Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Harmandir the Golden Temple of India

              The Harmandir Sahib (or Hari Mandir) in Amritsar, is a well-known Sikh gurdwara located in the city of Amritsar, Punjab, India. It is the holiest shrine in Sikhism. Previously known as the Golden Temple, it was officially renamed Harmandir Sahib in March 2005. The temple (or gurdwara) is a major pilgrimage destination for Sikhs from all over the world, as well as an increasingly popular tourist attraction. 

Construction of the Golden Temple began in 1574 on land donated by the Mughal emperor Akbar. Construction of the gurdwara was begun by Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru, and completed by his successor, Guru Arjan Dev. In 1604, Guru Arjan Dev completed the Adi Granth, the holy scripture of Sikhism, and installed it in the Gurdwara. 

The temple was completed in 1601, but restoration and embellishment continued over the years. The temple had to be substantially rebuilt after it was sacked by Mughal or Afghan forces in the 1760s. In the early nineteenth century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh secured the Punjab region from outside attack and covered the upper floors of the gurdwara with gold, which gives it its distinctive appearance and name of "Golden Temple". 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. 

The Golden Temple is considered holy by Sikhs because the eternal guru of Sikhism, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (religious scripture of Sikhism), is always present inside it and its construction was mainly intended to build a place of worship for men and women from all walks of life and all religion to come and worship God equally. 
The water surrounding the Harmandir is a sacred pool known as the Amrit Sarovar (Pool of Nectar of immorality) excavated by the fourth guru, Guru Ram Das. The temple is reached by following the Parikrama, which circumscribes the sacred pool in a clockwise direction. Connecting the pathway with the Harmandir is a marble causeway called the Guru's Bridge, which symbolizes the journey of the soul after death. The gateway to the bridge, the Darshani Deorhi, has magnificent silver doors. The lavishly gilded, inlaid, bejeweled and mirrored interior decor also adds to the enthralling experience. 
The tranquil and mesmerizing ritual that takes place inside the two-story Golden Temple is spiritually moving to both Sikhs and non-Sikh visitors. As a visitor one may observe and hear the original copy of the Sikh's Holy Scripture reverently read non-stop by robed priests from morning to night. The devotional mood is enhanced by a small group of musicians accompanying the chanting priests. 

Every night, the Granth Sahib is carried in procession along this bridge to its "bed" in the Akal Takht, the seat of the Sikh parliament (built 1609). Called the Palki Sahib, this nightly ceremony provides a chance for all male pilgrims and visitors to actively participate in the veneration of the Holy Book.

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