In India there is the famous Golden Temple, whose name is the Harmandir Sahib (The abode of God), and it belongs to the Sikhs, the followers of Sikhism.
It is also called Darbar Sahib (“exalted holy court”), and is a Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India.
This temple is named after Hari (God) and Sikhs all over the world make daily prayers to this temple and pay obeisance to the Lord it represents.
About The Golden Temple
The Golden Temple is incredibly impressive and beautiful, and though it is not a large temple, it is a stunning temple of God.
It is situated in a manmade lake which surrounds the temple and is named ‘Amrit Sarovar’ which is translated as ‘Pool of Holy Nectar’ or Amritsar. Amritsar is the name of the lake (tank or pool) and also the name of the city.
The temple sits on an island in the lake and is entered from a bridge or causeway connected to the surrounding buildings, all of which are a part of the temple complex.
The Origin of The Golden Temple
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The first part of the Golden Temple was the construction of the lake it sits on. It was originally a small lake in the midst of a quiet forest and the first Sikh Guru Nanak (1469-1539) came to live and meditate by the peaceful lake.
An underground spring feeds the sacred lake, and throughout the day and night pilgrims bathe themselves in the waters as a cleansing of the soul for Holy purification.
Travellers and holy people used the site for meditation and rest and old records show that the famous Gautama Buddha stayed for some time at the lake for peace and meditation.
After Guru Nanak passed away his disciples continued to frequent the site and the third Sikh Guru got the idea to develop the lake into a contained tank or pool. The third Guru Amardas Sahib had made the plans to excavate the holy tank (Amritsar or Amrit Sarovar) but it was executed by the fourth Guru Ramdas Sahib.
The Construction of The Golden Temple
The lake was made into a tank and then the fifth Sikh Guru Arjan Sahib conceived the idea of creating a central place of worship for the Sikhs and he himself designed the architecture of Sri Harmandir Sahib (The Golden Temple).
The land for the site was acquired by the earlier Sikh Gurus by either payment or free of cost from the Zamindars (landlords) of native villages. Along with the acquisition of the lands they also made a plan to establish a town (Amritsar).
Golden Temple Architecture
At first the Temple had modest beginnings, just an island in the lake with a simple building. As time went by they improved the building and so the construction work on the Sarovar (the tank) and the town started simultaneously in 1570 and the work on both projects completed in 1577 A.D.
The temple building was different than traditional Hindhu Temple architecture where they erect the structure on the higher level, Guru Arjan Sahib got it built on the lower level. Also Guru Arjan made it open from four sides so it had grand entrance and exits, unlike Hindu Temples having only one gate for the entrance and exit. The temple is entered from four different sides to show openness and acceptance.
By doing this he created a symbol of new faith, Sikhism, and he made it accessible to every person without any distinction of Caste, creed, sex or religion. This buildings work was completed in 1601 A.D and so then the Sikh Nation had their own Tirath pilgrimage center.
The Golden Temple building is a three-storied one with the front, which faces the bridge, being decorated with repeated cusped arches. The roof of the first floor is at the height of 26 feet and 9 inches.
Its architecture represents a unique blend between the Muslims and the Hindus way of construction and the Sikhs feel this is one of the best architectural specimens in the world.
This approach to architectural style has created an independent Sikh school of architecture and is a part of the history of art in India.
Adding The Gold to the Golden Temple
At first the temple didn’t have any gold coating. During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), the ruler of Punjab in the early 19th century, the temple went under full renovation and was made into what it is today.
It was richly ornamented with marble sculptures, golden gilding, and large quantities of precious stones and the Maharaj added the top dome, which is shaped like an inverted lotus and made of copper, and covered it with much gold.
In 2002, the Temples gold plating was replaced with new gold plates.
The Modern Day Golden Temple
The Golden Temple has beautiful hand painted mosaics and patterns plus a lot of gold, so it is one of the most dynamic symbols of Mughal and Indian architecture.
The temple is always active with visitors praying, worshipping and sight-seeing and there are a number of activities that you can witness if you go to the Golden Temple.
The Golden Temple’s Daily Routine
All through the day there is continuous Gurbani Kirtan (singing of hymns) at the Temple and it lasts until the doors close. This is done everyday with some slight changes during the summer and winter months.
During the day they show and read from the Sikh Holy book Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which is kept on a jewel-studded platform, containing this sacred scripture of the Sikhs. The text is a collection of devotional poems, prayers, and hymns from the ten Sikh gurus as well as various Muslim and Hindu saints.
Also during the morning the devotees, accompanied by the Temple staff, clean the Golden Temple for one hour and they sing the Gurbani Kirtan while they do it. It is well maintained and the Golden Temple is a place of great beauty and sublime peacefulness.
After they clean the temple areas they spread the rugs and put down a small cot (the Peera Sahib) where they place the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Holy text) in the early morning. Then, after they complete their Sikh Prayers, they make a Holy offering (Karah Prasad) which is distributed among the devotees.
In the evening, after the evening scripture (Rehras), they display the weapons belonging to the Sikh Masters, at about 8.00 p.m.
