Thursday, December 08, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism

Q91. Give a brief history of the Golden Temple?

Guru Ramdas wanted to give the Sikhs a central place of worship. For this reason he founded a township, called after his name in 1577. In 1589, Guru Arjan requested a Muslim divine named Mian Mir, to lay the foundation of the Sikh Temple. This is known as Har Mandar - God's House - popularly called the Golden Temple. The temple is an example of religious emotion exemplified in marble, glass, colour and gold. The shrine is encircled by a beautiful artificial lake: "The pool of nectar - Amritsar". The reflections of the Temple building in the water strikingly magnify the artistic concept of the whole structure.

The other seat of Sikh Power called 'Akal Takhat' was started in 1609 by Guru Hargobind for the holding of Diwans (Congregations) and other special celebrations. It was partly rebuilt after the army attack in June 1984.
The Muslim Governor of Lahore took possession of the temple in 1736. Bhai Mani Singh made an attempt to hold a special Diwali Diwan in the temple in 1768. This proved unsuccessful and cost him his life. Lakhpat Rai, the commandar of Mughal forces, occupied Amritsar in 1741.

Ahmed Shah Durrani attacked Amritsar on 10th April, 1762, damaged the temple and desecrated the tank. The Sikhs avenged this sacrilege by attacking the rear of his army.

The Golden Temple is regarded as an outstanding example of "Sikh architecture". It combines in its own right Hindu and Islamic features. Its styling adapts Moghul design with elaborations. Among its typical external features are four chhattries or kiosks which ornament the corners of Har Mandar's base. Inverted and guilded lotus flowers form its domes. Use is also made of oriel windows with shallow elliptic cornices supported on brackets. The arches are enriched with inlaid semiprecious stone foliations while the inner walls in addition to guilding and foliations also carry fresco paintings using the technique of Mohra Qashi (it is a special kind of decoration plaster).

The present temple and its decorations were undertaken in the times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He donated many precious articles. The Golden Temple came under popular control in November 1920. The recent broadening of the Parkarma and the development of the Central Sikh Museum have added to the attractions of the temple. The desilting of the tank was last done in 1973. Special celebrations were held in the Golden Temple in Oct. 1977 on the 400th Foundation Day of the city of Amritsar. The army attack on the Golden Temple in June 1984 has left scars on the super-structure.

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The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras.
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