Golden Temple(Redirected from Harimandir Sahib)
Sri Harmandir Sahib ("The abode of God"), also known as Darbar Sahib, (Punjabi pronunciation: [dəɾbɑɾ sɑhɪb]),  informally referred to as the Golden Temple, is a Gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. It is one of the most revered spiritual sites of Sikhism.
ਸ੍ਰੀ ਹਰਿਮੰਦਰ ਸਾਹਿਬ
The Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple)
|Alternative names||Darbar Sahib
Golden Temple of Amritsar(Harmandir Sahib)
|Town or city||Amritsar|
|Construction started||December 1581|
|Completed||1589 (Temple), 1604 (with Adi Granth) |
|Sri Harmandir Sahib (Gurmukhi)|
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 Harmandir Sahib to be built in the center of this tank, and upon its construction, installed the Adi Granth, the holy scripture of Sikhism, inside 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 worship God equally. 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 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 present-day gurdwara was renovated in 1764 by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia with the help of other Sikh Misls. In the early nineteenth century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh secured the Punjab region from outside attack and covered the upper floors of the gurdwara with 750 kilograms (1,650 lb) of gold, which gives it its distinctive appearance and its English name.
The Harmandir Sahib is also spelled as Harimandar, Harimandir or Harmandar Sahib. It is also called the Darbar Sahib (Punjabi pronunciation: [dəɾbɑɾ sɑhɪb]) which means "sacred audience", as well as the Golden Temple for its gold foil covered sanctum center. The word "Harmandir" is composed of two words, "Har", meaning "God", and "mandir" which means temple or house. The Sikh tradition has several Gurdwaras named "Harmandir Sahib" such as those in Kiratpur and Patna. Of these, the one in Amritsar is most revered.
According to the Sikh historical records, the land that became Amritsar and houses the Harimandar Sahib was chosen by Guru Amar Das – the third Guru of the Sikh tradition. It was then called Guru Da Chakk, after he had asked his disciple Ram Das to find land to start a new town with a man made pool as its central point. After Ram Das succeeded Guru Amar Das in 1574, and given the hostile opposition he faced from the sons of Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das founded the town that came to be known as "Ramdaspur". He started by completing the pool with the help of Baba Buddha (not to be confused with the Buddha of Buddhism). Guru Ram Das built his new official centre and home next to it. He invited merchants and artisans from other parts of India to settle into the new town with him.
Ramdaspur town expanded during the time of Guru Arjan financed by donations and constructed by voluntary work. The town grew to become the city of Amritsar, and the pool area grew into the Golden Temple complex. The construction activity between 1574 and 1604 is described in Mahima Prakash Vartak, a semi-historical Sikh hagiography text likely composed in 1741, and the earliest known document dealing with the lives of all the ten Gurus. Guru Arjan installed the scripture of Sikhism inside the new temple in 1604. Continuing the efforts of Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan established Amritsar as a primary Sikh pilgrimage destination. He wrote a voluminous amount of Sikh scripture including the popular Sukhmani Sahib.
Guru Ram Das acquired the land for the site. Two versions of stories exist on how he acquired this land. In one based on a Gazetteer record, the land was purchased with Sikh donations of 700 rupees from the owners of the village of Tung. In another version, Emperor Akbar is stated to have donated the land to the wife of Guru Ram Das.
In 1581, Guru Arjan initiated the construction of the Gurdwara. During the construction the pool was kept empty and dry. It took 8 years to complete the first version of the Harmandir Sahib. Guru Arjan planned a temple at a level lower than the city to emphasize humility and the need to efface one's ego before entering the premises to meet the Guru. He also demanded that the temple compound be open on all sides to emphasize that it was open to all. The sanctum inside the pool where his Guru seat was had only one bridge to emphasize that the end goal was one, states Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair. In 1589, the temple made with bricks was complete. Guru Arjan is believed by some later sources to have invited Sufi saint Mian Mir of Lahore to lay its foundation stone, signaling pluralism and that the Sikh tradition welcomed all. This belief is however unsubstantiated According to Sikh traditional sources such as Sri Gur Suraj Parkash Granth it was laid by Guru Arjan himself. After the inauguration, the pool was filled with water. On August 16, 1604, Guru Arjan completed expanding and compiling the first version of the Sikh scripture and placed a copy of the Adi Granth in the temple. He appointed Baba Buddha as the first Granthi.
