Temple is one of the locations of the movie Gandhi (1982).
  • The Temple is one of the locations of Bride and Prejudice (2004).
  • The Temple is also one of the places visited by the BBCs Michael Palin for the documentary 'Himalaya' (2004).
  • The Temple is also in the Indian ( Hindi) serial Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin (2005).
  • The Temple is a highlight in the Bollywood movies Rang De Basanti starring Aamir Khan (2006).
  • The Temple is one of the locations of Namastey London starring Akshay Kumar & Katrina Kaif (2007).
  • The Temple is one of the locations of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi starring Shahrukh Khan (2008) .
  • The Temple also appears in the movie Singh is Kinng starring Akshay Kumar (2008) ;in one of the rap songs with Snoop Dogg.

Photo gallery
  • Harmandir Sahib Complex
  • Harmandir Sahib
  • Ornate entrance portal to Harmandir Sahib complex
  • The Entrance to the Harmandir Sahib as seen from the inside of the complex
  • Panorama of the main building and Sarovar
  • North Entrance gate near Ath-sath Tirath (68 Sacred Places) (Point 15 on map).
  • The Causeway to the Harmandir Sahib (Point 10 on map)
  • The East entrance gate to Harmandir Sahib (see map)
  • Harmandir, circa 1870
  • Harmandir Sahib Amritsar 1987, Amritsar.
  • Guarding the Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar.
  • Langar Canteen, inside Harmandir Sahib.
  • Harmandir Sahib.

Other gurdwaras
  • Akal Takht, Amritsar, India
  • Panja Sahib, Hasan Abdal, Pakistan
  • Bangla Sahib, Delhi, India
  • Hazur Sahib, Nanded, India
  • Patna Sahib, Patna, India
  • Damdama Sahib, Bathinda, India
  • Keshgarh Sahib, Anandpur, India
  • Sri Hemkunt Sahib,


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