Ancient architecture is always very appealing in the variety of temples and pilgrimages throughout India. Each structure displays its own features and aspects in reflecting the Indian style of architecture. This particular architecture is based on the Sikh principals who have designed vast temples and pilgrimages from early to the late Sikh structures.
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A golden temple sitting in the middle of a pool of water commonly known as the Pool of Nectar, A temple for those who believed their elders have created a living symbol of the spiritual and historical traditions for the Sikh community. A place which glisters with gold covered exterior stands in the middle of a square tank filled with the water for the pure which brings forth a source of inspiration and primary place of pilgrimage for all Sikhs. This divines is known as the Harmandir Sahib (a word derived from the world of Punjab by their Punjabi language) – meaning Temple of God which is commonly known as the Golden Temple or Darbar Sahib. The formation of such a divine place brings out the architecture of how the buildings were designed and the technology applied in its construction.
History & Construction of Harmandir Sahib:
(Sri) Hamandir Sahib – the Golden Temple, known for its beautiful scenery and layers of gold coating, named afeeter the Hari – the temple of God. Sikhs all across the globe daily pray to visit Amritsar and pay homage to their Holy Harmandir Sahib in their Ardas.
As early as from start of the late 14th century, Guru Arjan Dev 1st of the eleven Sikh gurus, founder of the Sikhism religion. Guru Nanak travelled to places far and wide preaching the message of the One God who lives in every one of His creations and constitutes the everlasting truth. It’s part of the Sikh religion belief that the spirit of Guru Nanak’s purity, spirituality and holy authority descended upon each of the 9 succeeding Gurus when the Guruship was transferred on to them. (Sharma)
As the years passed by, guruship was devolved to the next in line eleven Sikh Gurus entrusted from the early times. Guru Arjan Sahib, the 5th Nanak, conceived the idea of creating a creating a central place of worship for the Sikhs and he himself designed the architecture of Sri Harmandir Sahib. Former planning to dig the holy tank (Amritsar or Amrit Sarovar ) was marked out by Guru Amardas Sahib, the 3rd Nanak, but was implemented by Guru Ramdas Sahib under the administration of Baba Budha ji. The site was initially procured by the ancestor Guru Sahibs without any payment or cost from the landlords of resident communities. The construction work on the Sarovar (the water tank) and the town started at the same time in around the year 1570. The work completed on both projects in the year of 1577 A.D. (Jathedar Avtar Singh)
The foundations were laid by a Muslim saint known as Hazrat Mian Mir ji origin of Lahore on 1st March 1645. The construction was directly administered by Guru Arjan Sahib himself and was assisted by the protruding Sikh personalities. Commencing the assembly on a higher level (a traditional in Hindu Temple architecture), Guru Arjan Sahib had it built on the lower level got it open from four sides. Therefore he created a representation of new faith and devotion for people believing on Sikhism. Guru Sahib also made it easily accessible and reachable to every person without any difference of Status, faith, sex and religion. The construction work completed in start of the 16th century in 1601 A.D. around August or September -1604. The Guru Arjan Sahib then inaugurated the newly constructed statue of the Guru Granth Sahib in Sri Harmandir Sahib and appointed the first Baba Budha ji Granthi (the reader of Guru Granth Sahib). Afeeter this initiation the temple attained the status of ‘Ath Sath Tirath’. Now the entire Sikh nation had their specific pilgrimage centre (Tirath). (Jathedar Avtar Singh)
The Golden temple – Sri Harmandir Sahib, is built on a 67sqfeet. podium the sits in the centre of the Sarovar (water tank). The temple itself is only 40.5sqfeet, which opens a door on all fours sides. The arch (Darshani Deori) erects at the shoreline of the causeway. The frame door of the arch is 10feet high and 8feet 6inches in width. The panels on the door are decorated with artistic style which opens the door on to the bridge leading towards the main building of Sri Harmandir Sahib; measuring to 202 feet in length and 21 feet wide. The bridge connects with a 13 feet wide circumambulatory route (Pardakshna). Thus running it round the main temple and it leads to the ‘Har ki Paure’ (steps of God). The temples main assembly is based on providing functionally. The front side is faced by the bridge and is decorated with repetitive cusped curves and the roof of the first floor is at the height of the 26 feet and 9 inches. On the top of the first floor, a four feet high bulwark rises from all the sides which has also 4 ‘Mamtees’ from the four corners of the central hall from where the main reservation rises; lies a small square room bearing three gates. A low fluted dome is situated on top of this room, having lots of lotus petal motives starting at the base where an inverted lotus supports the ‘Kalash’ and ‘Chhatri’ at the end. Sikhism architecture represents a distinctive synchronization between the Muslims and the Hindus method of construction work and thus reflects the best architectural examples in the world. It is quite ofeeten quoted that these kinds of designs have created an autonomous Sikh school of architecture in the antiquity of art in India. (Jathedar Avtar Singh)
