Shri Harmandir Sahib Amritsar commonly known as the Golden Temple is the most famous holy place of the Sikhs and it represents the glory, heritage and identity of the Sikhs. It was built by Guru Arjan Dev the fifth Sikh Guru in the 16th Century. He then completed the Adi Granth the holy scripture of the Sikhs and installed it in the Gurudwara. The Golden Temple is not only a Central religious place of the Sikhs but also a symbol of equality and brotherhood. Irrespective of caste, creed or race all can seek spiritual solace and fulfilment without any barriers. The Golden Temple has a unique Sikh architecture and symbolises humility and compassion for all. The architecture represents a unique harmony between the Hindus and Muslim artistic styles and this created an independent Sikh school of architecture in the history of art in India. The four doors to enter the holy shrine from four directions signify the openness of the Sikhs to people from all religions.
It is said that in ancient times the site where the present Golden Temple is situated was a small lake in the midst of a quiet forest and had been a meditation retreat for wandering sages and mendicants. The Buddha too is said to have spent time at this place in contemplation. After Buddha’s time two thousand years later Guru Nanak the founder of the Sikh religion came to live and meditate by the peaceful lake. After his passing away the disciples continued to pray at the site and thus over the centuries it became the primary sacred shrine of the Sikhs. During the leadership of the fourth Sikh Guru the lake was enlarged and structurally contained and finally during the leadership of the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev the temple was built. The temple was destroyed a number of times by the Muslims but it was restored beautifully each time. After the Sikhs assumed military power and could face invaders peace returned to the temple. The land for the site was acquired from the Zamindars or landlords of the native villages. Some accounts state that the land was donated by the benevolent King Akbar. The construction work on the holy tank (Amrit Sarovar) and the town started simultaneously in 1570 AD. The concept of unity of religions was practiced when Guru Arjan Dev got the foundation laid by a Muslim Pir (saint) and after its construction was completed the holy Sikh devotee Baba Budhaji inaugurated it by reading the Guru Granth Sahib thus becoming the first Granthi. The name Amritsar meaning ‘pool of ambrosial nectar’ was first the original name of the lake, later the temple complex and finally the entire city.
Shri Harmandir Sahib is built in the centre of the Sarovar (tank) on a 67ft square platform. The temple has a door in all the four directions. At the shore end of the causeway there is an arch (Darshani Deori) which is about 10 ft in height. It opens on to the causeway or bridge that leads to the main building of the Harmandir Sahib which is 202 ft in length. The bridge is connected with a circumambulatory path (pradakshina) which runs around the main shrine and leads to “Har Ki Pauri” (steps of God). A continuous reading of Guru Granth Sahib is carried out on the first floor of ‘Har Ki Pauri’.
The main structure of Harmandir Sahib is a three storey marble one. The lower storey is in white marble and the walls are decorated with inlaid flower, bird and animal motifs in the Pietradura style of the Taj Mahal. The upper storey is gold plated and crowned with a dome (Golden Dome) shaped like an inverted lotus. The reflection of the sun on this structure gives an ethereal effect with myriad views being presented as the sun shifts during the day. The front faces the bridge and is decorated with repeated cusped arches. A 4ft high parapet rises on all the sides at the top of the first floor and the third storey is on top of the central hall of the main sanctuary. Within the sanctuary on a jewel studded platform lies the Adi Granth the sacred scripture of the Sikhs. It is a small square room and has three gates and a regular recitation of Guru Granth Sahib is held there in 3 hour shifts. The entire reading of the Guru Granth is said to take 48 hrs. All the domes, inner walls, inner roofs and door panels of the temple exhibit gold work. Beautiful designs depicting flowers, animals and birds are engraved in marble and then studded with colourful semi precious stones. The structure is decorated inside and outside with verses from the Guru Granth. The original copy of the Adi Granth is kept under pink shroud in the Golden Temple and is brought from the Akal Takht every morning and taken back every night in a processional ceremony on a palanquin studded with precious stones with silver poles and a gold canopy known as Palki Sahib. Amidst a crowd of fervent devotees scriptures from the holy book are sung and a Chauri (whisk) is continually waved above the book as devotees move around paying obeisance in a humble and devoted manner.
The Jubi tree at the north western corner of the complex was planted about 450 years ago by the temple’s first head priest and is said to have special powers. Childless women tie strips of cloth on it to be blessed with progeny.
Besides this there is a Toshakhana where costly items given by devotees to the temple are stored and guarded carefully.
Shri Akal Takht
The Akal Takht (eternal throne) is the highest temporal seat of Sikhism. It is next to the Golden Temple and is the seat of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak committee the religious governing body of the Sikhs. At the Akal Takht the weapons belonging to the Sikh masters and other martyrs are displayed after the Rehras (evening scriptures).
Guru Ka Langar
There is a Langar or a community kitchen in the Golden Temple where an average of 75000 devotees partake Prasad daily with almost double the number on special occasions. This practice was started by Guru Amar Das in the 16th century to encourage the shedding of inhibitions and the practice of equality.
Central Sikh Museum
The Central museum exhibits paintings of Sikh Guru and other prominent Sikh leaders, saints and martyrs who have contributed to Sikh history. It also houses coins, old armaments, musical instruments and ancient manuscripts and also has an excellent library.
From the time of opening of the doors of Shri Harmandir Sahib till closing time there is a continuous singing of Gurbani Kirtan with some minor changes in timings in the summer and winter months. After cleaning and purifying the place Ardas (Sikh prayer) is carried out followed by distribution of Karah Prasad (holy offering) to the devotees.
Hukumnama or Thought for the day is read out every day from the Guru Granth Sahib which is the first hymn on the very left side, as soon as the Guru Granth is opened. At the end of the day the very last hymn on the right side is read out loudly. This is of great importance in the life of a Sikh.
Festivals and Fairs
On Gurpurbs (important anniversaries associated with the lives of Gurus, special Akhand Path(continuous reading of the Guru Granth), kirtan and katha(discourses) are performed. Nagar Kirtan (procession with Guru Granth Sahib) is carried out and sweets and langar distributed to devotees. Baisakhi is celebrated with great fervour as it is also the founding day of the Khalsa and on Bandi Chor Divas the temple is beautifully illuminated with lamps and lights and there is also a fireworks display.
Jalao (jewellery display) like gold articles, golden palki, umbrellas, canopies are displayed on special occasions like the birthdays of the Gurus at the Harmandir Sahib.
How To Reach
Air- Amritsar or Guru Ram Das International Airport is about 13 kms from the city centre. There are also international flights to many parts of the world.
Rail- Amritsar is well connected by rail with Mumbai, Varanasi, Delhi, Kolkata and other major places in India.
Road- While in Amritsar, one can easily reach by taking a taxi to the Golden temple. Other forms of local transport here are cycle rickshaws and city buses. Other cities are also well connected to the Golden Temple. Delhi is 435 km and Chandigarh is 235 km from the Golden Temple.
There are seven inns (Niwas Sthans) which provide lodging facilities for pilgrims maintained by the temple authorities. There is a booking office where all bookings are made subject to availability of rooms hence it is better to plan and book in advance. For bookings contact- tel-91-183-2553957/58/5921
The Sikh Golden Temple is one of the most sacred places and tourists and devotees are humbled by the glory, splendour and spiritual vibrations in the place. The holy and sacred atmosphere of the place and the faith and devotion of the devotees make it a truly enriching experience and increases the feeling of oneness as preached by Guru Nanak. Hallowed by the Divine Gurus the entire place is rendered sublime making it pure and ennobling.