Golden Temple

Golden Temple

Located in the city of Amritsar, “Sri Harmandir Sahib’, more popularly known as ‘Golden Temple’ and many times referred to as Sri Darbar Sahib. It is one of the most revered spiritual sites in Sikhism.

Golden Temple

Location: Amritsar, Punjab
in Hindi: Swarn Mandir
Also Known As: The Harmindar Sahib

Golden Temple (in Hindi called, Swarn Mandir) gets its name due to its gold foil covered sanctum centre. Its other name “The Harmindar Sahib, also spelt as Harimandir, is composed of two words- Hari (God) and Mandir (Temple); the temple of God. It is also called Sri Darbar Sahib which means “sacred audience”.

The temple is ‘gurdwara’ in Punjabi, meaning “door to the guru” where people of all faiths are welcome. Though it is a gurudwara, people from all religions and faith are welcome here.

Golden Temple
The gold dome at the Golden Temple, Amritsar.

The History of Golden Temple:

Guru Amar Das, the third Guru of the Sikh tradition asked his disciple Ram Das to find suitable land to build a new town with a man-made pool as its central point. When Guru Amar Das became the 4th guru in 1574, he started working on constructing the pool with the help of Baba Buddha. The pool called Amrita Saras or Amrit Sarovar (Amrit means nectar, Saras/Sarovar means pool) formed the basis for the township that was developed around it in 1577. It was initially known as “Ramdaspur” after the 4th Sikh guru. The township got renamed Amritsar, basis Amrit Saras (Amrit + Sar short form for Sarovar).

Guru Arjan Dev, the Fifth Nanak, not only conceived the idea of creating a central place of worship for the Sikhs around this pool, Amrit Sarovar but also designed it. The construction work started in 1581 which got completed in 1589.

Guru Arjan Dev compiled the ‘Guru Granth Sahib’, which is the main religious scripture of Sikhism. It is also known as Adi Granth, and regarded by Sikhs, as the final, sovereign and eternal Guru following the lineage of the 10 human gurus of the Sikh Panth. The holy book consists of 1,430 pages, most of which is divided into 31 ragas. On 1st September 1604, Guru Arjan Dev installed this Adi Granth inside the Golden Temple. He also appointed Baba Buddha as the first Granthi of the Golden Temple.

The Golden Temple was viewed by the Mughal and Afghan rulers as the centre of the Sikh faith and it remained the main target of persecution. After Mughal Emperor Jahangir tortured and executed Guru Arjan Dev in 1606, his son and successor Guru Hargobind left Amritsar and moved into the Shivalik Hills to avoid persecution and to save the Sikh Panth. Following Guru Arjan’s martyrdom, the Golden Temple was not occupied by the actual Sikh Gurus and for about 100 years, it remained in hostile sectarian hands. It was plundered and desecrated multiple times in the 18th century.

Finally in 1802, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, at the age of 22, took control of Amritsar in his hands. After paying his respect at the Golden Temple, he decided to renovate the temple. The Temple was renovated with marble and copper in 1809. In the year Maharaja Ranjit Singh donated gold to cover the sanctum with gold foil. He decided to make the position of temple officials hereditary.

Golden Temple
Panoramic image of the Golden Temple, Amritsar

Architecture, Construction & Reconstruction:

The construction of the Shri Harmindar Sahib Gurudwara was initiated by Guru Arjan Dev in 1581. It was his idea that, unlike traditional Hindu temples, Harmandir Sahib, should be built at a level lower than the city to emphasize humility before entering the premises. He stressed the need to do away with one’s ego before entering the premises to meet the Guru. Similarly, unlike Hindu Temples having only one gate for the entrance and exit, Guru Arjan Dev wanted the temple to be open on all four sides. Thus he expounded Sikhism as a symbol of a new faith, which is accessible to every person without any distinction of caste, creed, sex and religion. There is only one bridge in the pool that goes to the sanctum – the seat of his Guru. This highlights that the end goal for everyone is one. The gurudwara made with bricks was completed in 1589. After the inauguration, the water was filled in the pool. The original design was open with many trees around the pool.

Since the Golden Temple was rebuilt and restored multiple times, its architecture reflects different architectural practices prevalent in the Indian subcontinent. The Temple has a mixture of Indo-Islamic Mughal and Hindu Rajput architecture.

Currently, The Golden Temple complex is a walled structure with four entrances, one in each of the 4 directions. The sanctum is built on a 67 square feet platform in the centre of the Sarovar. The main temple itself is built in an area of 40 square feet. There is a Darshani Deori (an arch) at the shore end of the bridge. It has a door frame about 10 feet high and 8.5 feet wide. The door panels are decorated with artistic style. It opens onto the bridge that leads to the main building of Sri Harmandir Sahib. Its length is 202 feet and its width is 21 feet.

            The bridge is connected to a 13 feet wide marble path, which runs around the main shrine and is used for ‘pradakshna’ (circumambulation) in a clockwise direction. This path leads ‘Har ki Pauri’ (steps of God), where there is a granthi who does a continuous reading of the Guru Granth Sahib. The front side of the temple, facing the bridge, is decorated with repeated cusped arches.

On the upper floor in the sanctum, there is a gallery. The arches include verses from the Sikh scripture, which are inscribed in gold letters. The stair walls have murals of Sikh Gurus like riding a horse carrying a falcon on his shoulders.

At the top of the first floor, there is a 4 feet high parapet wall on all 4 sides, with 4 ‘Mamtees’ on the 4 corners. There is a small square room exactly on the top of the central hall. Here also, a regular recitation of Guru Granth Sahib is held. On the top of this room, there is a low ‘Gumbaz’ (dome) with a beautiful “Chhatri” at the end.