The Structure of the Golden Temple:
The Golden temple is bordered by a large “Amrit Sarovar” (pure water). The visitor has to pass through a causeway to reach Gurdwara (main temple). This temple has four entrances, which shows the acceptance and sincerity to all religions and statuses. It also consists of three floors; lowest floor is absorbed by the “Amrit Sarovar” (pure water) and is normally not visible, and can only be seen when the sarovar is getting cleaned by Kar Sewaks (religious volunteers). The first floor is made of pure white marble, ornamented with flowers of various kinds and animal pictures, which represents an excellent example of Pietra-Dura Art. Lastly, the second floor is embossed with pure gold. The interior of the temple consists of beautifully carved wooden panels, with prints of gold and silver work. The domed building called Sheesh Mahal also known as the Mirrored Hall, is composed of pieces of mirror of various shapes, sizes and colours. The temple’s architecture signifies the blend of Hindu and Muslim elegances. The gold and marble work, were conducted under direct guidance of the Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, Punjab – Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the Commander-cum-Civil Administrator – Hukam Singh Chimni. (Nidhi)
The magnificence of Sikh architecture
Inspired by Guru Nanak’s artistic spirituality, the Sikh architecture is a silent herald of complete humanism based on realistic spirituality (S.S.Bhatti)
Many Sikh temples have a deorhi, an entrance doorway, through which when one has to pass before reaching the sanctuary. A deorhi is often a remarkable construction with a magnificent gateway, and sometimes runs lodging for office and other uses. The visitors get the first sight of the temple sanctorum from the deorhi. There are over 500 gurdwaras (temples), big and small, each having an historical past. The structures of Sikh tombs, when classified rendering to their plan, are of 4 rudimentary types: the four-sided, the quadrilateral, the eight-sided, and the cruciform. On the foundation of the number of levels, these gurdwaras have heights which may be from one to nine stories in height. A devotee would come across numerous interesting disparities of gurdwara-design worked out on the transformations and mixtures of the above-mentioned basic plan and elevation-types. (Madra)
Sikh architecture has material building-types such as forts, palaces, bungas (residential places), colleges, etc. The religious construction is the gurdwara, a place where the Guru lodges. A gurdwara is an important building of their faith, just as the masjids of Islam and mandir/temple for the Hindus, it is also, like its Islamic and Hindu counterparts, the key-note of Sikh architecture. (SikhiWiki)
The main prerequisite for a gurdwara is that it should consist of a room in which the Adi Granth, the Sikh Holy Book, can be placed and a small sangat (worshipers) can be seated to attend to the path or read from the Holy Book and to sing and perform the blessed verses. Gurdwaras have entrances on all (four) sides, representing that they are open to one and all without any discrimination of any kind. This unique feature also symbolizes the vital principle of the faith that God is universal. There are five historical sanctuaries which have been given the status of takhts (thrones), where the gurmattas (spiritual-temporal verdicts) of a obligatory personality are taken through a agreement of the sangat (worshipers). Such harmony acts had great importance, heart-rending, as they did, the social and political life of the Sikh community. The 5 takhts are: Akal Takht, Amritsar; Harmandir Sahib, Patna (Bihar state); Kesgarh Sahib, Anandpur (Ropar district); Damdama Sahib, Talwandi Sabo (Gurdaspur district); and Hazoor Sahib, Nanded (Maharashtra state). Among these 5 takhts, Akal Takht (the unchallengeable throne) is the most important by quality of its location in Amritsar, the Vatican City of the Sikhs. (S.S.Bhatti)
As a rule, a gumbad (dome) is the crowning feature of any temple. Rarely, a sanctuary may be flat-roofed. Sometimes, a small one-room temple is crowned by a palaki, a palanquin-like roof, derivative from Bengal county style of architecture, and can be seen in Gurdwara Tahli Sahib in village district. (Madra)