Guru Arjan called the site Ath Sath Tirath which means "shrine of 68 pilgrimages". The temple complex marks the place of this announcement with a raised canopy on the parkarma (circumambulation marble path around the pool). The name, state W. Owen Cole and other scholars, reflects the belief that visiting this temple is equivalent to 68 Hindu pilgrimage sites in the Indian subcontinent, or that a Tirath to the Golden Temple has the efficacy of all 68 Tiraths combined. The completion of the first version of the Golden Temple was a major milestone for Sikhism, states Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair, because it provided a central pilgrimage place and a rallying point for the Sikh community, set within a hub of trade and activity.
Mughal Empire era destruction and rebuildingEdit
The growing influence and success of Guru Arjan drew the attention of the Mughal Empire. Guru Arjan was arrested under the orders of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir and asked to convert to Islam. He refused, was tortured and executed in 1606 CE. Guru Arjan's son and successor Guru Hargobind left Amritsar and moved into the Shivalik Hills to avoid persecution and to save the Sikh panth. For about a century after Guru Arjan martyrdom, state Louis E. Fenech and W. H. McLeod, the Golden Temple was not occupied by the actual Sikh Gurus and it remained in hostile sectarian hands. In 18th century, Guru Gobind Singh and his newly founded Khalsa Sikhs came back and fought to liberate it. The Golden Temple was viewed by the Mughal rulers and Afghan Sultans as the center of Sikh faith and it remained the main target of persecution.
- In 1709, the governor of Lahore sent in his army to suppress and prevent the Sikhs from gathering for their festivals of Baisakhi and Divali. But the Sikhs defied by gathering in the Golden Temple. In 1716, Banda Singh and numerous Sikhs were arrested and executed.
- In 1737, the Mughal governor ordered the capture of the custodian of the Golden Temple named Mani Singh and executed him. He appointed Masse Khan as the police commissioner who then occupied the Temple and converted it into his entertainment center with dancing girls. He befouled the pool. Sikhs avenged the sacrilege of the Golden Temple by assassinating Masse Khan inside the Temple in August 1740.
- In 1746, another Lahore official Diwan Lakhpat Rai working for Yahiya Khan, and seeking revenge for the death of his brother, filled the pool with sand. In 1749, Sikhs restored the pool when Muin ul-Mulk slackened Mughal operations against Sikhs and sought their help during his operations in Multan.
- In 1757, the Afghani ruler Ahmad Shah Durrani, also known as Ahmad Shah Abdali, attacked Amritsar and desecrated the Golden Temple. He had waste poured into the pool along with entrails of slaughtered animals, before departing for Afghanistan. The Sikhs restored it again.
- In 1762, Ahmad Shah Durrani returned and had the Golden Temple blown up with gunpowder. Sikhs returned and celebrated Divali in its premises. In 1764, Jassa Singh Ahluvalia collected donations to rebuild the Golden Temple. A new main gateway (Darshani Deorhi), causeway and sanctum were completed in 1776, while the floor around the pool was completed in 1784. The Sikhs also completed a canal to bring in fresh water from Ravi River for the pool.
Ranjit Singh era reconstructionEdit
Ranjit Singh founded the nucleus of the Sikh Empire at the age of 21 with help of Sukerchakia Misl forces he inherited and those of his mother-in-law Rani Sada Kaur. In 1802, at age 22, he took Amritsar from the Bhangi Sikh misl, paid homage at the Golden Temple and announced that he would renovate and rebuild it with marble and gold. The Temple was renovated in marble and copper in 1809, and in 1830 Ranjit Singh donated gold to overlay the sanctum with gold foil.
The management and operation of Darbar Sahib – a term that refers to the entire Golden Temple complex of buildings, was taken over by Ranjit Singh. He appointed Desa Singh Majithia to manage it, and made land grants whose collected revenue was assigned to pay for the Temple's maintenance and operation. Ranjit Singh also made the position of Temple officials hereditary.
