Golden Temple

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India >> Punjab >> Amritsar >> Attractions >> Golden Temple

Golden Temple

History

Standing in the centre of a large tank, Amrit Sarovar, the Golden Temple is the most beautiful aspect of Amritsar.

The city of Amritsar was built around the Golden Temple and the Amrit Sarovar Lake, from which it derives its name. Originally named Sri Harmandir Sahib, the temple complex is surrounded by a fortified wall with eighteen gates and has its main north entrance under a Victorian clock tower known as the Darshani Deori. The entrance is up a flight of steps and down again to the temple and holy tank.

The Golden Temple sits on a rectangular platform in the centre of the Amrit Sarovar. It is surrounded by a white marble corridor, through which pilgrims visiting the shrine walk, circumnavigating the temple. A narrow causeway links the Harmandir, or Darbar Sahib, as the temple is also called. The entrance to the temple is through an ornate archway with intricate inlay work, inscribed with verses from the Granth Sahib.

The temple building is three storeys high and is crowned with a dome shaped like an inverted lotus. The lower storey is in white marble, while the two upper storeys have gold plating. The temple has four entrances instead of the usual single entry, symbolic of the openness of Sikhism and the fact that followers of all faiths are welcome here. The walls within are decorated with carved wooden panels and elaborate inlay work in silver and gold.

The Akal Takht, next to the Golden Temple, is the seat of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, the religious governing body of the Sikhs. The building of the Akal Takht was begun by Guru Arjan Dev and was finally completed in 1609 by Guru Hargobind.

The Adi Granth (the immortal scripture), compiled by Guru Arjan Dev was installed in 1604 in the temple and today rests on a throne beneath a jewel-encrusted canopy. It is housed in the Akal Takht and is taken out in procession every morning to be placed at the Harmandir where priests continuously recite verses from the holy book in 3-hour shifts after which it is brought back to the Akal Takht at night. A complete reading of the text takes 48 hours.

Shrines on the northern edge of the corridor are venerated as the 68 holy shrines of the Hindus. According to the teachings of Guru Arjan Dev, it was enough for the devout to visit these shrines and not visit all the original Hindu shrines which are distributed across India. Many of these shrines have now been converted into a martyr’s gallery showing the gruesome history of the Sikhs. Around the Parikrama, or pathway, are four rectangular cubicles where Granthis (priests) sit and recite the Granth Sahib. Pilgrims leave offerings at the steps, and can also get the holy book recited in their names for a donation.

Facilities within the Golden Temple complex include a number of private books and music stores selling religious literature and music and souvenir shops for the tourists.

The Rajasansi Airport is a 45 minute ride by taxi to the Golden Temple and the railway station is just about 15 minutes away. Taxis and auto rickshaws are easily available at the station, and from the airport it is possible to hire taxi.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit the temple is in the winter months (October to March) when the weather is pleasant and it even gets cold here. However the winter months are the best suited for sightseeing. Summers should be avoided as it can get blisteringly hot. An early morning or late night visit to the temple is special as the atmosphere is serene and very peaceful.

Trivia

It is believed that the Jubi tree, at the northwestern corner of the complex, was planted some 450 years ago by the temple’s first head priest. The old, gnarled tree is believed to have special powers and childless women tie strips of cloth on it to be blessed with sons.

A myth dating many years ago, says that a dip in the holy water of the Sarovar surrounding the Golden Temple can cure people of many ailments. Years ago a leper took a dip in the holy water and got cured of his leprosy.

Timing

The temple remains open on all days and can be visited from 4:00 am to 10:00 pm in the summer months and 5:00 am to 9:00 pm in winter months.


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