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Harmandir Sahib and its entrance
Harmandir Sahib and its entrance

 
 

The Harmandir Sahib, also referred to as the Golden Temple, is a prominent Sikh gurudwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. Construction of the gurudwara was begun by Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru, and completed by his successor, Guru Arjan Dev. In 1604, Guru Arjan Dev completed the Adi Granth, the holy scripture of Sikhism, and installed it in the gurudwara. In 1634, Guru Hargobind left Amritsar for the Shivalik Hills and for the remainder of the seventeenth century the city and gurudwara was in the hands of forces hostile to the Sikh Gurus. During the eighteenth century, the Harmandir Sahib was the site of frequent fighting between the Sikhs on one side and either Mughal or Afghan forces on the other side and the gurudwara occasionally suffered damage. In the early nineteenth century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh secured the Punjab region from outside attack and covered the upper floors of the gurduwara with gold, which gives it its distinctive appearance and English name of “Golden Temple”.
 
 

Serene and solace giving Golden Temple
Serene and solace giving Golden Temple

 
 
 
Harmandir Sahib is considered holy by not only Sikhs but also followers of every faith. The most holy text of Sikhism, the Guru Granth Sahib, is always present inside the gurudwara when it is open. Its construction was mainly intended to build a place of worship for men and women, from all walks of life and religions.

The present day Golden Temple was rebuilt in 1764 by Maharaja Jassa Singh Ahluwalia (1718–1783) with the help of other Sikh chieftains. Between 1802–1830 Ranjit Singh did the sewa of adding gold plating and marble to the gurudwara, while the interior was decorated with fresco work and gemstones.
 

As you enter, and come down the entrance stairs
The reflection : As you enter, and come down the entrance stairs

 
 
Harmandir Sahib literally means Temple of God. The fourth guru of Sikhism, Guru Ram Das, excavated a tank in 1577 CE which subsequently became known as Amritsar (meaning “Pool of the Nectar of Immortality”), giving its name to the city that grew around it. In due course, a splendid Sikh edifice, Harmandir Sahib (meaning “the abode of God”), rose in the middle of this tank and became the supreme centre of Sikhism. Its sanctum came to house the Adi Granth comprising compositions of Sikh gurus and other saints considered to have Sikh values and philosophies, e.g., Baba Farid, and Kabir. The compilation of the Adi Granth was started by the fifth guru of Sikhism, Guru Arjan Dev.
 

Meditating in the tranquil precincts
Meditating in the tranquil precincts

 
 
 

Originally built in 1574, the site of the gurudwara was surrounded by a small lake in a thin forest. The third of the six grand Mughals, Emperor Akbar, who visited the third Sikh guru, Guru Amar Das, in the neighbouring town of Goindval, was so impressed by the way of life in the town that he gave a jagir (the land and the revenues of several villages in the vicinity) to the guru’s daughter Bhani as a gift on her marriage to Bhai Jetha, who later became the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das. Guru Ram Das enlarged the lake and built a small township around it. The town was named after Guru Ram Das as Guru Ka Chak’, Chak Ram Das or Ram Das Pura.
 

Sikhism is all about volunteerism. Kar Sevak
Sikhism is all about volunteerism. Kar Sevak

 
 
 

During the leadership of the fifth guru, Guru Arjan Dev (1581–1606), the full-fledged gurudwara was built. In December 1588, Guru Arjan initiated the construction of the gurudwara. He invited Muslim saint Mian Mir of Lahore in December 1588 to lay the first foundation stone. (December 1588 CE).

Some of the architectural features of the Harmandir Sahib were intended to be symbolic of the Sikh worldview. Instead of the normal custom of building a gurudwara on high land, it was built at a lower level than the surrounding land so that devotees would have to go down steps to enter it. In addition, instead of one entrance, the Harmandir Sahib has four entrances.
 

The walk way around the sarovar is lined with the arches all along
The walk way around the sarovar is lined with the arches all along

 
 
The gurudwara was completed in 1604. Guru Arjan Dev, installed the Guru Granth Sahib in it and appointed Baba Buddha Ji as the first Granthi (reader) of it on August 1604. In the mid-18th century it was attacked by the Afghans, by one of Ahmed Shah Abdali’s generals, Jahan Khan, and had to be substantially rebuilt in the 1760s. However, in response a Sikh Army was sent to hunt down the Afghan force. They were under orders to show no mercy and historical evidence suggests the Sikh Army was decisively victorious in the ensuing battle. Both forces met each other five miles outside Amritsar; Jahan Khan’s army was destroyed.
 

