The Golden Temple, located at the city of Amritsar is a symbol of the principles of Sikhism. It is one of the important pilgrimage sites in India and is a must visit place in any north India pilgrimage. Traditionally known as The Harmandir Sahib meaning the temple of Hari or the Supreme God, it is known for its beautiful architecture. Sikh pilgrimage is considered incomplete without a visit to this magnificent temple.
The exterior of the temple, which stands in the middle of a square tank, is gold-plated. To reach the Temple one must go through the Pool of Nectar. It is unique in the sense that it has doorways on all four sides, meant to be open for the people of the all four castes.
The temple's design is said to have been borrowed from the shrine of Saint Mian Mir, near Lahore, which was then reconstructed by Ranjit Singh. Its splendid architecture,
considered to be a combination of both Hindu and Muslim influences, is all the more beautiful with traditional carvings. It was built to create one of the central places of worship in India for the Sikhs.
After approving the design, Guru Arjan Dev laid the foundation of The Golden Temple in 1588. His followers settled down nearby and the town of Ramdaspur was born. Later, its name was changed to Amritsar as the Hari Mandir was in the center of a holy pond or the Amrit Sarovar.
Guru Nanak lived and meditated by the side of this holy pond. Originally it was a small pond in the midst of a forest. After his death, this was enlarged as devotees continued to throng the place of this philosopher saint. The Sikhs were involved in protecting both their religion and their temple against the Muslims. Inspite of the ruins on the invasion of Muslim armies the Sikhs managed to rebuild it. After 1767, the Sikhs became strong enough to tackle invaders. The temple regained its peace.
The holy tank was planned by Guru Amar Das but its construction was under the supervision of Baba Budhaji. The native zamindars donated land free of cost for the site of the temple. Amritsar was the spiritual capital of the first Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
The temple was further beautified with the embossed plates being gilded with precious stones. Also, the pietra dura was renewed and the ceilings were embellished with the mirror and floral designs.
Amidst the temple is the Adi Granth, which has the scriptures of the Sikhs. Placed on a jewel-studded platform it has a collection of devotional poem, prayers and hymns composed by all the ten Sikh gurus and also various Hindu and Muslim saints. Pilgrims bathe in the holy water to cleanse themselves of their souls rather than their bodies. There are several temple dormitories around the temple for free lodging including dining halls where people of any community, race or gender are given free food.
Amritsar is a city in itself, always growing and the Golden Temple adds to its pride with its divine sanctity. The majestic temple shines, with the gilded splendor of its paneling, dome and minarets shining in the morning light, royally shadowed in the holy water with the background of the city of Amritsar. The Sikh community regard the Harmandir Sahib Gurdwara Golden Temple as the final spiritual "vision"; where journey's end or begin and is one of the must visit holy Sikh pilgrimagesites for every other community too.