Harmandir Sahib

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Bird's eye view of Harimandir Sahib and Amritsar

Harimandir Sahib: Literally "Temple of God" in Punjabi

"Shining in the morning light, the gilded splendour of its panelling and big dome and small minarets, this temple is a fairy world palace to the devotees of the Sikh faith. Certainly, the first look brings onto the innocent eye the image of a transcendent fact. The 'loving sight' peering into heaven from the legends of the miraculous cures by the touch of the water in the pool of nectar, in which the shrine stands makes for ecstatic awareness. The vision has been received by millions of pilgrims who have come here for centuries from near and far." quoted from a devotee

A Gurdwara of historical, spiritual, and emotional significance to Sikhs, called Harimandir Sahib in Punjabi. Guru Amar Das first conceived of it, although construction did not begin until Guru Ram Das became the Guru. The actual construction had modest beginnings: A mud-house was constructed by Guru Amar Das, who is said to have found on the edge of the pool the magical herb which cured a skin ailment of his master Guru Angad. The Amrit Sarovar remained a village tank, until the fourth Guru, Guru Ram Das began to carry out the plans of his mentor for a more permanent structure in brick.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh had the structure plated with gold in the early 19th century for the first time. During 2002, the gold plating was replaced with new gold plates. In 1604, the newly compiled Adi Granth was housed here for the first time. The Fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev ji sat on the floor with the rest of the congregation while the Adi Granth was place on a high platform or Takhat. The Indian army attacked this beautiful complex in June 1984 causing severe damage to the Akal Takhat building complex.

Background

A Plan of the Harimandir Sahib Complex

Harimander Sahib is the most famous Sikh Temple or Gurdwara. It is also called the Golden Temple in English because of the gold plating that covers most of its surface. This Gurdwara is found in the holy city of Amritsar in Punjab in North West India and is the sacred and the most visited of the many historic Sikhs shrines found in India and Pakistan. This striking building was built by the Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs.

The main temple building is surrounded by a pool or Sarovar. The Sarovar is surrounded by the Parikarma or Causeway, which is used by the devotees to walk in a clockwise direction around the Sarovar before going into the central building- Sanctum sancturum. The central Temple building is the hub of the religious activity. The holy Sri Guru Granth Sahib in housed in this building during the daytime and continuous Kirtan and Gurbani recital takes place. The main building complex has 4 doors facing East, West, North and South. These 4 doors signify the warm welcome to this shrine for all different classes and types of people from all walks of life. People of all religions are welcome to this temple.

The Guru Granth and Harimandir Sahib

Guru Granth Sahib on the first floor of Harimandir Sahib

The Guru Granth Sahib, as the Guru of the Sikhs, lies literally at the heart of worship in the Harimandir Sahib complex. The focus of attention and devotion in the sanctum of the Harimandir Sahib is the Guru Granth Sahib itself. Other copies of the Guru Granth Sahib are continosly recited on the first floor of the building and in the Shish Mahal Pavillion on the roof. The SGGS is also recited continuously at the other shrines in the complex: Baba Deep Singh Shrine, Lachi Ber, Thara Sahib, Shahidganj and the Akal Takhat. In addition, the compositions of the Gurus and Bhagats contained in the SGGS comprise most of the Kirtan sung in the Harimandir Sahib.

The SGGS is also central to Sikh worship in the Harimandir Sahib in another sense. The ritual pattern of worship in the Harimandir Sahib reflects both the historical memory of the presence of the fourth, fifth and sixth Gurus in the city of Amritsar and the doctrine of the SGGS as the embodiment of the human Gurus. According to the Sikh tradition, the Gurus resided at the modern site of the Gurdawara Guru Ka Mahal in the heart of the old city and came daily to the Harimandir Sahib, often passing their time in the Shish Mahal. After the construction of the Akal Takhat by Guru Hargobind, the Guru also spent time there on a daily basis.

Harimandir Sahib c.1840 Kapany Collection

The ritual timetable followed inside the Harimandir Sahib recreates the traditional understanding of the period of Sikh history when the Guru resided in Amritsar. The morning Kirtan begins in the sanctum of the Harimandir Sahib in the early morning with the singing of the length composition Asa di Var, which is interrupted by the arrival of a procession from the Akal Takhat of the SGGS on a palanquin. The Sangat rises as the SGGS is placed on the Singhasan (throne) in the centre of the sanctum and attendants then read verses from the SGGS in praise of the Sikh Gurus, written by their court poets, the Bhatts. The SGGS is then ceremoniously opened and a Hukam (command) taken by opening the text at random and reading the first composition on the open page. This moment is presumably intended to recreate the daily routine followed during the time of the Gurus: the arrival of the SGGS at the Harimandir Sahib from the Akal Takhat, the praised sung in his honour by court poets and others, and his first discourse of the day in the shrine. The SGGS then remains on its throne in the sanctum until the early evening, when it is again taken in procession on a palanquin to the Akal Takhat for a ceremonial night-time rest.

The ritual contours of the day as enacted in the sanctum of the Harimandir Sahib therefore reflect and recreate on a daily basis the nexus between the Gurus and Amritsar, embodying in ritual praxis the historical memory of the presence of three of the human Gurus in Amritsar. For modern Sikhs, the daily routine of the Harimandir Sahib also literally reflects the Sikh doctrine of the SGGS as the physical embodiment of the ten Human Gurus.

History

The Sikh Gurus

Landscape before the arrival of Guru Amardas

The foundation stone of the historic building was laid by a non-Sikh. The Guru gave the task of initiating the building to a Muslim Saint Hazrat Mian Mir ji of Lahore in December 1588. This is like asking a Jew to lay the foundation stone of the Vatican in Rome! Thus the Guru showed the world the true message of religion, which is to promote Interfaith dialogue and interaction.

