Harmandir Sahib ( The Golden Temple )
‘Waheguru ji da khalsa, waheguru ji di fateh’, echoes in the golden walls of the Harmandir Sahib as the ‘wazir’, the minister of the Guru escorts the Guru Granth Sahib ji, the timeless, intangible, ubiquitous, pervasive and all knowing guru of Sikhism to the temple, purified with milk and water. The ritual is called the ‘Prakash Raj’, which marks the first entry of the Guru into the day, every morning at three of the clock.The Guru Granth Sahib ji, the embodiment of the message of the Almighty on the earth, the purest of the holy books, takes its place in the holy sanctum of the temple of gold and the Hukumnama, recited by the granthi in a bold but calm voice, reaches out to millions of Sikhs around the world, bringing for them the blessings of the Lord for the day. And with this holy service, the day begins at the Harmandir Sahib.Sacredness, peace and purity reflects from the gold walls of the gurdwara, brims in the ‘amrit sarovar’, the pond of holy water surrounding it and the air that flows carrying the blessings of the Lord to the farms of Punjab, blooming them with life and prosperity. The four doors of the temple welcome all God’s children, irrespective of all social barriers to the temple, to seek the blessings of the Almighty in his divine words of ‘gurbani’, which resonate in the temple the whole day, recited by the granthis.
The town of Amritsar, named after the holy pond of ‘amrit sarovar’ in the Harmandir Sahib was founded by the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das in 1574. The construction of the Harmandir Sahib was started by Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth guru of Sikhism, but the foundation was laid by the Muslim Sufi saint Sai Hazrat Mian Mir in 1588 at the request of the Guru.
The Guru compiled the Guru Granth Sahib ji, the holy scripture of Sikhism, which is considered to be the spiritual and eternal Guru of Sikhs and installed it in the temple in 1604. The Guru Granth Sahib ji consists of the teachings of the first ten Sikh gurus, as well as teachings of 36 religious poets which includes Hindus and Muslims religious philosophers, symbolizing it as the model of the inclusive nature of Sikhism.
The present – day structure of the gurdwara was rebuilt in 1764 by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, after the attack of Ahmed Shah Abdali’s general Jahan Khan destroyed the temple considerably. The then Maharaja of Punjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh covered the outer walls and the upper floors of the gurdwara with gold, in the early nineteenth century, which gives it its characteristic appearance and its English name, i.e., the Golden Temple.
The Harmandir Sahib is the holiest gurdwara of the Sikhs in the world, visited daily by over 100,000 devotees from all over the globe. The temple spreads over an area of 10 ha, in the middle of a pond or ‘sarovar’ of ‘amrit’ or holy water, which symbolizes the ‘elixir of immortality’, which is fed by the river Ravi, and which separates the temple from the encircling walkway, which represents the circle of life.
The fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev conceived the temple, to give to people from all walks of life a place of worship and spiritual focus. The building of the temple is constructed in accordance with the Sikh architecture. Unlike most other temples, where the Lord sits above the mainland, thousands of Sikh devotees descend the steps at the Harmandir Sahib everyday to pay homage to the Lord, a symbol of giving up ego and pride in order to feel the unconditional, boundless love that God bestows upon his children.
The Akal Takht is a nearby building, which was constructed to fulfil the earthly needs of the followers of the Guru. A fascinating fact of the Akal Takht is that the Harmandir Sahib, the domain of God is visible from the interiors of the takht, but the takht, which represents humanly interests is not visible from the sacred and pure sanctum of Guru in the temple.
This architectural marvel was constructed to reinforce the supremacy of the spiritual dimension over the mortal and worldly dimension of life. The langar or free kitchen of the temple strengthens the principle of serving the humanity of Sikhism and to discard all social barriers by cooking and eating together and feeds around 80,000 people daily and employs 4000 workers and 1000 volunteers, making it the largest community kitchen in the world.
The Harmandir Sahib also houses the most extraordinary old age home in the world, a place that is hidden in the premises of the temple and known to very few people. This room is the resting place for old and damaged copies of the Guru Granth Sahib ji. When the number grows, the oldest of the copies are cremated in a ground in Goindwal near Amritsar, and their ashes are immersed in the river Sutlej. The Tosha Khana near the Darshani Deori gateway of the temple is another lesser known place in the temple, which treasures the most precious and invaluable assets of the Guru.
Durgiana Temple – The Shree Durgiana Temple is a Hindu temple in Amritsar dedicated to Goddess Durga and derives its name from the deity. It is also called by the Shree Lakshmi Narayan Temple. The architecture of the temple has been inspired from the Sikh Golden Temple and it was constructed by Harsai Mal Kapoor in 1908. It is sometimes also called the Silver Temple because of its carved silver doors.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh Garden – Also known as the Ram Bagh or the Company Garden, the garden was the summer palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and was built on the pattern of the Shalimar gardens in Lahore. The garden was named the Ram Bagh by Maharaja Ranjit Singh to honour Guru Ram Das and his unwavering devotion to him. The garden has a panoramic portrait of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, which was constructed by the joint venture of the National Council of Science and Museums and the State Government of Punjab. This epic panorama depicts important scenes of his life in three – dimensional montages. The garden also has a museum which celebrates the 400 years old culture of Amritsar.Gobindgarh Fort – The Gobindgarh Fort is a historic military fort located in the city of Amritsar. It was called the ‘ Gujar Singh Fort ’ in the 1760s and 1770s by the Bhangi Misl rulers and is built of mud. In 1805, Maharaja Ranjit Singh renamed it ‘ Gobind Garh ’ after Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of Sikhism. After the death of Ranjit Singh, the fort passed on to the British Empire, who established the Criminal Investigation Department office here and after the independence of India, an Indian army base was established in the fort.
How to reach :
Amritsar is easily accessible from all major cities of the country. The city has an international airport and a railway station well connected to all parts of the country via trains and an elaborate system of roads. The city is 461 km from the capital city of Delhi.