The Golden Temple's architecture reflects different architectural practices prevalent in the Indian subcontinent, as various iterations of temple were rebuilt and restored. The Temple is described by Ian Kerr, and other scholars, as a mixture of the Indo-Islamic Mughal and the Hindu Rajput architecture.
The sanctum is a 12.25 x 12.25 metre square with two-storeys and a gold foil dome. This sanctum has a marble platform that is a 19.7 x 19.7 metre square. It sits inside an almost square (154.5 x 148.5 m2) pool called amritsar or amritsarovar (amrit means nectar, sar is short form of sarovar and means pool). The pool is 5.1 metre deep and is surrounded by a 3.7 metre wide circumambulatory marble passage that is circled clockwise. The sanctum is connected to the platform by a causeway and the gateway into the causeway is called the Darshani Ḍeorhi (from Darshana Dvara). For those who wish to take a dip in the pool, the Temple provides a half hexagonal shelter and holy steps to Har ki Pauri. Bathing in the pool is believed by many Sikhs to have restorative powers, purifying one's karma. Some carry bottles of the pool water home particularly for sick friends and relatives. The pool is maintained by volunteers who perform kar seva (community service) by draining and desilting it periodically.
The sanctum has two floors. The Sikh Scripture Guru Granth Sahib is seated on the lower square floor for about 20 hours everyday, and for 4 hours it is taken to its bedroom inside Akal Takht with elaborate ceremonies in a palki, for sukhasana and prakash. The floor with the seated scripture is raised a few steps above the entrance causeway level. The upper floor in the sanctum is a gallery and connected by stairs. The ground floor is lined with white marble, as is the path surrounding the sanctum. The sanctum's exterior has gilded copper plates. The doors are gold foil covered copper sheets with nature motifs such as birds and flowers. The ceiling of the upper floor is gilded, embossed and decorated with jewels. The sanctum dome is semi-spherical with a pinnacle ornament. The sides are embellished with arched copings and small solid domes, the corners adorning cupolas, all of which are covered with gold foil covered gilded copper.
The floral designs on the marble panels of the walls around the sanctum are Arabesque. The arches include verses from the Sikh scripture in gold letters. The frescoes follow the Indian tradition and include animal, bird and nature motifs rather than being purely geometrical. The stair walls have murals of Sikh Gurus such as the falcon carrying Guru Gobind Singh riding a horse.
The Darshani Deorhi is a two-storey structure that houses the temple management offices and treasury. At the exit of path leading away from the sanctum is the prasada facility, where volunteers serve a flour-based sweet offering called karah prasad. Typically, the pilgrims to the Golden Temple enter and make a clockwise circumambulation around the pool before entering the sanctum. There are four entrances to the gurdwara complex signifying the openness to all sides, but a single entrance to the sanctum of the temple through a causeway.[page needed]
Akal Takht and Teja Singh Samundri HallEdit
In front of the sanctum and the causeway is the Akal Takht building. It is the chief Takht, a center of authority in Sikhism. It is also the headquarters of the main political party of the Indian state of Punjab, Shiromani Akali Dal (Supreme Akali Party). The Akal Takht issues edicts or writs (hukam) on matters related to Sikhism and the solidarity of the Sikh community. Its name Akal Takht means "throne of the Timeless (God)". The institution was established by Guru Hargobind after the martyrdom of his father Guru Arjan, as a place to conduct ceremonial, spiritual and secular affairs, issuing binding writs on Sikh Gurdwaras far from his own location. A building was later constructed over the Takht founded by Guru Hargobind, and this came to be known as Akal Bunga. The Akal Takht is also known as Takht Sri Akal Bunga. The Sikh tradition has five Takhts, all of which are major pilgrimage sites in Sikhism. These are in Anandpur, Patna, Nanded, Talwandi Sabo and Amritsar. The Akal Takht in the Golden Temple complex is the primary seat and chief.
The Teja Singh Samundri Hall is the office of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (Supreme Committee of Temple Management). It is located in a building near the Langar-kitchen and Assembly Hall. This office coordinates and oversees the operations of major Sikh temples.
