History suggests that the site where the grand Golden Temple of Amritsar stands today was gifted by mughal emperor Akbar, as a wedding present to Bibi Bhani, a daughter of third Sikh Guru, Guru Amar Das, when she married Jetha. Jetha then had carried out the mighty task of excavating the holy tank along with the plans of laying out settlement for a town. The tank or lake was named as Amritsarovar on which the city has been so fondly named as Amritsar. Jetha then went on to become a successor to Guru Amar Das and was later known as Guru Ram Das.
But it was only in 1588, that the fifth Sikh Guru – Guru Arjun Dev laid the foundation of the gurudwara in the middle of the lake. The construction of the temple took 16 years and it was completed in 1604. The temple is known as ‘Harmandir Sahib’- meaning a Temple of Gods, or ‘Darbar Sahib’. It also has a 12 feet high platform known as ‘Akal Takht’ primarily made in defiance of the mughal decree that none other than Empreror can sit on the dais higher than 3 feet. In 1762 an Afghani invader attacked the temple which resulted in grave sustained damages. In 1830 Maharajah Ranjit Singh sponsored the renovation with marble inlays with a leaf of gold top-coated over the entire temple, post which it popularly is known as ‘The Golden Temple’.
The sight of the golden temple is so mesmerizingly soothing to the soul that it is beyond the realm of words to describe. The Gurudwara is constructed of the snow white marble with gold covering over the top, sparkling in the centre of still and reflective waters of the lake, which is fed by River Ravi originating from Ganges. There are four doors in Harmandir Sahib which essentially means that it is a temple of faith and is open to all people from different religions, castes, colour and creed to visit, worship and purify their souls. Its architecture signifies the Sikh philosophy as the temple is built on the lower level than the surrounding so the devotees have to be humble and step down to enter the Gurudwara.
The memorial plaques inside the temple depict historical Sikh events, their martyrs, Sikh philosophies and inscription of Sikh soldiers who sacrificed themselves in World War I and II. Over one lakh people visit the temple daily from all walks of life. It is one of the holiest sites for Sikhs with Guru Granth Sahib always present in the temple at Akal Takht after hours. Each day there is the community lunch – ‘Langar’ prepared, which is offered not only to pilgrims who visit but also to the needy. All preparation of food is carried out by the volunteers and the cost is covered by generous donations received by the temple. The Golden Temple is not just an icon of Sikh religion but a true reflection of Indian philosophies of forgiveness, tolerance and humility.