A living monument of spiritual and historical traditions of Sikhs, the Harimandir Sahib, popularly called the Golden Temple, has been a source of inspiration to the Sikhs. Ever since it was founded, the Golden Temple has been the most sacred shrine of Sikhs. Devotees, come here from all over the world to offer their prayers. The Golden Temple sits on a rectangular platform, surrounded by the Amrit Sarovar after which the city is named. The temple building has four entrances instead of the usual single entry. This is symbolic of the openness of Sikhism and indicates that followers of all faiths are allowed inside. The walls within are decorated with carved wooden panels and elaborate inlay work in silver and gold. The Adi Granth compiled by Guru Arjan Dev, rests on a throne beneath a jewel encrusted canopy. Priests (Granthi) conduct continuous recitation of verses from the holy book.
The construction of the Temple witnessed scenes of unique voluntary services offered by the Sikhs. Their selfless, sincere and hard labour was duly acknowledged by the Guru. Simultaneously with the construction of the Temple, plans were made to expand and develop the town. New markets were opened and trade was encouraged. In due course, people from different walks of life, as also from different caste-groups, settled there. They were encouraged to make it their permanent home. This saw the city grow in population in no time. The inhabitants and traders of Lahore, however, could not reconcile with the rapid growth of the town. They feared loss of property and ware during the rainy season as the city was planned around a pond in a low-lying area. Their forebodings alarmed the business community at Amritsar. They approached the Guru and expressed their fears and discussed the matter with him. The Guru assured them that there was no danger to their life or property. On the contrary, he prophesied a bright future for them and the town. We have in the holy scripture a hymn by Guru Arjan Dev, embodying his vision of the town:
Eternal is this city of my Guru, my God.
Contemplating (herein) the Name, I have attained Bliss
And have attained all the fruits that my mind desired,
Yes, the Creator Himself has established it.
I’m blest with gladness and all my kindred and followers are happy.
And they all sing the praises of the Perfect Lord
and all their affairs are adjusted.
Our Lord, God Himself, is our Refuge;
Himself is He our Father and Mother.
Sayeth Nanak : “I’m sacrifice unto the
True Guru who hath blest this city.
With the coming up of the Harimandir, Amritsar attained the status of a great holy place, its praise spread far and wide. The local Sikhs visited the temple daily; the Sikhs of the nearby areas also frequented it on various occasions, whereas Sikhs from distant places visited it twice a year, i.e., on Diwali and Baisakhi festivals.
The Harimandir was pulled down by the Afghan invaders thrice, each time to be rebuilt with renewed energy. After the departure of Ahmad Shah, the Sikhs assembled at Amritsar and the construction work was carried out under the supervision of Des Raj as per plans through the joint efforts of the Khalsa. The reconstruction of the Sarovar, the Temple, the bridge and the Darshan Darwaza came up by 1776 AD, whereas construction of the Parkarma (circumambulatory path) and of small shrines around the tank could be completed by 1784 only.
The Harimandir got the name of Swaran Mandir (Golden Temple) when its upper part was covered with gold plated sheets during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Most of the architectural design of the present building of the Harimandir was, however, completed and decorated in the nineteenth century.
Come Spring during the month of April, the famous festival of Baisakhi is celebrated all over India. The tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh laid the foundation of Khalsa Panth on a Baisakhi Day in 1699. Baisakhi celebrations are particularly marked at the Golden Temple and on this day, water is drawn from all the sacred rivers of India and poured into the huge tank that surrounds the Golden Temple. On Baisakhi, devotees come in a large number and worship the Guru Granth Saheb after taking a holy dip in the Amrit Sarovar.