The Clock Tower did not exist in the original version of the temple. In its location was a building, now called the "lost palace". The officials of the British India wanted to demolish the building after the Second Anglo-Sikh war and once they had annexed the Sikh Empire. The Sikhs opposed the demolition, but this opposition was ignored. In its place, the clock tower was added. The clock tower was designed by John Gordon in a Gothic cathedral style with red bricks. The clock tower construction started in 1862 and was completed in 1874. The tower was demolished by the Sikh community about 70 years later. In its place, a new entrance was constructed with a design more harmonious with the Temple. This entrance on the north side has a clock, houses a museum on its upper floor, and it continues to be called ghanta ghar deori.
The Golden Temple complex originally was open and had numerous trees around the pool. It is now a walled, two storey courtyard with four entrances, that preserve three Ber trees (jujube). One of them is to the right of the main ghanta ghar deori entrance with the clock, and it is called the Ber Baba Buddha. It is believed in the Sikh tradition to be the tree where Baba Buddha sat to supervise the construction of the pool and first temple.
A second tree is called Laachi Ber, believed to the one under which Guru Arjan rested while the temple was being built. The third one is called Dukh Bhanjani Ber, located on the other side of the sanctum, across the pool. It is believed in the Sikh tradition that this tree was the location where a Sikh was cured of his leprosy after taking a dip in the pool, giving the tree the epithet of "suffering remover". There is a small Gurdwara underneath the tree. The Ath Sath Tirath, or the spot equivalent to 68 pilgrimages, is in the shade underneath the Dukh Bhanjani Ber tree. Sikh devotees, states Charles Townsend, believe that bathing in the pool near this spot delivers the same fruits as a visit to 68 pilgrimage places in India.
Sikh history museumsEdit
The main ghanta ghar deori north entrance has a Sikh history museum on the first floor, according to the Sikh tradition. The display shows various paintings, of gurus and martyrs, many narrating the persecution of Sikhs over their history, as well as historical items such as swords, kartar, comb, chakkars. A new underground museum near the clock tower, but outside the temple courtyard also shows Sikh history. According to Louis E. Fenech, the display does not present the parallel traditions of Sikhism and is partly ahistorical such as a headless body continuing to fight, but a significant artwork and reflects the general trend in Sikhism of presenting their history to be one of persecution, martyrdoms and bravery in wars.
The main entrance to the Gurdwara has many memorial plaques that commemorate past Sikh historical events, saints and martyrs, contributions of Ranjit Singh, as well as commemorative inscriptions of all the Sikh soldiers who died fighting in the two World Wars and the various Indo-Pakistan wars.
Guru Ram Das LangarEdit
Harmandir Sahib complex has a Langar, a community-run free kitchen and dining hall. It is attached to the east side of the courtyard near the Dukh Bhanjani Ber, outside of the entrance. Food is served here to all visitors who want it, regardless of faith, gender or economic background. Vegetarian food is served and all people eat together as equals. Everyone sits on the floor in rows, which is called pangat. The meal is served by volunteers as part of their kar seva ethos. A simple meal is served round the clock.
There are several rituals performed everyday in the Golden Temple as per the historic Sikh tradition. These rituals treat the scripture as a living person, a Guru out of respect. The rituals include:
- Closing ritual called sukhasan (sukh means "comfort or rest", asan means "position"). At night, after a series of devotional kirtans and three part ardās, the Guru Granth Sahib is closed, carried on the head, placed into and then carried in a flower decorated, pillow-bed palki (palanquin), with chanting. Its bedroom is in the Akal Takht, on the first floor. Once it arrives there, the scripture is tucked into a bed.
- Opening ritual called prakash which means "light". About dawn everyday, the Guru Granth Sahib is taken out its bedroom, carried on the head, placed and carried in a flower decorated palki with chanting and bugle sounding across the causeway. It is brought to the sanctum. Then after ritual singing of a series of Var Asa kirtans and ardas, a random page is opened. This is the mukhwak of the day, it is read out loud, and then written out for the pilgrims to read over that day.