Golden Temple seen from the opposite side of the entrance
Golden Temple seen from the opposite side of the entrance

 
 
The gurdwara is surrounded by a large lake or temple tank, known as the Sarovar, which consists of Amrit (“holy water” or “immortal nectar”). There are four entrances to the gurdwara, signifying the importance of acceptance and openness. Inside the gurdwara complex there are many shrines to past Sikh gurus, saints and martyrs (see map). There are three holy trees (bers), each signifying a historical event or Sikh saint. Inside the gurdwara there are many memorial plaques that commemorate past Sikh historical events, saints, martyrs and includes commemorative inscriptions of all the Sikh soldiers who died fighting in World Wars I and II.
 

Dwar : The entrance door to the walk way into Harmandir Saheb
Dwar : The entrance door to the walk way into Harmandir Saheb

 
 
In keeping with the rule observed at all Sikh gurdwaras worldwide, the Harmandir Sahib is open to all persons regardless of their religion, colour, creed, or sex. The only restrictions on the Harmandir Sahib’s visitors concern their behavior when entering and while visiting:

Maintaining the purity of the sacred space and of one’s body while in it:
Upon entering the premises, removing one’s shoes (leaving them off for the duration of one’s visit) and washing one’s feet in the small pool of water provided;
Not drinking alcohol, eating meat, or smoking cigarettes or other drugs while in the shrine
Dressing appropriately:
Wearing a head covering (a sign of respect) (the gurdwara provides head scarves for visitors who have not brought a suitable covering);
Not wearing shoes (see above).
How to act:
One must also sit on the ground while in the Darbar Sahib as a sign of deference to both the Guru Granth Sahib and God.
 

The walk way into Harmandir Saheb
The walk way into Harmandir Saheb

 
 
The POWER OF VOLUNTEERISM : And all the work in the temple is done by volunteers – kar sevaks.
 

The Kar sevaks getting the 'patkas' for the visitors ready
The Kar sevaks getting the ‘patkas’ for the visitors ready

 
 
 

The Kar sevaks getting ready their security gear
The Kar sevaks getting ready their security gear

 
 

The Kar sevaks carrying Guru Granth saheb and putting to bed
The Kar sevaks carrying Guru Granth saheb and putting to bed

 
 
One of the fundamental practice of sikhism is to feed every pilgrim who steps into the gurudwara precincts, at Langar. I shall take you through the Langar area of the Golden Temple which is also operated by Kar Sevaks.

Golden Temple seen from the Langar
Golden Temple seen from the Langar

 
 
 

Kar Sevak's chopping vegetables
Kar Sevak’s chopping vegetables

 
 
 

The chopped ones are ready to go into the cauldrons
The chopped ones are ready to go into the cauldrons

 
 
 

The cauldrons of boiling water ready to accept the ingredients
The cauldrons of boiling water ready to accept the ingredients

 
 
 

The Chai station continuously churns out tea for pilgrims
The Chai station continuously churns out tea for pilgrims

 
 
 

The Roti/Bread churning station at the end of the day
The Roti/Bread churning station at the end of the day

 
 
 

The Kar Sevaks hand you the plate, katori and spoons as you enter for the prasad in the langar
The Kar Sevaks hand you the plate, katori and spoons as you enter for the prasad in the langar

 
 
 

The Langar buzzing with pilgrims for the 'prasad'
The Langar buzzing with pilgrims for the ‘prasad’

 
 
 

Cleaning : At least one place where Kar Sevaks' have yielded to automation
Cleaning : At least one place where Kar Sevaks’ have yielded to automation

 
 
 

The waste eliminated, the used plates fly into the bin
The waste eliminated, the used plates fly into the bin

 
 
 

The cleaning stations manned by Kar sevaks get the plates, spoons and katoris ready for reuse
The cleaning stations manned by Kar sevaks get the plates, spoons and katoris ready for reuse

 
 
 

They get stacked for reuse, and get there the very next moment
They get stacked for reuse, and get there the very next moment

 
 
 
Around the Golden Temple

In and around the temple : All gurus that you can have
In and around the temple : All gurus that you can have

 
 
 

In and around the temple : All that you need for a Shabad
In and around the temple : All that you need for a Shabad

 
 
 

All the papads that you want to carry
All the papads that you want to carry

 
 
 

At a distance, also you find the alluring, swanky Capucchino joints
At a distance, also you find the alluring, swanky Capucchino joints

 
 
 

Golden Temple is about five hundred kilometers from Delhi and it takes about ten hours to drive. You have all kinds of trains and buses running and you should be able to book in advance, or even get a seat on the bus if you arrive at the bus station any time.

If you are going to visit any Gurudwara

a. Kindly dress yourself very modestly
b. You need to make sure that your head is covered
c. Be silent and make sure you add to the tranquility of the place

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