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|| Golden Temple....Revisited ||

This is a discussion on || Golden Temple....Revisited || within the Spirituality forums, part of the Roots and Culture category; Harmandir Sahib, meaning "Temple of God" or "Golden Temple", also Darbar Sahib , is one of the holiest shrines and ...

Old 05-12-2010
|| Golden Temple....Revisited ||

Harmandir Sahib, meaning "Temple of God" or "Golden Temple", also Darbar Sahib, is one of the holiest shrines and most culturally significant places of worship for Sikhs, as well as one of the oldest gurdwaras. The Guru Ram Das Ji founded the city of Amritsar, meaning "pool of the nectar of immortality", in the 16th century, naming it for the waters amidst which the Harmandir Sahib was constructed. An active place of worship for Sikhs, the Harmandir Sahib is also one of India's major tourist destinations.

Originally built during AD 1574, the site of the temple 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, at 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".

During the leadership of the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji (1581–1606), the full-fledged Temple was built. In December 1588 the great Muslim Sufi saint of Lahore, Hazrat Mian Mir, a close friend of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, was asked to lay the corner stone (December 1588). The story has been told that a mason then straightened the stone, to which Guru Arjan said, as you have just undone the work of such a holy man, who knows what disaster might come to the Harmandir Sahib.

This story has been used to offer a reason why the temple has been attacked so many times by the Afghans and Mughals and even Inspected by force by Indian Army in 1984, during Operation Bluestar.

The temple was completed in 1604. Guru Arjan Dev Ji, installed the Adi Granth in it and appointed Baba Buddha Ji as the first Granthi (Reader) of the temple on August 1604. In the mid-18th century it was attacked by one of Ahmed Shah Abdali's generals, Jahan Khan, and his Afghan military forces, and had to be substantially rebuilt in the 1760s. However, in response a Sikh Army was sent to hunt down the Afghan force. Both forces met each other 5 miles outside Amritsar where Jahan Khan's army was defeated, and Jahan Khan himself is believed to have been killed by Sardar Dayal Singh.

The golden plates which cover the exterior of the Gurdwara's upper floor and domes, as well as its exquisite marblework was done under the patronage of Maharaja Ranjit Singh the leader of the Sikh Empire of the Punjab. Also called Sher-e-Punjab (Lion of the Punjab), the Maharaja was a heavy donor of wealth and materials for the shrine and is remembered with much affection by the Punjabi people in general and the Sikh community in particular. The gold and exquiste marblework originally decorated the many Mughal buildings and monuments in the then Punjab capital of Lahore, many Mughal buildings were stripped of these precious materials during the Sikh period. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was responsible for a renaissance of many Gurdwaras damaged or destroyed during Mughal rule, including many new Gurdwaras as well. Two of the other most revered temples of the Sikhs were built to honor the memory of Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Maharaja Ranjit Singh's deep love of and respect for the 10th Guru lead to his having both the Takht Sri Patna Sahib (Built at the birth place of Guru Gobind Singh Ji) and the Takht Sri Hazur Sahib (the place where Guru Gobind Singh Ji died).

The arch of the Darshani Deorhi opens onto the causeway which leads to the sanctum sanctorum of the Harmandir Sahib; it is 202 feet (62 m) high and 21 feet (6 m) in width. Facing the arch stands the Akal Takht. Hari Singh Nalwa, the Commander-in-Chief of the Sikh Kingdom, wished to make the Akal Takht resplendent with gold and had donated a part of his wealth for this purpose. He also donated a golden palki for the carriage of the Guru Granth Sahib. None of the existing golden palkis in the Harmandir Sahib date back to the 1830s. It was, in all probability, destroyed during Operation Blue Star. Hukam Singh Chimni also contributed to the embellishments at the Harmandir Sahib.

The temple is surrounded by a large Sarovar (manmade lake), known as the AmritSar (Lake of Holy Water or Immortal Nectar). There are entrances to the temple on all four sides, signifying the importance of acceptance and openness; ostensibly, this concept is reminiscent of the tent of Abraham in the Old Testament—his tent was open on all four sides in order to be able to welcome travelers from all directions. Inside the temple complex there are many shrines to past Sikh Gurus, Saints and martyrs. There are three holy trees (Bers) each associated with a historical event or Sikh saint. Inside the temple 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 the two World Wars. For a new visitor the first recommended place to visit is the information Office highlighted on the map and followed by visiting the Sikh Central museum near the main entrance called the Ghanta Ghar Deori (clock tower gate). Anyone who wants to enter the Harmandir Sahib may do so, irrespective of religion, colour, creed or sex. The only restrictions are that the person must not drink alcohol, eat meat or smoke cigarettes or use other non prescription drugs while in the shrine. Visitors are, as well, expected to dress appropriately and everyone must cover their heads as a sign of respect, remove their shoes and socks and enter the temple barefooted. Visitors must wash their feet in the small pool of water as they enter the Harmandir Sahib premises. Head scarves are provided.

One of the most important festivals is Vaisakhi, which is celebrated in the second week of April (13th usually). Sikhs celebrate the founding of the Khalsa on this day and it is celebrated with fervour in the Harmandir Sahib. Other important Sikh religious days such as the martyrdom day of Guru Teg Bahadur, birthday of Guru Nanak etc., are also celebrated with religious piety. Similarly Diwali is one of the festivals which sees the Harmandir Sahib beautifully illuminated with Divas/Diyas (lamps),lights and fireworks are discharged. During these special wedding occasions 1-2 million pilgrims visit the Holy shrine named Harmandir Sahib.

Most Sikh people visit Amritsar and the Harmandir Sahib at least once during their lifetime, particularly during special occasions such as birthdays, marriage, birth of children, etc.

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