The Golden Temple is a prominent Sikh gurdwara or place of worship located in the city of Amritsar, in northern Punjab, India. More locally known as the Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple was so known because of its upper floors being covered with gold, giving it its golden appearance. It sits beside a pool of fresh and clear water, further giving it an appearance of even becoming a more imposing temple that basks its golden sheen on its reflection. It is also considered as the central place of worship for Sikhs all over the world and is an area for pilgrimage among Sikh believers.
Golden Temple History
Harmandir Sahib literally means the Temple of God and not as the Golden Temple. History states that it started when the fourth guru of Sikhism, Guru Ram Das, excavated a tank or pool of water sometime in 1577 CE which eventually was known as Amritsar. The name also applied to the city that grew around the pool. Over time a temple called Harmandir Sahib rose from the middle of the tank and became the spiritual center for Sikhism.
The temple was originally built in 1574 where the temple was surrounded by a small lake and a thin forest, of which Guru Ram Das enlarged the lake from where a township then grew. But the full-fledged temple was built during the time of the fifth guru, Guru Arjan Dev who laid the first stone foundation for the temple. The temple was eventually completed in 1604 but went through a series of attacks which damaged it. The temple then had to be substantially rebuilt in the 1760’s. The golden appearance of the temple was a result of an addition of marble and gold facing to the upper floors of the temple as ordered by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the 19th century when he was able to secure the entire Punjab region from outside attack. It was only during the time that the Harmandir Sahib became known for its English name as the Golden Temple.
Golden Temple Features
The Golden Temple is surrounded by a large lake that is known as the Samovar. The temple also features four different entrances to signify that the temple is open as a place of worship for people of all races, religions and from all walks of life. The temple was constructed as a place intended for all people to worship God equally.
Some of the architectural features of the Golden Temple were designed according to certain Sikh beliefs and worldview philosophy. Instead of the usual temple being built on high land, the Golden Temple was built lower than the surrounding land that requires people to enter the temple by going down the steps. And with its view on equality and openness to people of all classes, races and religions, the temple was built having four entrances instead of just one.
The temple can be approached from a causeway. The Darshani Deorhi Arch stands at the starting point going towards the Harmandir Sahib. It stands 202feet or 62 meters high and 21 feet or 6 meters wide. Inside the temple complex, there are many shrines built for past Sikh gurus, martyrs and saints.