History of Golden Temple and Akal Takhat in Amritsar

Darbar Harmandir Sahib Historic Timeline

Golden Temple.Amritsar.Punjab,India
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Darbar Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple of Amritsar

The Golden Temple is situated in Amritsar, located in Northern Punjab, India, which is close to the border of Pakistan. It is the central gurdwara, or worship place, for all Sikhs in the world. Its proper name is Harmandir, which means "Temple of God" and is respectfully referred to as Darbar Sahib (meaning "court of the Lord"). Darbar Harmandir Sahib is popularly known as the Golden Temple because of its unique features.

The gurdwara is constructed of white marble overlaid with genuine gold leaf. It stands in the center of the sarovar, a pool of fresh, clear, reflective water which is fed by the River Ravi, and said by some to originate from the Ganges River. Pilgrims and devotees bathe and perform ablution in the sacred waters of the tank which is known for its healing properties. Visitors gather inside the gurdwara to worship, listen to hymns, and hear the holy scripture of the Guru Granth Sahib read. The golden gurdwara has four entrances, one on each side to symbolically welcome everyone who enters regardless of caste, class, color, or creed.

Akal Takhat Throne of Religious Authority

The Akal Takhat is the foremost throne of five governing bodies of religious authority for Sikhs. A bridge extends from the Akal Takhat to the Golden Temple. The Akal Takhat houses the Guru Granth Sahib between midnight and 3am while cleaning is done. Every morning a conch shell sounds gather to perform ardas and prakash. Devotees carry the palanquin bearing Guru Granth Sahib upon their shoulders along the lamp lit bridge to the Golden Temple where it resides for the remainder of the day. Every evening at midnight the sukhasan ceremony is performed and the scripture is returned to its resting place at the Akal Takhat.

Langar and Seva Tradition

Langar is a traditional free sanctified meal which is prepared and served at the temple. It is available to the tens of thousands pilgrims who visit daily. All cost is provided for by donations. Cooking, cleaning, and serving, is performed as voluntarily seva. The entire maintenance of the golden temple complex is carried out by devotees, pilgrims, sevadars, and worshipers, who volunteer their services.

Historic Timeline of Golden Temple and Akal Takhat

1574 - Akbar, a Mughal emperor gifts the site to Bibi Bhani, a daughter of Third Guru Amar Das, as a wedding gift when she marries Jetha, who later becomes Fourth Guru Raam Das.

1577 - Guru Raam Das begins excavation of a fresh water tank, and construction of the temple site.

1581 - Guru Arjun Dev, the son of Guru Raam Das becomes fifth guru of the Sikhs, and works to complete construction of the sarovar getting the tank and stairways on all sides paved with bricks.

1588 - Guru Arjun Dev over-sees the laying of the temple's foundation.

1604 - Guru Arjun Dev completes the temple's construction. He compiles the sacred scripture Adi Granth over a five year period, completing it August 30th, and installing the Granth in the temple on September 1st. He appoints a Sikh named Baba Buddha to be caretaker of the Granth.

1606 - Akal Takhat:

  • 15th of June (Har Vadi 5 1663 S.V.) Guru Har Govind sets the corner stone of the foundation of Akal Takhat, throne of spiritual authority, with the assistance of Bhai Gurdas and Baba Buddha. Together, the three of them build a platform 12 feet in height in defiance of a decree made by Mughal Emperor Jahangir that no one but his own royal personage be allowed to sit on a dais over three feet in height.
  • 24th of June (Har Sudi 10th day 1663 S.V.) Inauguration ceremonies commence and first hukham nama decree issued.

1699 to 1737 - Bhai Mani Singh is appointed curator of Harmandir Sahib by Guru Gobind Singh.

1757 to 1762 - Jahan Khan, an Afghani general of the invader Ahmad Shah Abdali, attacks the temple. It is defended by illustrious martyr Baba Deep Singh. The damages sustained result in major renovations.

1830 - Maharajah Ranjit Singh sponsors marble inlay, gold plating, and gilding of the temple.

1835 - Pritam Singh endeavors to supply the sarovar with water from River Ravi at Pathonkot via having a canal system dug.

1923 - Kar Seva project undertaken to clean the sarovar tank of sediment.

1927 to 1935 - Gurmukh Singh undertakes an eight year project to have the sarovar canal system widened.

1973 - Kar Seva project undertaken to clean the sarovar tank of sediment.

1984 - Timeline Operation Blue Star (Sikh Genocide): by order of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

  • May 25th: Indian Army troops surround the Golden Temple complex.
  • June 1st: Snipers open fire on thousands of devotees attending commemoration services honoring the martyrdom of Fifth Guru Arjun Dev.
  • June 3rd: Indian Army troupes impose a curfew trapping thousands and shooting dead any who violate it.
  • June 4th: The Indian Army fires on the Golden Temple with machine guns and mortars killing 100.
  • June 5th: The Indian Government orders tanks to surround and invade the temple complex resulting in heavy casualties.
  • June 6th: Tanks pummel the Akal Takhat destroying it, and damaging the entire complex.
  • June 7th : Indian army soldiers desecrate and loot the Golden Temple. Rotting bodies corrupt the sacred waters of the sarovar. Unidentified devotees are cremated without funeral rites, before an official body count is taken.

1993 - Karan Bir Singh Sidhu, a prominent Sikh, heads up the Galliara renovation project of the Akal Takhat and the Golden Temple Harmandir complex.

2000 to 2004 - Kar Seva sarovor cleanup project. Amrik Singh works with Douglas G. Whitetaker and a team of American engineers to set up a water purification plant to serve the sarovars of Amritsar including those of the Golden Temple Gurdwara Harmandir Sahib, Gurdwara Bibeksar, Gurdwara Mata Kaulan and Gurdwara Ramsar and Gurdwara Santokhsar. The water treatment faculty includes a sand filtration system.

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Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "History of Golden Temple and Akal Takhat in Amritsar." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, learnreligions.com/golden-temple-and-akal-takhat-2993220. Khalsa, Sukhmandir. (2023, April 5). History of Golden Temple and Akal Takhat in Amritsar. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/golden-temple-and-akal-takhat-2993220 Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "History of Golden Temple and Akal Takhat in Amritsar." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/golden-temple-and-akal-takhat-2993220 (accessed May 29, 2023).