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The Golden Temple at Amritsar

the most sacred Sikh shrine in the world

Golden Temple

The site upon which the Golden Temple is now located was originally a small lake in the midst of a quiet forest. A meditation retreat since antiquity, the serenity of the place drew Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, who took up residence upon the lake's shores. After Guru Nanak's death, his disciples continued to frequent the site, and over the centuries it has become the most sacred Sikh shrine in the world.

The lake was enlarged and structurally contained during the leadership of Ram Dass, the fourth Sikh Guru (reign, 1574-1581). The temple itself (known as Hari Mandir) was built during the reign of Arjan Sahib (1581-1606), who designed the structure and supervised its construction personally. The temple was attacked and destroyed by Muslims numerous times, but was always rebuilt, bigger and better each time. The golden gilding which gives the temple its common name was added during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839).

The Golden Temple is located on a small island in the center of a quiet pool. One of its most interesting features is the fact that devotees must step down in order to enter the building, whereas they must climb up to enter most other temples. Entrances on all four sides symbolize that the Temple is open to all worshippers, regardless of caste, creed, or gender. Next to the temple complex are numerous pilgrims' dormitories and dining halls, all of which are open to all persons absolutely free of charge, again regardless of race, religion, or gender.

Amritsar was originally the name of the lake, then of the temple complex, and is now the name of the surrounding city as well. The word means "pool of ambrosial nectar."

aerial view of the Golden Temple

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This page was last updated on March 22, 2017.