Golden temple of Amritsar is a feather in the cap of India. It is one of the gems of Indian architecture that fascinates millions of tourists every year. The most revered place of worship for Sikhs, Golden temple or Sri Harmandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib, holds many fascinating facts that makes us go awe.
The Golden Temple is a significant religious site of India which has a rich cultural background and historic significance. There are several stories associated with this sacred site which we are yet not so aware of. The ambiance of this site is serene, and the architectural beauty is extraordinarily remarkable. The lake on which it is situated is known as Amrit Sarovar Lake.
Let us dive deep into some interesting Golden Temple facts:
The temple was designed by the fifth Guru of Sikhism Guru Arjan
The astounding architecture of the pristine Golden Temple displays flawless beauty and majestic grandeur.
One of the surprising Golden Temple facts is that the foundation stone of this spiritual site was laid by a Muslim Sufi saint Mohammed Muayyinul Islam on the request of Guru Arjan, the fifth Sikh Guru.
In the history of Sikhs, the other name of the saint is Hazarat Miyan Mir. Guru Nanak, the first Sikh guru, meditated at the site much before its construction.
Guru Arjan was the first person to initiate the construction of Sri Harmandir Sahib. He was the one who defined the blueprint of the whole architecture of Sri Harmandir Sahib.
In 1581, the construction began, and it took 8 years to finish. He had designed it on a lower level which was quite contrasted to the conventional structure of temples. This was done to signify the importance of humble living. The temple has four entrances on its four sides which symbolizes the acceptance of people of all religions and faiths.
The temple site was the once the meditation place of Lord Buddha
One of the interesting Golden Temple facts is that around 2,000 years ago, Lord Buddha visited Sri Harmandir Sahib to devote some time to meditation. When the great founder of Buddhism visited here, it was a reservoir encompassed with dense flora. Lord Buddha proclaimed the spot as an ideal place for mediation for saints.
Death of Baba Deep Singh
One of the most celebrated martyrs of the Sikh community was Baba Deep Singh. Baba Deep Singh was a Sikh warrior who took his last breath on the doorsteps of Sri Harmandir Sahib. This is one of the most remarkable Golden Temple facts which took place in 1757 when the Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Durrani demolished the temple to take vengeance of his defeat at the hands of Baba Deep Singh and his squad.
Baba Deep Singh realized the implications of his attack and decided to resurrect the Golden Temple. He assembled a huge battalion of Sikhs and took a pledge to avenge the demolition of Harmandir Sahib. He fought an intense battle with the Afghans in the Battle of Amritsar in 1757. However, during the gruesome battle, he was decapitated.
There are two versions of the death of Baba Deep Singh:
- One account suggests he fought with the Afghan army holding his head in one hand and sword in the other. He took himself to the doorsteps of the Golden Temple and died there.
- In the second version of the story, Baba Deep Singh was not decapitated but got a severe injury on his neck. A Sikh came near him and whispered in his ear, “You had resolved to reach the periphery of the pool”. On hearing this, Baba Deep Singh supported his head with one hand and removed the Afghans with his sword of 15 kgs on other hand.
The Golden Temple complex is honored as the place where his head landed. Sikhs also visit here to pay reverence to the sacrifice of Baba Deep Singh.
One of the most interesting Golden Temple facts is that it is named after its golden layer of covering. The temple had been a target of several devastating attacks by the Afghan and Mughal rulers.
In 1762, Ahmad Shah Durrani, the Afghan ruler, demolished the temple with the blow of gunpowder. In 1809, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who founded the Sikh Empire, resurrected the temple by constructing it with marble and copper. In 1830, he adorned it with gold foil which gave it the name Golden Temple. He took authority of the temple and designated Desa Singh to take control of its maintenance and operation.
One of the most interesting and well-known Golden Temple facts is that it welcomes all religions, caste, and creed.
Very few of us know that the foundation stone of the temple was established by a Muslim Sufi Saint, Hazrat Mian Mir. This fact emanates a message of brotherhood and compassion. The temple has four entrances on its four sides which display respect to all religions, caste, creed, and gender.
The temple is situated on a sacred pool which holds an immense spiritual significance
One of the most fascinating Golden Temple facts is that it is perched on a pristine lake known as “Amrit Sarovar”. The lake measures 154.5*148.5 square meters.
In English, Amrit is known as “nectar”, whereas “sarovar” means lake. The lake has a depth of 5.1 meters and is encircled with a circumambulatory marble passage of 3.7 meters in width. The pool is shaded with a hexagonal structure and has a place known as Har Ki Pauri where people stoop to hold a handful of Nectar (Amrit) from the lake.
Taking a dip in the pool is believed to give redemption from all the wrong deeds. The sacred water is also believed to cure all illnesses and diseases. The volunteers who participate in kar seva look after the maintenance of the pool.
The temple is a blend of Indian and Mughal architecture
One of the interesting Golden Temple facts relates to its architectural resemblance with the Taj Mahal. The architectural pattern of the temple is a rich amalgamation of Indian as well as Mughal style. The dome of the sanctum is built of pure gold.