Influence on contemporary era SikhismEdit
Singh Sabha movementEdit
The Singh Sabha movement was a late-19th century movement within the Sikh community to rejuvenate and reform Sikhism at a time when Christian, Hindu and Muslim proselytizers were actively campaigning to convert Sikhs to their religion. The movement was triggered by the conversion of Ranjit Singh's son Duleep Singh and other well known people to Christianity. Started in 1870s, the Singh Sabha movement's aims were to propagate the true Sikh religion, restore and reform Sikhism to bring back into the Sikh fold the apostates who had left Sikhism. There were three main groups with different viewpoints and approaches, of which the Tat Khalsa group prevailed by early 1900s. Before 1905, the Golden Temple had idols and images for at least a century. In 1905, with the campaign of the Tat Khalsa, these idols and images were removed from the Golden Temple.
Jallianwala Bagh massacreEdit
As per tradition, the Sikhs gathered in the Golden Temple to celebrate the festival of Baisakhi in 1919. After their visit, many walked over to the Jallianwala Bagh next to it to listen to speakers protesting Rowlatt Act and other policies of the colonial British government. A large crowd had gathered, when the British general Reginald Dyer ordered his soldiers to surround the Jallianwala Bagh, then open fire into the civilian crowd. Hundreds died and thousands were wounded. The massacre strengthened the opposition to the colonial rule throughout India, and particularly Sikhs. It triggered massive non-violent protests. The protests pressured the British government to transfer the control over the management and treasury of the Golden Temple to an elected organization called Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC). The SGPC continues to manage the Golden Temple.
Operation Blue StarEdit
The Golden Temple and Akal Takht were occupied by various militant groups in early 1980s. These included the Dharam Yudh Morcha led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the Babbar Khalsa, the AISSF and the National Council of Khalistan. By late 1983, the Bhindranwale led group had begun to build bunkers and observations posts in and around the Golden Temple. The Golden Temple became a place for weapons training for the militants. Supporters of this militant movement circulated maps showing parts of northwest India, north Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan as historic and future boundaries of the Khalsa Sikhs, with varying claims in different maps. In June 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered Indian Army to begin Operation Blue Star against the militants. The operation caused severe damaged and destroyed Akal Takht. Numerous soldiers, civilians and militants died in the cross fire. Within days of the Operation Bluestar, some 2,000 Sikh soldiers in India mutinied and attempted to reach Amritsar to liberate the Golden Temple. Within six months, on 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi's Sikh bodyguards assassinated her.
In 1986, Indira Gandhi's son and the next Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi ordered repairs of the Akal Takht Sahib. These repairs were removed and Sikhs rebuilt the Akal Takht Sahib in 1999.
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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 birth of Guru Ram Das, martyrdom day of Guru Teg Bahadur, the birthday of the Sikh founder Guru Nanak, etc., are also celebrated with religious piety. Similarly Diwali is one of the festivals which sees the Harmandir Sahib beautifully illuminated with Diyas (lamps); lights and fireworks are discharged.
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The Mughal rulers of the Punjab were evidently concerned with the growth of the Panth, and in 1605 the Emperor Jahangir made an entry in his memoirs, the Tuzuk-i-Jahāṅgīrī, concerning Guru Arjan's support for his rebellious son Khusrau Mirza. Too many people, he wrote, were being persuaded by his teachings, and if the Guru would not become a Muslim the Panth had to be extinguished. Jahangir believed that Guru Arjan was a Hindu who pretended to be a saint, and that he had been thinking of forcing Guru Arjan to convert to Islam or his false trade should be eliminated, for a long time. Mughal authorities seem plainly to have been responsible for Arjan's death in custody in Lahore, and this may be accepted as an established fact. Whether death was by execution, the result of torture, or drowning in the Ravi River remains unresolved. For Sikhs, Arjan is the first martyr Guru.
- Louis E. Fenech, Martyrdom in the Sikh Tradition, Oxford University Press, pp. 118-121
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- Golden temple story comes alive
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Harmandir Sahib.|
- Website of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee
- Golden Temple at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
- photos from the 1880s