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Amritsar Golden Temple

The Amritsar Golden Temple shrine is symbolical of the doctrines of Sikhism. Every Sikh cherishes an earnest desire to visit Swaran Mandir or the Golden Temple at least once in their lifetime. Not just the Sikhs, the Golden Temple welcomes all. It is open from all four sides; symbolic of acceptance and openness. Anyone who wants to enter the Amritsar Golden Temple may do so, irrespective of religion, caste, creed or sex.

Temple of God - Amritsar Golden Temple

Amritsar Golden temple echoes the religious sentiments of Sikhism. The most holy place of worship of the Sikhs, Amritsar Golden Temple is situated in the city of Amritsar in Punjab, India. Amritsar Golden Temple was officially renamed Harmandir Sahib in March 2005. The name Harmandir Sahib is derived from two words, Hari meaning ‘God’ and Mandir meaning ‘Temple’. Harmandir literally means the ‘Temple of God’.

The holiest shrine in Sikhism, the temple or gurudwara is a major pilgrimage destination for Sikhs from all over the world besides being a popular tourist attraction. It is one of the few shrines actually built by the Sikh Gurus.

Moving through the pages of history, the temple's origin can be traced back to some four centuries ago when the third Sikh Guru Amar Das asked Guru Ram Das (who succeeded him) to build a central place for the congregation of the Sikh. Work commenced under the supervision and direction of Guru Ram Das but Guru Arjan Dev, the Fifth Nanak, completed it in the 16th century. The Harimandir was destroyed by the Afghan invaders thrice (A.D. 1757, 1762 and 1764) and was finally built in its present structure during the period of Sikh Misls in 1765 AD.

Guru Arjan Dev also compiled the sacred scripture Adi Granth and installed the Granth in the temple in 1604. This Granth is the holy scripture of the Sikhs. Revered as the eternal Guru, the Granth contains Gurbani or the Guru's teaching. The original copy of the scripture still exists today and is kept at Kartarpur, a town about 15 km north west of the city of Jalandhar, Punjab, India.

The expanded version is at the Golden Temple Amritsar. Each day at dawn the sacred book is ceremoniously carried in a golden palanquin from the Akal Takht- where it is kept each night and installed in the sanctum of the Golden Temple. Throughout the day passages are recited interspersed with the singing of excerpts, as pilgrims file past, bow and pay their respects to the word of the gurus.

The Granth contains compositions of the first five Gurus, the ninth Guru and other Muslim and Hindu saints. Guru Arjan Dev uttered these divine words “He who would wish to see the Guru, let him see the Granth. He who would seek the Guru's word let him read the Granth with love and attention. The Adi Granth is enshrined in all Sikh temples (gurudwaras). The holy Granth guides the Sikhs and encourages every individual to follow the moral and ethical rules for development of the soul, spiritual salvation and finally unity with God.

Historical significance - Amritsar Golden Temple

The Amritsar Golden Temple referred now, as Harmandir Sahib is located in Amritsar, a city in Punjab (northwest India). The name of the city is derived from the lake that surrounds the temple, literally meaning- a lake of elixir. There are many miracles that have been registered with regard to the temple tank as well as the holy shrine.

It is believed that the third Mughal emperor, Akbar was so impressed by the city that he bestowed great gifts on the daughter of the then reigning Sikh Guru. The site was once a forest. Much before, the place has witnessed many historical happenings. Like, Rama and Sita are believed to have spent their fourteen-year exile in Amritsar, the great Indian poet Valmiki wrote the Ramayana here. Hindu God Rama’s wife - Sita was banished here and the site is also the birthplace of Rama and Sita’s sons Luv and Kush.

Inside the building, along the bank of the tank stands a fruit tree, which is revered as a sacred tree. It is believed that a princess who believed in God brought her leprosy-afflicted husband to the Golden Temple and left him by the side of the fruit tree on the bank of the tank.While she was offering prayers inside, the husband took a dip in the tank and was cured of leprosy. The tree still stands and guarded all the time. Till date, pilgrims pray and take a holy dip in this tank, considered as a pool of immortality.

Architectural splendor - Amritsar Golden Temple

Though work commenced during the time of Guru Arjan Dev, the Harmandir does not reflect the concept of a single designer or a master builder. It evolved during the time of many generations. The building has been declared a heritage site by the United Nations.

Positioned in the center of the city of Amritsar, the 40.5 square feet Golden Temple is sited on a 67 square feet platform amidst a square tank. The holy tank - Amrit Sarovar is the oldest structure in the entire city of Amritsar. The Gurdwara is situated at the end of the long walkway. There is a 13 feet wide circular pathway, known as ‘Pardakshna’ that runs around the main shrine and finally leads to - Har ki Paudi' or ‘Steps of God’.

