Sri Harmandir Sahib, also known as Sri Darbar Sahib or Golden Temple, (on account of its scenic beauty and golden coating), situated in Amritsar (Punjab), is the most sacred temple for Sikhs. This temple propagates Sikhism’s message of tolerance and acceptance through its architecture that has incorporated symbols from other religions. The Sikhs all over the world, wish to visit Sri Amritsar and to pay obeisance at Sri Harmandir Sahib in their Ardas.Guru Arjan Sahib, the Fifth Nanak, conceived the idea of creating a central place of worship for the Sikhs and he himself designed the architecture of Sri Harmandir Sahib. Earlier, the plan to excavate the holy tank (Amritsar or Amrit Sarovar) was chalked out by Guru Amardas Sahib, the Third Nanak, but Guru Ramdas Sahib executed it under the supervision of Baba Budha ji. The land for the site was acquired by the earlier Guru Sahibs on payment or free of cost from the Zamindars (landlords) of native villages. The plan to establish a town settlement was also made. Therefore, the construction work on the Sarovar (the tank) and the town started simultaneously in 1570. The work on both the projects was completed in 1577 A.D.
Guru Arjan Sahib got its foundation laid by a Muslim saint Hazrat Mian Mir ji of Lahore in December 1588. The construction work was supervised by Guru Arjan Sahib himself and he was assisted by the prominent Sikh personalities like Baba Budha ji, Bhai Gurdas ji, Bhai Sahlo ji and many other devoted Sikhs.
Unlike erecting the structure on the higher level, Guru Arjan Sahib got it built on the lower level and got it open from all four sides. Thus, he created a symbol of new faith, Sikhism. Guru Sahib made it accessible to every person without any distinction based on caste, creed, sex and religion.
The building work was completed by September 1604. Guru Arjan Sahib installed newly created Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book of the Sikhs), in Sri Harmandir Sahib and appointed Baba Budha ji as its first Granthi i.e. the reader of Guru Granth Sahib. After this event it attained the status of ‘Ath Sath Tirath’, Sikh nation’s own Tirath.
Sri Harmandir Sahib, is built on a 67ft. square platform in the centre of the Sarovar (tank). The temple itself is 40.5ft. square. It has a door each on the East, West, North and South. The Darshani Deori (an arch) stands at the shore end of the causeway. The doorframe of the arch is about 10ft in height and 8ft 6inches in breadth. The door panes are decorated in artistic style. It opens on to the causeway or bridge that leads to the main building of Sri Harmandir Sahib. It is 202 feet in length and 21 feet in width.
The bridge is connected with the 13 feet wide ‘Pardakshna’ (circumambulatory path). It runs around the main shrine and it leads to the ‘Har ki Paure’ (steps of God). On the first floor of ‘Har ki Paure’, there is continuous reading of Guru Granth Sahib.
On the top stands the low fluted ‘Gumbaz’ (dome) having lotus petal motif in relief at the base and an inverted lotus at the top, which supports the ‘Kalash’ having a beautiful ‘Chhatri’ at the end.
Its architecture represents a unique harmony between the Muslim and the Hindu way of construction work and this is considered as one of the best architectural specimens of the world. It is often quoted that this architecture has created an independent Sikh school of architecture in the history of art in India. The temple is a noted combination of stupendous beauty and sublime peacefulness. It can be said that the heart of Sikhism lies here.