Golden Temple Rd, Amritsar, Punjab
Sri Harmandir Sahib (The abode of God) informally referred to as the “Golden Temple“, is the holiest Gurdwara of Sikhism, located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. Amritsar (literally, the tank of nectar of immortality) was founded in 1574 by the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das. The fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan, designed the Harmandir Sahib to be built in the center of this holy tank, and upon its construction, installed the Adi Granth, the holy scripture of Sikhism, inside the Harmandir Sahib. The Harmandir Sahib complex is also home to the Akal Takht (the throne of the timeless one, constituted by the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind). While the Harmandir Sahib is regarded as the abode of God’s spiritual attribute, the Akal Takht is the seat of God’s temporal authority.
The construction of Harmandir Sahib was intended to build a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life and all religions to come and worship God equally. Accordingly, as a gesture of this non-sectarian universalness of Sikhism, Guru Arjan had specially invited Muslim Sufi Saint, Sai Mian Mir to lay the foundation stone of the Harmandir Sahib. The four entrances (representing the four directions) to get into the Harmandir Sahib also symbolize the openness of the Sikhs towards all people and religions. Over 100,000 people visit the holy shrine daily for worship, and also partake jointly in the free community kitchen and meal (Langar) regardless of any distinctions, a tradition that is a hallmark of all Sikh Gurdwaras.
The present-day gurdwara was rebuilt in 1764 by Jassa Singh Ahluwalia with the help of other Sikh Misls. In the early nineteenth century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh secured the Punjab region from outside attack and covered the upper floors of the gurdwara with gold, which gives it its distinctive appearance and its English name.
Some of the architectural features of the Harmandir Sahib were intended to be symbolic of the Sikh world view. 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. In addition, instead of one entrance, Sri Harmandir Sahib has four entrances.
The gurdwara is surrounded by the Sarovar, a large lake or holy tank, which consists of Amrit (“holy water” or “immortal nectar”) and is fed by the Ravi River. There are four entrances to the gurdwara, signifying the importance of acceptance and openness. There are three holy trees (bers), each signifying a historical event or 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.
Much of the present decorative gilding and marblework dates from the early 19th century. All the gold and exquisite marble work were conducted under the patronage of Hukam Singh Chimni and Emperor Ranjit Singh, Maharaja of the Sikh Empire of the Punjab. The Darshani Deorhi Arch stands at the beginning of the causeway to the Harmandir Sahib; it is 6.2 metres (20.3 ft) high and 6 metres (20 ft) in width. The gold plating on the Harmandir Sahib was begun by Ranjit Singh and was finished in 1830. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a major donor of wealth and materials for the shrine.
The Golden Temple complex also houses the Akal Takht (the throne of the timeless one), built by the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind as an authority for administering justice and consideration of temporal issues. Within the complex, the Akal Takht constitutes a counterpoint with the holy shrine, in that the Harmandir Sahib is the abode of God’s spiritual attribute, and the Akal Takht is the seat of God’s temporal authority.
World’s largest soup kitchen
The Golden Temple is house of the world’s largest soup kitchen. According to Croatian Times can serve free food for up to 100,000 – 300,000 people every day. At the Langar (Kitchen), food is served to all visitors regardless of faith, religion, or background. Vegetarian food is often served to ensure that all people, even those with dietary restrictions, can eat together as equals. The institution of the Sikh langar, or free kitchen, was started by the first Sikh Guru (Prophet), Guru Nanak. It was designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender, or social status, a revolutionary concept in the caste-ordered society of 16th century India where Sikhism began. In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness, and oneness of all humankind. Every Sikh Gurdwara (shrine) serve Langar for everyone.
In keeping with the rule observed at all Sikh gurdwaras worldwide, the Harmandir Sahib is open to all persons regardless of their religion, colour, creed or gender. The only restrictions on the Harmandir Sahib’s visitors concern their behaviour when entering and while visiting:
Maintaining the purity of the sacred space and of one’s body while in it:
Upon entering the premises, removing one’s shoes (leaving them off for the duration of one’s visit) and washing one’s feet in the small pool of water provided;
Not drinking alcohol, eating meat, or smoking cigarettes or other drugs while in the shrine
Wearing a head covering (a sign of respect) (the gurdwara provides head scarves for visitors who have not brought a suitable covering);
Not wearing shoes (see above).
How to act:
When listening to Gurbani, one must also sit on the ground while in the Darbar Sahib as a sign of deference to both the Guru Granth Sahib and God.
First-time visitors are advised to begin their visit at the information office and then proceed to the Central Sikh Museum near the main entrance and clock tower.
Source : Wikipedia
Visiting hours: 02.16AM to 11.00PM all days of the week
Entry fee : Free