The Harmandir Sahib (Punjabi: ਹਰਿਮੰਦਰ ਸਾਹਿਬ, IPA: [həɾməndəɾ sɑhɪb] or IPA: [həɾɪməndəɾ sɑhɪb]) also Darbar Sahib (Punjabi: ਦਰਬਾਰ ਸਾਹਿਬ, IPA: [dəɾbɑɾ sɑhɪb]), also 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 Dev. In 1604, Guru Arjan Dev completed the Adi Granth, 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”.
Located in Amritsar, Harmandir Sahib 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, in 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.
Its name 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 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 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 CE). 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. 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).
- How to act :
- One must also sit on the ground while in the Darbar Sahib as a sign of inferiority 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.