Sri Darbar Sahib or the Golden Temple as it is popularly known, (on account of its scenic beauty and golden coating for English speaking world), is named after Hari the temple of God. The land for the site was acquired by the earlier Guru Sahibs on payment or free of cost from the Zamindars (landlords) of native villages.
The plan to establish a town settlement was also made. Therefore, the construction work on the Sarovar (the tank) and the town started simultaneously in 1570. The building work completed in 1601 A.D. on Bhadoon Sudi 1st, 1661 Bikrmi Samvat (August or September, 1604).
Guru Arjan Sahib installed newly created Guru Granth Sahib, in Sri Harmandir Sahib and appointed Baba Budha ji as its first Granthi, the reader of Guru Granth Sahib. After this event it attained the status of ‘Ath Sath Tirath’.
Now the Sikh Nation had their own Tirath, a pilgrimage center. Unlike many historical sacred sites, the Golden Temple of Amritsar is still fully alive with religious fervor and sacredness, and visitors are welcomed to join in the experience.
Although the building itself has great historical and architectural interest, it is the Golden Temple’s great spiritual meaning for Sikh believers (and others) that is most memorable to visitors.
In the early 19th century, 100 kg of gold were applied to the inverted lotus-shaped dome and decorative marble was added. All this gold and marble work took place under the patronage of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
The legendary warrior king was a major donor of money and materials for the shrine and is remembered with much affection by the Sikh community and Punjabi people. Most visitors to the Golden Temple, whether Sikh or not, are humbled by what is quite simply the most tangibly spiritual place in the country.
Arrive with a few good hours set aside and get lost in its magical beauty. Visitors must leave their shoes at the facility near the entrance, cover their head (bandanas are provided, or you can buy a souvenir bandana from a vendor), and wash their feet by wading through the shallow pool before entering.
The fascinating scene inside the Hari Mandir is televised throughout India for Sikh viewers. Amidst a crowd of fervent and solemn devotees, scriptures from the Holy Book are sung beneath a canopy studded with jewels.
A chauri (whisk) is continually waved above the Book as lines of Sikhs pay their respects by touching their foreheads to the temple floor and walls, continuing in a clockwise direction at a relaxed pace.
During Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s reign the lower half of the temple was decorated with marble while the entire upper half was inlaid with copper covered over by gold plate : hence its new name, the Golden Temple.
Its four gates invite everyone from all directions. Some of the architectural features of the Harmandir Sahib were intended to be symbolic of the Sikh worldview. 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.