Golden Temple

Golden Temple

The Golden Temple (also known as Harmandir Sahib, meaning "abode of God" (Punjabi pronunciation: [ɦəɾᵊmən̪d̪əɾᵊ saːɦ(ɪ)bᵊ]) or Darbār Sahib, meaning "exalted court" (Punjabi pronunciation: [d̪əɾᵊbaːɾᵊ saːɦ(ɪ)bᵊ])) is a gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. It is the preeminent spiritual site of Sikhism.

The gurdwara is built around a man-made pool (sarovar) that was completed by the fourth Sikh Guru, Guru Ram Das in 1577. Guru Arjan, the fifth Guru of Sikhism, requested Sai Mir Mian Mohammed, a Muslim Pir of Lahore, to lay its foundation stone in 1589. In 1604, Guru Arjan placed a copy of the Adi Granth in Harmandir Sahib. The Gurdwara was repeatedly rebuilt by the S...Read more

The Golden Temple (also known as Harmandir Sahib, meaning "abode of God" (Punjabi pronunciation: [ɦəɾᵊmən̪d̪əɾᵊ saːɦ(ɪ)bᵊ]) or Darbār Sahib, meaning "exalted court" (Punjabi pronunciation: [d̪əɾᵊbaːɾᵊ saːɦ(ɪ)bᵊ])) is a gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. It is the preeminent spiritual site of Sikhism.

The gurdwara is built around a man-made pool (sarovar) that was completed by the fourth Sikh Guru, Guru Ram Das in 1577. Guru Arjan, the fifth Guru of Sikhism, requested Sai Mir Mian Mohammed, a Muslim Pir of Lahore, to lay its foundation stone in 1589. In 1604, Guru Arjan placed a copy of the Adi Granth in Harmandir Sahib. The Gurdwara was repeatedly rebuilt by the Sikhs after it became a target of persecution and was destroyed several times by the Mughal and invading Afghan armies. Maharaja Ranjit Singh after founding the Sikh Empire, rebuilt it in marble and copper in 1809, overlaid the sanctum with Gold foil in 1830. This has led to the name the Golden Temple.

The Golden Temple is spiritually the most significant shrine in Sikhism. It became a center of the Singh Sabha Movement between 1883 and 1920s, and the Punjabi Suba movement between 1947 and 1966. In the early 1980s, the Gurdwara became a center of conflict between the Indian government led by Indira Gandhi, some Radical Sikh groups and a movement led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. In 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi sent in the Indian Army as part of Operation Blue Star, leading to deaths of over 1,000 soldiers and civilians, as well as causing much damage to the Gurdwara and the destruction of Akal Takht. The Gurdwara complex was rebuilt again after the 1984 damage.

The Golden Temple is an open house of worship for all people, from all walks of life and faith. It has a square plan with four entrances, has a circumambulation path around the pool. The complex is a collection of buildings around the sanctum and the pool. One of these is Akal Takht, the chief center of religious authority of Sikhism. Additional buildings include a clock tower, the offices of Gurdwara Committee, a Museum and a langar – a free Sikh community run kitchen that serves a simple vegetarian meal to all visitors without discrimination. Over 100,000 people visit the holy shrine daily for worship. The Gurdwara complex has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its application is pending on the tentative list of UNESCO.

Interior of Darbar Sahib with gold encrusted walls featuring a golden chandelier

According to the Sikh historical records, the land that became Amritsar and houses the Harimandir Sahib was chosen by Guru Amar Das – the third Guru of the Sikh tradition. It was then called Guru Da Chakk, after he had asked his disciple Ram Das to find land to start a new town with a man-made pool as its central point.[1][2][3] After Guru Ram Das succeeded Guru Amar Das in 1574, and given the hostile opposition he faced from the sons of Guru Amar Das,[4] Guru Ram Das founded the town that came to be known as "Ramdaspur". He started by completing the pool with the help of Baba Buddha (not to be confused with the Buddha of Buddhism). Guru Ram Das built his new official centre and home next to it. He invited merchants and artisans from other parts of India to settle into the new town with him.[1]

Ramdaspur town expanded during the time of Guru Arjan financed by donations and constructed by voluntary work. The town grew to become the city of Amritsar, and the area grew into the temple complex).[5] The construction activity between 1574 and 1604 is described in Mahima Prakash Vartak, a semi-historical Sikh hagiography text likely composed in 1741, and the earliest known document dealing with the lives of all the ten Gurus.[6] Guru Arjan installed the scripture of Sikhism inside the new gurdwara in 1604.[7] Continuing the efforts of Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan established Amritsar as a primary Sikh pilgrimage destination. He wrote a voluminous amount of Sikh scripture including the popular Sukhmani Sahib.[8][9]

Maharaja Ranjit Singh listening to Guru Granth Sahib being recited near the Akal Takht and Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab, India.

