Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple of Amritsar: history and facts

The Golden Temple of Amritsar, or Harmandir Sahib (‘House of God’), is located in the town of Amritsar in the northern state of India's Punjab.

By Saga team

Published 4 May 2024

Harmandir Sahib is an iconic temple in India, and one of the most visited, and we’ve investigated the history of this wonderful monument, so you too can learn a little more about the Golden Temple of Amritsar before experiencing it for yourself on a holiday to India.

Typically mistaken as a Hindu temple, the Hamandar Sahib is actually a Sikh temple and represents their values and faith with every line of its architecture.

The four doors of the temple represent the inclusiveness of Sikhism, wanting to welcome everyone into the temple. The Golden Temple of Amritsar is surrounded by a large pool of water, a tank, that is called Amrit Sarovar.

There are many stories associated with the Golden Temple of Amritsar, but perhaps the most well-known is the story of Rajni, who is given a gift by her father, but when she thanks the Guru instead of her father, he punishes her by marrying her to a man afflicted with leprosy. One day, when Rajni is out by the river with her husband, a crow plunges into the pool water and transforms into a snow-white bird. Seeing the miracle, the husband submerges himself in the pool too, and is turned into a healthy, handsome man.

The pool that is said to have caused the change is the very same Amrit Sarovar that surrounds the Golden Temple.

Guru Arjan Sahib wanted a central place of worship for Sikhs, and conceived the Sri Harmandir Sahib, to achieve this end. Though work wasn’t started on the actual temple until 1604, ground was broken on the project, and work started on the tank in 1577, on land that was donated by the Muslim ruler and Mughal emperor Akbar. The Golden Temple of Amritsar took over 20 years to build, but just over 150 years later the temple would see a sacking that would result in its needing to be rebuilt. But by the 19th century the temple gained a powerful patron, the Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh Empire, who oversaw one of the most impressive courts in India.

The Golden Temple of Amritsar is known by different names, Hamandir Sahib and Darbar Sahib. Both of which roughly translate to ‘House of God’.

The pool that surrounds the temple, the Amrit Sarovar translates to ‘pool of nectar’ and is said to have healing properties.

The temple of Amritsar is actually made of marble, but it is gold plated, giving the temple that distinct look known the world over. The top of the temple however is made up of 100kg of pure gold.

The Golden Temple feeds approximately 35,000 people every day for free, though participants must all sit on the floor, to symbolise the Sikh idea that everyone is born equal.

Discover the Golden Temple for yourself on our Foothills of the Himalaya escorted tour.

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