During the 1400, this site was a small lake, surrounded by a thin forest. Travellers and holy people used the site for meditation and rest. These visitors recognised it for its special sense of tranquillity and its pure and sweet water. Historical records show that not only did Mahatma Buddha stay for some time in the ancient Amritsar region but he also recommended it as a place for hermitage.

The lake was enlarged and a small community was established during the leadership of the fourth Sikh Guru (Guru Ram Das, 1574-1581). It was during the leadership of the fifth Guru (Guru Arjan, 1581-1606), that the Golden Temple was built. It was completed in 1601.

Changes made between 1573-1606

The development of the Harimandir Sahib and Amritsar go hand in hand; the city was formerly known as Ramdaspur, and on construction of Harimandir Sahib became known as Amritsar. Guru Ram Das ji encouraged traders and businessmen to settle in the city with the development of the Guru Ka Bazaar and the market at Chowk Passian. During the times of the fifth and sixth Gurus, plans were made and implemented to expand the city: Wells and baolis were constructed to supply water to the pilgrims. The garden, Guru Ka Bagh was laid out to the south-east of the Harimandir. The area surrounding the temple was developed into markets, gardens and residential places. Guru Arjan Dev ji also lived in one of these newly constructed houses.

Guru Arjan Dev ji was martyred in 1606, and this gave a new direction to the faith and to the development of the city. Guru Hargobind added the political-temporal aspect to the spiritual aspect of Sikhism. This led to the construction of the Akal Takhat within the precinct space, a fortress named Lohgarh (the castle of steel) outside it, and a wall around the city to protect it from enemies.

Guru Hargobind also constructed the Chaurasi Atari adjoining the Guru Ka Bazaar and a new garden Akalian da Bagh adjacent to the Guru Ka Bagh in 1609.

The Struggle Period

Darbar Sahib as seen from Dukh Bhanjan

The seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth Gurus did not make any additions to the Harimandir or the city. During this period the masands looked after the Harimandir and are known to have mismanaged the temple. At this time the Sikhs were engaged in several battles against corrupt practices and Mughal rulers. All efforts were directed towards protecting the Harimandir from desecration.

After the passing of Guru Gobind Singh ji in 1708, the Sikhs passed through a very critical phase where they were hounded out and killed, prices having being fixed on their heads. It was during this period that the Harimandir Sahib was damaged and/or demolished five times. Each time the Sikhs took the earliest opportunity to rebuild it. It was in 1762 that Ahmad Shah blew up the building with gunpowder, but the Sikhs rallied to return to Amritsar and celebrated the festival of Diwali a few months later.

In January 1764, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia took over Sirhind and then he and other Sikh chiefs gave a call for the reconstruction of the shrine. Money raised was deposited with Des Raj of Sursingh village and he was also entrusted with the supervision of the work. The edifice then raised on an earlier original design has since remained the same with minor alterations and embellishments.

The Misl Period (1707-1801)

Development during the Misl and Maharaja Ranjit Singh Periods

During the Misl period, where the Mughal Emprie declined and the Sikh chiefs rose, many Bungas were built, not only to defend the Harimandir but to fortify the city. These were military establishments, but also served as educational institutions and rest houses for pilgrims. New roads, forts and Bazaars were also constructed during this period.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1801-39)

The inscription above the outer walls entrance to the Harimandir Sahib reads, after the Mool Mantar: "The Great Guru in His wisdom looked upon Maharaja Ranjit Singh as his chief servitor and Sikh, and in his benevolence, bestowed on him the privilege of serving the Temple."

The Parikarma around the Sarovar was made in 1784, Later after 1801, when Maharaja Ranjit Singh had defeated the Misl chiefs and established his headquarters in Lahore, the shrine was embellished and ornamented with gold. This process commenced in 1802 and the work included the application of inlaid marble panels onto the outer face of the building, richly embossed gilded metal sheets and a range of fresco techniques. Maharaja Ranjit Singh also constructed the Gobindgarh fort in 1805-09 along with his own summer palace and a series of gardens and canals.

The British Period (1849-1947)

The British took over the management of the Harimandir on the annexation of the Punjab (1849-1947). During their time they built several administrative buildings, railways, churches and roads within Amritsar. The clock tower was built in 1862 and with this the direction of the main entrance to the precinct of Harimandir Sahib was changed from the west to the north.

1984

"1984" by Amrit and Rabindra Kaur Singh

General

Many other Sikh centres exist in India but this Gurdwara Complex is World famous and has become very popular among the followers as a place of pilgrimage. The establishment of Sri Harimandir Sahib during the late 1500 was a most significant achievement of the Sikh Gurus as a centre of excellence, inspiration and action for the followers of the faith. This complex created a centre of activity and made the whole of this region prosperous and eventually becoming an important economic hub. Many administrative and economic institutes now have bases in the city of Amritsar. By the creation of this city the Gurus created an important City which today boosts an International Airport, University, Regional Capital, etc.Well everything was going good till there till devil open his eyes again on Harminder Sahib Indira Gandhi who had tried to harm Harminder Sahib due to which BLUE STAR took place many gursikhs lost their lives blood was all over the place .

The Golden Temple

See Also

Resources

Component plan of Harimandir Sahib and Surrounding Area

External Links


Photos

References

  • Nomination of Sri Harimandir Sahib for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List Vol.1 Nomination Dossier, India 2003
  • editor and publisher: Swati Mitra (2004). Walking with the Gurus: Historical Gurdwaras of Punjab. Good Earth Publications. ISBN 8187780231.