Guru Ram Das acquired the land for the site. Two versions of stories exist on how he acquired this land. In one, based on a Gazetteer record, the land was purchased with Sikh donations of 700 rupees from the owners of the village of Tung. In another version, Emperor Akbar is stated to have donated the land to the wife of Guru Ram Das.[1][10]

In 1581, Guru Arjan initiated the construction of the Gurdwara.[11] During the construction the pool was kept empty and dry. It took 8 years to complete the first version of the Harmandir Sahib. Guru Arjan planned a gurdwara at a level lower than the city to emphasise humility and the need to efface one's ego before entering the premises to meet the Guru.[11] He also demanded that the gurdwara compound be open on all sides to emphasise that it was open to all. The sanctum inside the pool where his Guru seat was had only one bridge to emphasise that the end goal was one, states Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair.[11] In 1589, the gurdwara made with bricks was complete. Guru Arjan is believed by some later sources to have invited the Sufi saint Mian Mir of Lahore to lay its foundation stone, signalling pluralism and that the Sikh tradition welcomed all.[11] This belief is however unsubstantiated.[12][13] According to Sikh traditional sources such as Sri Gur Suraj Parkash Granth it was laid by Guru Arjan himself.[14] After the inauguration, the pool was filled with water. On 16 August 1604, Guru Arjan completed expanding and compiling the first version of the Sikh scripture and placed a copy of the Adi Granth in the gurdwara. He appointed Baba Buddha as the first Granthi.[15]

Ath Sath Tirath, which means "shrine of 68 pilgrimages", is a raised canopy on the parkarma (circumambulation marble path around the pool).[16][17][18] The name, as stated by W. Owen Cole and other scholars, reflects the belief that visiting this temple is equivalent to 68 Hindu pilgrimage sites in the Indian subcontinent, or that a Tirath to the Golden Temple has the efficacy of all 68 Tiraths combined.[19][20] The completion of the first version of the Golden Temple was a major milestone for Sikhism, states Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair, because it provided a central pilgrimage place and a rallying point for the Sikh community, set within a hub of trade and activity.[11]

The Golden Temple at night
Mughal Empire era destruction and rebuilding

The growing influence and success of Guru Arjan drew the attention of the Mughal Empire. Guru Arjan was arrested under the orders of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir and asked to convert to Islam.[21] He refused, was tortured and executed in 1606 CE.[21][22][23] Guru Arjan's son and successor Guru Hargobind left Amritsar and moved into the Shivalik Hills to avoid persecution and to save the Sikh panth.[24] For about a century after Guru Arjan's martyrdom, state Louis E. Fenech and W. H. McLeod, the Golden Temple was not occupied by the actual Sikh Gurus and it remained in hostile sectarian hands.[24] In the 18th century, Guru Gobind Singh and his newly founded Khalsa Sikhs came back and fought to liberate it.[24] The Golden Temple was viewed by the Mughal rulers and Afghan Sultans as the center of Sikh faith and it remained the main target of persecution.[25]

The Golden Temple was the center of historic events in Sikh history:[26][27]

