What is the Golden Temple

Amritsar Golden Temple, India

The Hari Mandir, the Golden Temple of Amritsar, is the largest Sikh sanctuary. The magnificent palace from the 16th century is covered over and over with gold. Regardless of religion, gender or skin color, everyone is welcome in the temple and is even welcomed and fed for three nights.

The Golden Temple of Amritsar in the state of Punjab in northern India is actually called Hari Mandir, which correctly translated means "Temple of God". It is also known as Darbar Sahib, "Court of the Lord". The shining structure is that holiest place of the Sikhs, a monotheistic religious community from the 15th century, which neither demands asceticism nor abandonment of bourgeois life. The Golden Temple also embodies the Sikhs' attitude that all people are equal. The magnificent structure is one of our top 10 sights in India.

PICTURES: Golden Temple of Amritsar, India

Establishment of the Golden Temple of Amritsar

The Hari Mandir was built in the 16th century by Ram Das ji and Arjan Dev ji, the fourth and fifth guru of the Sikhs. The golden dome was added about 3 centuries later. The Golden Temple of Amritsar has actually been gold since the early 19th century - its facade is covered all over with gold leaf. Especially at sunrise and sunset or through the lighting at night, it shines in an unearthly splendor.

The Hari Mandir is located on an island in the nearly 130-meter-long Amrit Sarovar (literally “nectar lake”), which is said to have healing powers. There are therefore a few bathing spots on the marble walkway around the lake, which the pilgrims walk clockwise. A white marble bridge connects the island with the west bank of the lake.

As a sign of the cosmopolitanism of the Sikhs, the palace complex that surrounds the temple has gates in all four directions. It is also unusual that it is not built on an elevated location, but directly in the lake. Instead of going up, visitors to the temple have to go down simple steps.

Indeed it is Access to the Golden Temple is not denied to anyone, everyone is welcome regardless of religion, skin color or gender. Accordingly, around 30,000 tourists, locals and believers of all religions visit the Hari Mandir every day. Everyone is allowed to spend a maximum of three nights under the roof of the Golden Temple; simple meals are even served in a building next door.

Behave yourself! However, everyone has to take into account certain rules of conduct. The temple complex may only be entered with a head covering, without shoes and with washed feet (appropriate bowls are available). Alcohol, meat, cigarettes and other drugs are prohibited inside the sanctuary. As a sign of devotion to the Guru and to God, one should briefly sit on the floor in the golden Darbar Sahib. To be on the safe side, you can inquire about the specific rules of conduct beforehand at the tourist information office.

Incredible treasures

The inside of the temple, like the outside area, is astonishingly well cared for, the precious floors are even washed with milk. The walls are decorated with ornate frescoes and jewels, with most of the gold and marble decorations dating from the early 19th century.

On the top floor, an informs museum with particularly vivid photos of torture instruments about the agonizing past of the Sikh among the Hindus and Muslims since the 17th century. In addition to the massacres, weapons and paintings showing Sikh martyrs, gurus and soldiers from the world wars are also on display.

In the holy halls, verses from the Holy Book, Guru Granth Sahib, are read aloud all day. Accompanied by music, these fervently performed over loudspeakers fill the entire temple area, which further reinforces the mystical atmosphere of the magnificent temple.

Bloody headlines

In 1984 radical Sikhs proclaimed their state of Khalistan, as a result of which soldiers of the Indian Army stormed the Golden Temple in the so-called "Operation Blue Star". The Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to atone for the ordered assault on the sanctuary and the killing of the Sikh leader.

She was murdered by her own bodyguards, followers of Sikhism. There is nothing to be seen of the violent penetration of the Indian army into the Hari Mandir today, with the help of generous donations all damage could be repaired.