The Golden Temple also referred to as Darbar Sahib or Harmandir Sahib is the holiest of the Sikh shrines. Its construction started in 1577 during the time of the third guru and finished in 1604 during the time of the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Dass.
The Golden Temple today stands in the middle of a large gurdwara complex and is dotted by buildings on all sides. This includes Akal Takht, Clock Tower and the building housing the public kitchen. The gold covered Golden Temple is surrounded by a water tank – Amrit Sarovar, which is considered holy with a healing touch. This Sarovar is fed water from the Ravi river. In fact, Amritsar gets its name from this Sarovar.
Golden Temple is an enchanting blend of Hindu and Islamic architectures with an elegant marble lower level adorned with flower and animal motifs in pietra dura work.The second level has gold engraved panels against the walls and on the top is a dome gilded with 750 Kgs of gold. The inner sanctum is occupied by the priests and musicians who are continuously chanting from the Guru Granth Sahib, adding sanctity to otherwise spiritually intense atmosphere.Thousands of devotees pass by the sanctum every minute, one is only likely to get a few minutes to experience the spiritual peace.
Every morning the holy book – the Guru Granth Sahib is installed in the temple and returned at night to the Akal Takht, the temporal seat of the Sikhs. During the installation and return, small ceremonies are performed, marking the importance of the occasion. These ceremonies are performed at 4.00am and 10.30pm in summer and 5.00am and 9.30pm in the winter.
Public Kitchen @ Guru Ramdas Langar Hall
In Guru Ramdas Langar Hall at Sri Harmandir Sahib, a building at the edge of the parikarama is a kitchen that feeds 100,000 people daily, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week for free. During the festivals and Kar Seva the numbers can go well beyond 100,000. It is one of the world’s largest community kitchens and has now geared itself to serve the Organic food. People gather in the langar’s main hallway to eat their meal. Everyone, regardless of faith, background or gender, sits on the floor as equals. The food is strictly vegetarian.
The Akal Takht – meaning the throne of the timeless one, is one of five takhts (seats of power) of the Sikh religion. The Akal Takht was built by Guru Hargobind as a place of justice and consideration of temporal issues; the highest seat of earthly authority of the Khalsa (the collective body of the Sikhs) and the place of the Jathedar, the highest spokesman of the Sikhs.
Akal Takht is a symbol of political sovereignty and where spiritual and temporal concerns of the Sikh people could be addressed. Along with Baba Buddha and Bhai Gurdas, the sixth Sikh Guru built a 9 foot high concrete slab. When Guru Hargobind revealed the platform on 15 June 1606, he put on two swords: one indicated his spiritual authority (piri) and the other, his temporal authority (miri)
Central Sikh Museum
The museum was established in 1958 at Amritsar and exhibits oil paintings of Sikh gurus and saints and also that of the Sikh warriors who protected the Sikh religion from its enemies. The museum has a rich collection of coins, old arms and ancient manuscripts. It also houses an excellent library.
The paintings of the great artists who have contributed to the sikh art, Amolak Singh, Thakur Singh, Parbodh Chandra, S.Kirpal Singh, Sobha Singh, Gurdit Singh and Phulan Rani are exhibited there
The wooden comb (Kangha) of Guru Gobind Singh, Arrows and Bow, Iron Chakras (circles) worn on the turban by warriors and an iron jacket made of wires (Sanjoe) are exhibited there. Also preserved are musical instruments like Saranda of Baba Sham Singh and other rare stringed instruments. The Museum also contains guns of Sikh Raj, Wooden Canopy supporters covered with silver of Maharaja Ranjit Singh times
Art & Architecture
Sikhism at its very inception took the best of Hinduism and Islam and forged a new faith that was liberal and treated all humans alike. Its gurus have been driving this point through its preaching and through the architecture designs of its places of worship. Some of the features of the architectural designs of Golden Temple are symbolic of the religion’s determination to drive its ideals – One God, equality of all and the importance of acceptance and openness. The Golden Temple has four entrances instead of one as traditionally used to be those days. Instead of the normal custom of building a gurdwara 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.
All the domes of Golden Temple, inner walls, the door panels exhibit gold work. Special designs have been given to the copper sheets and then they have been covered with gold leaves. This work is also on the inner roofs.
The beautiful designs depicting, birds, animals, flowers have been engraved in marble and then studded with colorful semi-precious stones, that come out to be a great artwork. In the artwork at Golden Temple, one can find life everywhere in shape of human beings, birds, animals and flowers.
There are three holy trees (bers), each signifies a historical event or a Sikh saint. Inside the gurdwara, there are many memorial plaques that commemorate past Sikh historical events, saints and martyrs, including commemorative inscriptions of all the Sikh soldiers who died fighting in World War I and World War II.
The Darshani Deorhi is 6.2 meters (20.3 ft) high and 6 meters (20 ft) in width and stands at the beginning of the causeway to the Golden Temple. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a major donor of wealth and materials to the gold plating on the Golden Temple that was finished in 1830. As matter of fact much of the fine artwork in gold and marble, inside and outside the temple was done under his patronage dating back to the early 19th century.
The artists @ Chic Wall (chicwall.in) have created magnificent oil paintings of the Golden Temple, illustrating its grandeur during different times in the history and establishing its purity. Some of these oil paintings have very imaginatively captured its reflection in the sarovar and exude spiritualism and divinity that encompasses the temple as it stands.