In 1709, the governor of Lahore sent in his army to suppress and prevent the Sikhs from gathering for their festivals of Vaisakhi and Diwali. But the Sikhs defied by gathering in the Golden Temple. In 1716, Banda Singh and numerous Sikhs were arrested and executed. In 1737, the Mughal governor ordered the capture of the custodian of the Golden Temple named Mani Singh and executed him. He appointed Masse Khan as the police commissioner who then occupied the Temple and converted it into his entertainment center with dancing girls. He befouled the pool. Sikhs avenged the sacrilege of the Golden Temple by assassinating Masse Khan inside the Temple in August 1740. In 1746, another Lahore official Diwan Lakhpat Rai working for Yahiya Khan, and seeking revenge for the death of his brother, filled the pool with sand. In 1749, Sikhs restored the pool when Muin ul-Mulk slackened Mughal operations against Sikhs and sought their help during his operations in Multan. In 1757, the Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Durrani, also known as Ahmad Shah Abdali, attacked Amritsar and desecrated the Golden Temple. He had waste poured into the pool along with entrails of slaughtered cows, before departing for Afghanistan. The Sikhs restored it again. In 1762, Ahmad Shah Durrani returned and had the Golden Temple blown up with gunpowder. Sikhs returned and celebrated Diwali in its premises. In 1764, Baba Jassa Singh Ahluwalia collected donations to rebuild the Golden Temple. A new main gateway (Darshan Deorhi), causeway and sanctum were completed in 1776, while the floor around the pool was completed in 1784. The Sikhs also completed a canal to bring in fresh water from Ravi River for the pool.Ranjit Singh era reconstruction
An 1880 photograph of the Golden Temple, sacred pool and the nearby buildings. The walled courtyard and entrances were added later.

Ranjit Singh founded the nucleus of the Sikh Empire at the age of 36 with help of Sukerchakia Misl forces he inherited and those of his mother-in-law Rani Sada Kaur. In 1802, at age 22, he took Amritsar from the Bhangi Sikh misl, paid homage at the Golden Temple and announced that he would renovate and rebuild it with marble and gold.[28] The Temple was renovated in marble and copper in 1809, and in 1830 Ranjit Singh donated gold to overlay the sanctum with gold foil.[27]

After learning of the Gurdwara through Maharaja Ranjit Singh,[29] the 7th Nizam of Hyderabad "Mir Osman Ali Khan" started giving yearly grants towards it.[30]

The management and operation of Darbar Sahib – a term that refers to the entire Golden Temple complex of buildings, was taken over by Ranjit Singh. He appointed Sardar Desa Singh Majithia (1768–1832) to manage it and made land grants whose collected revenue was assigned to pay for the Temple's maintenance and operation. Ranjit Singh also made the position of Temple officials hereditary.[16]

Destruction and reconstruction after Indian independence

The destruction of the temple occurred during the Operation Blue Star. It was the codename of an Indian military action carried out between 1 and 8 June 1984 to remove militant Sikh Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his followers from the buildings of the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) complex in Amritsar, Punjab. The decision to launch the attack rested with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.[31] In July 1982, Harchand Singh Longowal, the President of the Sikh political party Akali Dal, had invited Bhindranwale to take up residence in the Golden Temple Complex to evade arrest.[32][33] The government claimed Bhindranwale later made the sacred temple complex an armoury and headquarters.[34]

On 1 June 1984, after negotiations with the militants failed, Indira Gandhi ordered the army to launch Operation Blue Star, simultaneously attacking scores of Sikh temples across Punjab.[35] A variety of army units and paramilitary forces surrounded the Golden Temple complex on 3 June 1984. The fighting started on 5 June with skirmishes and the battle went on for three days, ending on 8 June. A clean-up operation codenamed Operation Woodrose was also initiated throughout Punjab.[36]

The army had underestimated the firepower possessed by the militants, whose armament included Chinese-made rocket-propelled grenade launchers with armour piercing capabilities. Tanks and heavy artillery were used to attack the militants, who responded with anti-tank and machine-gun fire from the heavily fortified Akal Takht. After a 24-hour firefight, the army gained control of the temple complex. Casualty figures for the army were 83 dead and 249 injured.[37] According to the official estimates, 1,592 militants were apprehended and there were 493 combined militant and civilian casualties.[38] According to the government claims, high civilian casualties were attributed to militants using pilgrims trapped inside the temple as human shields.[39]

Brahma Chellaney, the Associated Press's South Asia correspondent, was the only foreign reporter who managed to stay on in Amritsar despite the media blackout.[40] His dispatches, filed by telex, provided the first non-governmental news reports on the bloody operation in Amritsar. His first dispatch, front-paged by The New York Times, The Times of London and The Guardian, reported a death toll about twice of what authorities had admitted. According to the dispatch, about 780 militants and civilians and 400 troops had perished in fierce gun-battles.[41] Chellaney reported that about "eight to ten" men suspected Sikh militants had been shot with their hands tied. In that dispatch, Mr. Chellaney interviewed a doctor who said he had been picked up by the army and forced to conduct postmortems despite the fact he had never done any postmortem examination before.[42] In reaction to the dispatch, the Indian government charged Chellaney with violating Punjab press censorship, two counts of fanning sectarian hatred and trouble, and later with sedition,[43] calling his report baseless and disputing his casualty figures.[44]