A close look at the architecture, one can easily recognize both Hindu and Muslim styles of design. The door panes are decorated with artistic carvings. Its outer walls are covered with gold plated copper plates, which are intricately carved with beautiful carvings. The domes and the upper floors of Harmandir Sahib are adorned with gold plates. In the interior, the Guru Granth is placed under a gorgeous canopy (Chandani Sahib), which is studded with jewels. A Pauri is waved over it when it is read.

The second storey of the temple has a Shish Mahal or Mirror room. It is gilded with mirrors. It is provided with a square opening in the center. One can view the ground floor from the square opening. But there is a religious viewpoint too. The area is provided so that stepping over Guru Granth Sahib is avoided. Right above the Shish Mahal is a golden dome along with several miniature domes.

Guru Arjan Dev deviated from the normal practice of designing high temple plinths and designed the construction of Amritsar Golden Temple at a lower level. The motto behind this was that he wanted to emphasize the inner strength that was provided by Sikhism, rather than giving importance to external manifestations. Also, unlike the traditional temple architecture that provided only one entrance, the Amritsar Golden Temple has four entrances, one on each side stressing the importance of universal participation. Symbolically, it conveys that people from all directions are welcome, all are equal, and there is no restriction with respect to caste, creed, sex or religion.

Getting to Amritsar Golden Temple

The temple remains open on all days and can be visited from 4A.M to 10 P.M in the summer months and 5 A.M to 9 P.M in winter months. The best time to visit the temple is in the winter months (October to March) when the weather is pleasant. An early morning or late night visit to the temple is special as the atmosphere is serene and very peaceful. The main temple looks impressive especially at night when it is beautifully lit up, with its imposing pure gold dome illuminated. Singing, chanting, sword fighting is part of the celebrations or observing martyrdoms in Amritsar Golden Temple. Pilgrims can partake free food from the kitchen called “Guru Ka Langar”.

Amritsar, in Punjab, is well linked by air, road, and rail to Delhi

By Air: Amritsar airport, known as the Raja Sani International Airport, 10 kms from the main city, is well connected with the various parts of India as well as the world. One can easily get flights to cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Birmingham, London, etc

By Rail: Amritsar has a railway station of its own, which is regularly serviced by trains from all parts of India. The temple is only 15 minutes from the railway station. A free bus runs regularly (every 45 minutes) from the station to the Golden Temple.

By Road: Amritsar has a very good road network. Grand Trunk Karnal Road connects Delhi to Amritsar. Some of the road distances are as follows:- Jammu 216 kms, Ferozepur 160 kms, Chandigarh 235 kms, Delhi 435 kms and Wagah 29 kms. You can get local, semi deluxe, deluxe and super deluxe buses from Amritsar to cities in Punjab and nearby states.

Places to stay: There are hotels very close to the Golden Temple. Expensive accommodation, cheap hotels, luxury rooms, there are varied options. For a traveler who is keen in experiencing its beauty and spirituality, the most interesting place to stay is at the Sri Harmandir Sahib itself. The next option would be the Gurdwaras of Sri Guru Ram Das Niwas (free accommodation, prior reservation required) and Sri Guru Nanak Niwas.

Things to do in Amritsar Golden Temple

Every visitor is expected to follow certain things-to-do during a visit to the Amritsar Golden Temple. With regard to sightseeing, the city itself has a number of places that attract tourists from far and wide. Here is what you need to know.

  • Don’t miss to soak hands or feet or even take a dip in the natural reservoir that surrounds the Temple.
  • Deposit shoes at the subterranean building to the left of the entrance to the temple.
  • Wash feet at the entrance.
  • Both men and women are required to cover heads.
  • Do not smoke or consume alcohol anywhere within the complex and anywhere within eyesight of the temple.
  • Take photographs only on the outside ring of the holy lake but not inside the actual temple.
  • Must-see tourist spots include Akal Takhat, Baba Atal, Guru Ka Langar, Jallian Wala Bagh, Durgiana Temple, Mata Mandir and Ram Bagh.
  • Be on time to see the changing of guards’ ceremony at sunset at the nearby Wagah border (30 kms from Amritsar), the only legal gateway between India and Pakistan.
  • Indulge in shopping in and around Katra Jaimal Singh, Hall Bazar and the Lawrence Road.
  • Most sought out items include jutties, woolens, rugs and durries, camel bone chess board, fireworks, embroidered dress material, bags, bangles,shawls and cut-glass items.
  • Most bought souvenir items are paintings, ornaments, photos and swords, knives and shields (replicas).
Amritsar Golden Temple
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