Golden Temple Amritsar – History & Overview

Golden temple is also known as ‘Harmandir Sahib’. Harmandir is a combination of two words ‘Har’ as God and ‘Mandir’ as Temple. Sahib is a word to express respect. Golden Temple is located in City Amritsar (Punjab, India).

Golden Temple Amritsar
Golden Temple Amritsar (Source: Flickr)

History

The story of Golden Temple is connected with the ‘Pool of Nectar’ which surrounds the Golden Temple building. This is the story of Rajni, Daughter of Raja Duni Chand. One day Raja Duni Chand brought some gifts for his all three daughter. The two daughters praised her father for the gifts. But Rajni was devotee of Guru and had blind faith in supreme power of God. She praised God for the gifts and said that gifts were actually sent by God, her father was only the medium to deliver those gifts. Raja got angry after hearing this and made his daughter marry a patient of leprosy. But Rajni believed in God and accepted the things life gave her.

She started struggling for the treatment of her husband. One day she placed the basket containing her husband on the bank of a pool and went away for some task. Her husband saw that some crows were plunging into the water of that pool and coming out converted into a white bird. He too plunged into the water and came out turning into young man with all diseases cured. Since that time, the pool is popularly to be known as ‘Pool of Nectar’.

Guru Amardas, 3rd Guru planned to dig the Holy Tank in 1573. But the guidelines were handed over to 4th Guru, Guru Ramdas to execute the plan. Guru Ramdas executed things as per the plan with the help of experienced and intelligent assistant Baba Budhha. Along with the planning of Holy Tank, Guru Ramdas established a small town in 1577. Which is now a beautiful & Tourist city with the name of Amritsar.

Fifth Guru of Sikhs Guru “Arjan Dev” designed the layout of the building to be built in the centre of pool. Guru especially invited Muslim Saint Hazrat Mian Mir of Lahore to lay the foundation of Golden Temple. Upon the construction of building, Guru Arjan installed ‘Adi Granth’ inside Golden Temple. ‘Adi Granth’ is Holy Book of Sikhism with latest name of ‘Guru Granth Sahib’. With the vision to make common place of worship for Sikhs & people from other religions as well. Guru Arjan built the building one step lower than the surrounding areas to emphasize humility and encourage one to eliminate ego before entering premises. The layout was designed with four doors at all four directions with the vision to allow entrance to people from all religions, sex and casts. With continues efforts, Guru Arjan declared Amritsar as a primary Sikh pilgrimage Destination. Thus ‘Harmandir Sahib’ started to be considered as the ‘Temple of God’.

Destruction of Golden Temple in Mughal Era

Golden Temple faced many destructive events in history. But every time it was gradually rebuilt by Sikhs. Below are the major historic events this place faced:

  • In 1737, the Mughal governor ordered the capture of the custodian of the Golden Temple named Mani Singh and executed him. He appointed Masse Khan as the police commissioner who then occupied the Temple and converted it into his entertainment center with dancing girls. He befouled the pool. Sikhs avenged the sacrilege of the Golden Temple by assassinating Masse Khan inside the Temple in August 1740.
  • In 1746, another Lahore official Diwan Lakhpat Rai working for Yahiya Khan, and seeking revenge for the death of his brother, filled the pool with sand. In 1749, Sikhs restored the pool when Muin ul-Mulk slackened Mughal operations against Sikhs and sought their help during his operations in Multan.
  • In 1757, the Afghani ruler Ahmad Shah Durrani, also known as Ahmad Shah Abdali, attacked Amritsar and desecrated the Golden Temple. He had waste poured into the pool along with entrails of slaughtered cows, before departing for Afghanistan. The Sikhs restored it again.
  • In 1762, Ahmad Shah Durrani returned and had the Golden Temple blown up with gunpowder. Sikhs returned and celebrated Diwali in its premises. In 1764, Baba Jassa Singh Ahluwalia collected donations to rebuild the Golden Temple. A new main gateway (Darshani Deorhi), causeway and sanctum were completed in 1776, while the floor around the pool was completed in 1784. The Sikhs also completed a canal to bring in fresh water from Ravi River for the pool.

History of Golden Temple attack in 1984 – Operation BlueStar

The violence took place at Amritsar was in 1984. This was a political clash actually, when troops of Indian Army attacked Golden Temple complex on the orders of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. This violent political clash is known as the ‘Operation Blue Star’. Many innocent Sikhs were killed in Golden Temple complex for no reason. The purpose of this operation was to evacuate extremists from the complex. Reports says that more than 1200 people killed in this operation. This attack damaged Akal Takhat, which was gradually repaired after the attack.

How many times Golden Temple was destroyed?

Golden Temple was destroyed twice as history says. Once by Mughal invaders in 16th century and second time it was destroyed by Indian army troops on the orders of Indian Prime Minister. But it was gradually repaired & rebuilt both the times.

Story of Gold work on Temple

In 18th century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh (Sikh Emperor in Punjab) covered the Dome and inner part of building with Gold plates. Thus the name derived Golden Temple. It is said that Ranjit Singh donated about 100kg of Gold to cover the building. Later on it increased to about 750kg, which covers the whole building (inside & outside both).

Later on British emperors started visiting Amritsar frequently. The British resident, H.M. Lawrence issued an order in 1847 asking English people to visit Sikh centres by following the Sikh protocols. Train service started between Lahore and Amritsar in 1862. The 1st Sikh college was established in 1892 with the name ‘Khalsa College’. Guru Nanak University was established in 1969 to expand education. British declared Amritsar a ‘Holy City’ in 1915.