The Golden Temple Visitors
The Golden Temple is a very famous place and people come from all over the world to visit the temple grounds. And not all visitors are Sikhs, in fact the temple is considered so holy that 35% of the pilgrims that visit it are from faiths other than Sikh.
Feeding People at the Golden Temple
The Golden Temple has many pilgrims and visitors so we could say that there are many mouths to feed. Supposedly there are around one hundred thousand people that visit the langar (kitchen) every day and the Sikhs like to feed all the visitors. The number of visitors increases on weekends and special days like Holy days and events.
The langar (kitchen) is the term used by Sikhs for the community kitchen in a Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) where a free meal is served for the visitors. The Langar at the Golden temple serves up to 200,000 people during special religious events, and amazingly, all the food served are donations from the faithful.
People from all over the world, including Sikhs, visit the Golden temple at least once in their life time and no one is turned away. Everybody is welcome at the langar, without distinction of caste, creed, religion, gender, economic status or ethnicity, and the free meal is always vegetarian.
The Golden Temple As a Place of Pilgrimage
Amritsar is the home of close to a million Sikhs and is also the main place of pilgrimage for Sikhs, whether living in India or abroad. The main focal point for these pilgrims is the Golden Temple and several other buildings in the outlying areas.
There are several guest houses for pilgrims, and a dining hall that provides thousands of meals daily for pilgrims and other visitors.
There is an Assembly Hall as well as the Akal Takht, the chief center of authority for the Sikhs, and the headquarters of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Supreme Akali Party), the main political party of the Sikhs in Punjab.
There are many important buildings around the pool/tank area and they all play a part in the managing of the Sikh world and the life at the Golden Temple.
The City of Amritsar
Amritsar is a city in northern Punjab state, in the northwestern of India. It is about 15 miles east of the Pakistani border and is the largest and most important city in the Punjab.
Amritsar was founded in 1570 by the Sikh Guru Ram Das and today is the center of Sikhism. It was built on a site granted by the Mughal emperor Akbar.
The Muslim Invaders
There was a time when India was invaded and occupied by the Muslim invaders. It went under the name of the Moghul Empire and sometimes the Muslims hit even the Golden Temple.
On numerous occasions the temple was destroyed by the Muslims, and each time it was rebuilt more beautifully by the Sikhs.
Also the British occupied Punjab state from 1849 to 1947.
Traveling to Amritsar from New Delhi
Pilgrims and visitors to the Golden Temple come from all over the world and many want to go there from New Delhi, India. From Delhi you can reach Amritsar by plane, train, bus or by car, either with driver or drive yourself.
The best way to go is by train and there are several reasons for it:
Some travel agents suggest you go by train because train is more comfortable and saves time. Still you can take a flight from Delhi to Amristar but there are few flights from Delhi:
- air india
- jet airways
- spice jet
The distance from New Delhi to Amritsar is around 450 km one-way which can be done in 6 hrs by morning Shatabdi Express train & 7 hrs more or less by car.
If you want to go by car it is possible to hire a driver which is door to door service and you can enjoy the countryside too.
One travel agent said you could make a drive for 08 hrs, hiring an SUV car cost would be approximately INR 15000. An example would be hire a Toyota Innova car.
The Sikh Father Guru Nanak
Guru Nanak (1469-1539) was the founder and first Guru of Sikhism, born in the year 1469, in the village of Talwandi, Punjab province in the Indian subcontinent. The village, now known as Nankana Sahib, is situated near the city of Lahore in present day Pakistan.
From an early age, many people noticed that Nanak was an extraordinary child, marked with divine grace. By the age of 16, Guru Nanak had mastered multiple existing religious texts and languages (Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi), and was writing what many believed were divinely inspired pieces.
Around 1487 Guru Nanak was meditating and got a message from God to dedicate his life work to helping people and doing Holy causes.
For the following 30 years he traveled across most of South Asia, India, Tibet and Arabia preaching his message about a Supreme God that is loving and singular.
He described the dangers of egotism, falsehood, and hypocrisy and prescribed a life based on honest conduct, selfless service (Sewa), and constant devotion and remembrance of God’s name.
When he was older Guru Nanak settled in the Pubjab and lived a simple life. People came to listen to him and he introduced the institution of Langar (free communal kitchen) at Kartarpur town where he lived, establishing the basic equality of all people regardless of their social and economic status.
Guru Nanak’s writings, in the form of 974 spiritual hymns, were incorporated in the Sikh Holy scripture Guru Granth Sahib by the fifth Guru Arjan Dev ji, and are read regularly at the Sikh Temples and also at the Golden Temple.
“There is but One God, His name is Truth, He is the Creator, He fears none, he is without hate, He never dies, He is beyond the cycle of births and death, He is self illuminated, He is realized by the kindness of the True Guru. He was True in the beginning, He was True when the ages commenced and has ever been True, He is also True now.”
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Golden Temple: By CC BY-SA 3.0
Golden Temple: By Oleg Yunakov