The shrine is encompassed with beautiful gold panels. The ceiling is also embedded with gems and embellished with gold. The priests perform prayers inside the temple by chanting lines from Guru Granth Sahib, enhancing the sanctity of the temple.
The temple is structurally designed to spread a message of humble living
One of the most exciting Golden Temple facts is that its first floor is constructed underneath the Amrit Sarovar Lake. This floor only appears during kar seva. Since the first floor is situated beneath the ground level, the temple has a staircase that takes us below the ground.
This structure is not found in the traditional style of temples which are usually constructed on a raised floor. This unique construction of the Golden Temple symbolizes the quality of humble living.
The temple went through four years of renovation
One of the less known Golden Temple facts is that the temple was revamped in the 1990s for four years. The temple was plated with five hundred kilograms of pure gold. The gold used in the making was 24-carat which outshines 22-carat gold in quality. The value of the used gold exceeds 130 crores at present time. The renovation was completed in four years, continuing from 1995 to 1999.
Centuries ago, Maharaja Ranjit Singh decorated the sanctum with 7-9 gold coatings which weighed around 164 kgs of gold. This weight of pure gold cost Rs. 65 lakhs in those days. However, during this renovation, around 24 coatings of gold were plated on the walls of the shrine. People and devotees believe that the splendor of the sanctum will resume until the 25th century.
The temple serves the largest kitchen service in the world
One of the most prominent Golden temple facts is its free community kitchen service which is known as Langar Sewa. Langar Sewa is one of the largest free community-run kitchen services. The Langar is located on the eastern side of the complex near Dukh Bhanjani Ber. All religions, caste, and creed are served food equally in this kitchen.
The food catered here is purely vegetarian and distributed equally to everyone. People sit here in rows on the floor. This arrangement is known as Pangat. The kitchen caters to around fifty thousand meals on an everyday basis.
On festivals and special occasions, the number of meals soars to one lakh or even more. The meal mainly comprises dal, roti, veggies, and kheer. The expenses of the kitchen service are met by donations from the devotees.
Volunteers serve for the temple for free
One of the less known Golden temple facts is that the volunteers work for the operation and maintenance of the temple for free. The temple is operated and maintained using the money donated by the devotees. The volunteers clean, cook and cater food without taking a single penny which displays their warm commitment towards humanity.
Operation Blue Star
One of the most famous Golden Temple facts is the Operation Blue Star. During the 1980s, the Golden Temple and Akal Takt were possessed by several militant groups. Such groups consisted of Dharam Yudh Morcha helmed by Sikh fundamentalist, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the Babbar Khalsa, the AISSF, and the National Council of Khalistan.
In 1983, the Sikh political party, Akali Dal’s president Harchand Singh Longowal proposed Bhindrawale to take charge of the Golden Temple. Shabad Singh, the leader of Bhindrawale-led association, initiated the construction of bunkers and observation posts in the temple and its vicinity.
In June 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi began Operation Blue Star, ordering the Indian Army to attack the militants and take over the temple. Akal Takt was bitterly destroyed during the attack and many militants, soldiers and civilians died in the firing. During Operation Blue Star, a group of nearly 2,000 Sikh soldiers rebelled and tried to free the Golden Temple.
Soon after this operation, the Sikh bodyguards of Indira Gandhi assassinated her on October 31, 1984. Rajiv Gandhi, her son, and the next Prime Minister ordered to restore Akal takt. However, all that was repaired was destroyed by the Sikhs and they reconstructed Akal Takt in 1999.
Punjabi Suba movement
For the formation of a Punjabi-speaking state after Independence, the Sikhs executed a movement named Punjabi Suba Movement in Eastern Punjab. One of the well-known Golden Temple facts is that the shrine became the prime spot of all events of this operation. In 1955, the government conducted a raid on the temple to quell the agitation. In the same year, the Sikhs executed the Amritsar Convention to express and emphasize their beliefs.
The temple became the center of demonstrations, strikes, and mass arrests. The people involved in the movement resided in small huts in the hunger protest. The official status of the Punjabi language in Gurmukhi script and the borders of modern Punjab are two major upshots of the movement.
Jallianwala Bagh massacre
In 1919, on the day of Baisakhi, the Sikhs went to visit Jallianwala Bagh after performing prayers at the Golden Temple. They went there to listen to the protest against the Rowlatt Act. During this protest, the British general Reginald Dyer ordered an open fire on the mass of thousands. Hundreds of people were killed, and thousands were injured.
The massacre reinforced the freedom movement and gave rise to protests which were based on the notion of non-violence. The rebellion forced the British government to hand over the administration and treasury of Golden temple to the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) which still resumes managing its operations.
The innumerable Golden Temple facts never stop surprising us. With its rich and diverse history, the sanctum speaks volumes about the power of Sikh unity and the great devotion of the Sikh community towards their motherland. With its awe-inspiring beauty and immense cultural significance, the Golden Temple is believed to continue to mesmerize us for a long time in the future.