There are 3 Ber trees, which are preserved inside the temple complex. The most important of these trees is the ‘Ber Baba Buddha’. This tree is located on the right of the main ghanta ghar deori entrance with the clock. It is believed that it was this Ber tree, under which Baba Buddha used to sit to supervise the construction of the pool and the first temple. Another important tree is called the ‘Laachi Ber’. This is believed to be the tree under which Guru Arjan Dev used to rest, while the temple was under construction. The third one is called Dukh Bhanjani Ber. This tree is located on the other side of the sanctum, across the pool and is believed to be the spot, where a Sikh patient suffering from leprosy was cured after taking a dip in the pool, thus giving the tree the epithet of “remover of sufferings”. Under this tree, there is a small gurudwara, which as per Sikh belief gives fruits equal to visiting 68 pilgrimages in India. Hence, it is called ‘Ath Sath Tirath’ (68 pilgrimages). For devotees, who wish to take a dip in the pool, there is a half hexagonal shelter and holy steps to ‘Har ki Pauri’ (steps of God).

As per the belief, taking a bath in the pool has restorative powers, and purifies a person’s soul. Some people even carry this water, in bottles, for their sick friends and relatives. The pool is maintained by volunteers, who drain it and de-silt it regularly. Hence volunteers are called kar-sevaks, and this service is called ‘kar-seva’. Many rich people are also involved in this kar-seva and other seva at gurudwara, like polishing shoes, serving in langars etc.

Opposite the temple, facing the bridge is the ‘Akal Takht’ (throne of the timeless). It is the chief centre of Sikhism. On the east side of the pool is the Assembly Hall and the Guru Ram Das Langar, a large dining hall that serves meals to thousands of pilgrims and other visitors each day. A flour-based sweet (called Karah Prasad) is offered to the devotees at the Prasada facility, which is located at the path leading away from the sanctum.

Inside the Golden Temple
Prayer session in the Golden Temple

The Daily Ceremonies:

As per the historic Sikh traditions, the scripture is treated as a living person, a Guru out of respect. Two following main ceremonies are performed every day in the Golden Temple:

•           Every day, at dawn, the Guru Granth Sahib is taken out of its bedroom, carried on the head, placed and carried in a flower-decorated palki across the bridge to the sanctum. Chanting and sounding of bigul accompanies this palki. After performing the daily rituals, a random page is opened. This is the mukhwak (main sentence) for that day. This is read aloud and then written on the board for the pilgrims to read over that day. This entire ceremony is called Prakash, which means light. 

•           The closing ceremony is called Sukhasan (Sukh means “comfort or rest”, aasan means “position”). At night, after a series of devotional kirtans and ardaas, the Guru Granth Sahib is closed, carried on the head, placed into and then carried in a flower-decorated, palki, with chanting hymens. It is taken to the Akal Takht, to its bedroom on the first floor. Then the scripture is tucked into the bed.

How to Reach:

  • By Air: The nearest airport is Sri Guru Ramdass International airport at Amritsar, which is at a distance of 13 km. There are regular flights from all major cities to Amritsar. One can easily get a taxi from there to reach the golden temple.
  • By Train: The nearest railway station is Amritsar, which is only 2 km away. Amritsar is well connected to all the major cities through a rail network. 
  • By Road: Amritsar is well-connected to all major cities through a road network. There are bus services available that connect Amritsar with all nearby cities. The major cities nearby are: Jalandhar (75 km), Jammu (122 km), Ludhiana (123 km), Shimla (300 km), Dehradun (440 km), and Delhi (450 km). There are both government and private buses to reach the temple.

Best Time to visit:

The summer temperature is very high in Amritsar, while in summers the temperature dips to a very low during the winters. So, the best months to visit Amritsar are from October to March.

The doors of the golden temple are opened at 4:00 am & it stays open up to 10:00 pm. While weekdays are less crowded, Golden temple is full on weekends. The best time to visit is to attend morning or evening time ardaas.

Important things while visiting Golden Temple:

  1. Remove your footwear before entering the temple premises.
  2. Wash your feet in a small pool of water as you enter.
  3. Cover your head with a handkerchief (for men) and dupatta (for women). In case, you are not carrying one, the gurudwara provides a head covering, which you may use and return while leaving
  4. Though there is no dress code, but short dresses not allowed. Devotees are expected to dress moderately.
  5. Devotees are expected not to consume alcohol, drugs, or non-veg, or even smoke while inside the temple premise.
  6. Have patience. Do not break the line.
  7. If possible, plan your visit in such a way that it coincides with the daily afternoon ‘langar’, which means fee lunch.

Important links:

Official Website:

Final words:

Golden Temple among the must-see religious place in India. It has a great significance for people belonging to the Hindu and Sikh community.


Q. 1: What is Shri Harminder Sahib popularly known as?

Ans: Golden Temple at Amritsar

Q. 2: What is the meaning of Harmandir?

Ans: The word ‘Hari means god, and ‘mandir’ means home. So, Harmandir means, home of the god’

Q. 3: Who was the first granthi of Golden Temple?

Ans: Baba Buddha

Q. 4: What is the significance of Amrit Sarovar at Golden Temple?

Ans: The water of the Amrit Sarovar is believed to have restorative powers, and purifies a person’s soul.

Q. 5: What are the other names of the Golden Temple?

Ans: Shri Harminder Sahib or Shri Darbar Sahib

Golden Temple
Layout of the Golden Temple

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