The military action in the temple complex was criticized by Sikhs worldwide, who interpreted it as an assault on the Sikh religion.[45] Many Sikh soldiers in the army deserted their units,[46] several Sikhs resigned from civil administrative office and returned awards received from the Indian government. Five months after the operation, on 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated in an act of revenge by her two Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh.[33] Public outcry over Gandhi's death led to the killings of more than 3,000 Sikhs in Delhi alone, in the ensuing 1984 anti-Sikh riots.[47]

^ a b c G.S. Mansukhani. "Encyclopaedia of Sikhism". Punjab University Patiala. Retrieved 19 January 2017. ^ Pardeep Singh Arshi 1989, pp. 5–7. ^ Louis E. Fenech & W. H. McLeod 2014, p. 33. ^ Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair 2013, pp. 38–40. ^ Christopher Shackle & Arvind Mandair 2013, pp. xv–xvi. ^ W. H. McLeod 1990, pp. 28–29. ^ Christopher Shackle & Arvind Mandair 2013, pp. xv-xvi. ^ Mahindara Siṅgha Joshī (1994). Guru Arjan Dev. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 6–8. ISBN 978-81-7201-769-9. ^ Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair 2013, pp. 42–43. ^ Louis E. Fenech & W. H. McLeod 2014, p. 67. ^ a b c d e Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair 2013, pp. 41–42. ^ Louis E. Fenech & W. H. McLeod 2014, p. 205. ^ Rishi Singh (2015). State Formation and the Establishment of Non-Muslim Hegemony: Post-Mughal 19th-century Punjab. ISBN 978-9351505044. It is, however, possible that Mian Mir, who had close links to Guru Arjan, was invited and present at the time of the laying of the foundation stone, even if he did not lay the foundation stone himself. ^ Rishi Singh (2015). State Formation and the Establishment of Non-Muslim Hegemony: Post-Mughal 19th-century Punjab. ISBN 978-9351505044. ^ Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh 2011, pp. 34–35. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference eos was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Cite error: The named reference Cole2004p7 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Madanjit Kaur (1983). The Golden Temple: Past and Present. Amritsar: Dept. of Guru Nanak Studies, Guru Nanak Dev University Press. p. 174. OCLC 18867609. ^ Cite error: The named reference Cole2004p6 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Pashaura Singh & Louis E. Fenech 2014, pp. 435–436. ^ a b Pashaura Singh (2005), Understanding the Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Journal of Punjab Studies, 12(1), pp. 29–62 ^ W. H. McLeod (2009). "Arjan's Death". The A to Z of Sikhism. Scarecrow Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0810863446. The Mughal rulers of Punjab were evidently concerned with the growth of the Panth, and in 1605 the Emperor Jahangir made an entry in his memoirs, the Tuzuk-i-Jahāṅgīrī, concerning Guru Arjan's support for his rebellious son Khusrau Mirza. Too many people, he wrote, were being persuaded by his teachings, and if the Guru would not become a Muslim the Panth had to be extinguished. Jahangir believed that Guru Arjan was a Hindu who pretended to be a saint and that he had been thinking of forcing Guru Arjan to convert to Islam or his false trade should be eliminated, for a long time. Mughal authorities seem to have been responsible for Arjan's death in custody in Lahore, and this may be accepted as an established fact. Whether the death was by execution, the result of torture, or drowning in the Ravi River remains unresolved. For Sikhs, Guru Arjan Dev is the first martyr Guru. ^ Louis E. Fenech, Martyrdom in the Sikh Tradition, Oxford University Press, pp. 118–121 ^ a b c Louis E. Fenech & W. H. McLeod 2014, pp. 146–147. ^ M. L. Runion (2017). The History of Afghanistan, 2nd Edition. Greenwood. pp. 69–71. ISBN 978-0-313-33798-7., Quote: "Ahmad Durrani was forced to return to India and [he] declared a jihad, known as an Islamic holy war, against the Marathas. A multitude of tribes heralded the call of the holy war, which included the various Pashtun tribes, the Balochs, the Tajiks, and also the Muslim population residing in India. Led by Ahmad Durrani, the tribes joined the religious quest and returned to India (...) The domination and control of the [Afghan] empire began to loosen in 1762 when Ahmad Shah Durrani crossed Afghanistan to subdue the Sikhs, followers of an indigenous monotheistic religion of India found in the 16th century by Guru Nanak. (...) Ahmad Shah greatly desired to subdue the Sikhs, and his army attacked and gained control of the Sikh's holy city of Amritsar, where he brutally massacred thousands of Sikh followers. Not only did he viciously demolish the sacred temples and buildings, but he ordered these holy places to be covered with cow's blood as an insult and desecration of their religion (...)" ^ Pardeep Singh Arshi 1989, pp. 22–25. ^ a b Trudy Ring, Noelle Watson & Paul Schellinger 2012, pp. 28–29. ^ Patwant Singh (2008). Empire of the Sikhs: The Life and Times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Peter Owen. pp. 18, 177. ISBN 978-0-7206-1323-0. ^ "Maharaja Ranjit Singh's contributions to Harimandir Sahib". Archived from the original on 17 April 2015. Retrieved 25 February 2019. ^ Pandharipande, Reeti; Nadimpally, Lasya (5 August 2017). "A Brief History of The Nizams of Hyderabad". Outlook Traveller. Retrieved 7 March 2021. ^ Swami, Praveen (16 January 2014). "RAW chief consulted MI6 in build-up to Operation Bluestar". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Archived from the original on 18 January 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2014. ^ Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs, Volume II: 1839–2004, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 332. ^ a b "Operation Blue Star: India's first tryst with militant extremism". DNA. 5 November 2016. Archived from the original on 3 November 2017. Retrieved 29 October 2017. ^ "Sikh Leader in Punjab Accord Assassinated". LA Times. Times Wire Services. 21 August 1985. Archived from the original on 29 January 2016. Retrieved 14 June 2018. The Punjab violence reached a peak in June, 1984, when the army attacked the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest Sikh shrine, killing hundreds of Sikh militants who lived in the temple complex, and who the government said had turned it into an armory for Sikh terrorism. ^ Wolpert, Stanley A., ed. (2009). "India". Encyclopædia Britannica. ^ Kiessling, Hein (2016). Faith, Unity, Discipline: The Inter-Service-Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-1849048637. ^ Varinder Walia (20 March 2007). "Army reveals startling facts on Bluestar". Tribune India. Retrieved 9 August 2009. ^ White Paper on the Punjab Agitation. Shiromani Akali Dal and Government of India. 1984. p. 169. ^ Kiss, Peter A. (2014). Winning Wars amongst the People: Case Studies in Asymmetric Conflict (Illustrated ed.). Potomac Books. p. 100. ISBN 978-1612347004. ^ Hamlyn, Michael (12 June 1984). "Amritsar witness puts death toll at 1000". The Times. p. 7. ^ Eric Silver (7 June 1984). "Golden Temple Sikhs Surrender". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2021. ^ Chellaney, Brahma (14 June 1984). "Sikhs in Amritsar 'tied up and shot'". The Times. ^ "India is set to drop prosecution of AP reporter in Punjab Case". The New York Times. Associated Press. 14 September 1985. p. 5. Archived from the original on 2 January 2011. Retrieved 14 January 2009. ^ "Indian Police Question Reporter on Amritsar". The New York Times. Associated Press. 24 November 1984. Archived from the original on 3 January 2011. Retrieved 14 January 2009. ^ Westerlund, David (1996). Questioning The Secular State: The Worldwide Resurgence of Religion in Politics. C. Hurst & Co. p. 1276. ISBN 978-1-85065-241-0. ^ Sandhu, Kanwar (15 May 1990). "Sikh Army deserters are paying the price for their action". India Today. Archived from the original on 19 June 2018. Retrieved 19 June 2018. ^ Singh, Pritam (2008). Federalism, Nationalism and Development: India and the Punjab Economy. Routledge. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-415-45666-1.
Photographies by: Balpreet26 - CC BY-SA 3.0,