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More often, a dome is grooved or ridged but a basic dome has also been used in some cases. Numerous dome-shapes are to be originated in Sikh temples: torus, hemi-spherical, three-quarters of a sphere. The silhouette of the dome of Gurdwara Pataal Puri at Kiratpur in Ropar region has an extraordinary resemblance to the domes to be seen in Bijapur district style of architecture design. (Madra)
The dome is generally white, though sometimes gold-plated, as in the Harmandir Sahib at Amritsar, Darbar Sahib at Tarn Taran, and Sis Ganj in Delhi. On the other hand, in some cases, domes are being covered with brass. (S.S.Bhatti)
An exciting point to note is the way in which the dome is connected to the cuboid structure of the temple. As a statute, the lower part leads the domical erection, and looks somewhat serious in comparison with it. (S.S.Bhatti)
A repeated component of gurdwara-design is the preferred use of two stories to gain adequate elevation for the temple. On the other hand restrained design may be usually preserved by dividing the frontage in agreement with the physical lines of columns, piers, and pillars, with erect partitions creating areas of well-modelled surfaces. The most important division is the entrance which obtains more decorative treatment of other areas. The action often generates bas-reliefs of geometrical designs. Where brilliance is the aim, repose-work in brass or copper-gilt sheeting is introduced often with a note of luxury. (Madra)
Beautiful designs are made on the walls which are successively covered with gold. Exceptional examples of this effort can be seen in the Golden Temple at Amritsar. Sometimes, such work is purified highly decorative by means of colored and mirrored cut-glass as well as semi-precious nuggets. This is known as tukri (small piece) work. Paintings, portraying widely held episodes from the lives of the 10 Gurus, are to be found in some temples. Projects in a job are based on vine, plant, flower, bird, and animal themes. The largest numbers of such frescoes have been painted on the principal floor of Baba Atal at Amritsar. Pinjras, gentle stone gratings, are used for shades, inclusions, and ramparts. (Madra)
Brick, lime cement as well as sea green or gypsum covering, and lime concrete have been the most favored construction materials, even though stone, such as red granite and white marble, has also been used in a number of temples. The former found more use as covering or ornamental material than for meeting physical needs for well over 200 years. Nanak Shahi (of the times of Nanak), brick was most generally used for its fundamental benefits. The brick-tile made decorations, cornices, pillars, etc. easy to work into a diversity of shapes. More often than not, the arrangement was a mixture of the two structures, viz., treated and actuated, based on domes and arches. The exteriors were treated with lime or gypsum covering which was molded into cornices, pillars, and other structural landscapes as well as non-structural accompaniments. (Madra)
Sikh architecture symbolizes the last sparkle of religious design in India. The Golden Temple at Amritsar is its most renowned example as it is the only shrine in which all the features of style are completely represented. The Golden Temple, being the sheet-anchor of the technical catalogue of Sikh architecture, may be detailed. (S.S.Bhatti)
Almost soaring in the air, and in the mid of, an extensive water-body, the Pool of Nectar, mixtures extremely with sparkles of its golden dome, cubicles, walls, and reposes-work, and the fascinating evanescence of its shining reflections in the pool. With the temple and reservoir as the main concentration, a compound of buildings, most of which repeat in their architectural fine points and the features of the central building, have come up in the district of the temple in the development of time. (Madra)
Even though Sikh architecture certainly initiated with the idea of dedication, it had to experience rigors of impulsively renovating itself into buildings meant for defense purposes. It anticipated the personality of military strengthening which was revealed in a number of buildings throughout Punjab. Gurdwara Baba Gurditta, Kiratpur, is a demonstrative example of this type of Sikh architecture design. (S.S.Bhatti)
As flair of building-design, Sikh construction might strike the lay spectator as an extensive pot-pourri of the best structures picked up from here and there. But it symbolizes much more than what meets the unpremeditated eye. It shares its rigorous instruction with the awesome severity of Islam’s rigid monotheism, and celebrates its luxurious energy with the playful dualism of Hinduism. Extensiveness might have been its starting-point, but Sikh design has thrived to a state of artistic sovereignty so as to work out its own formal peculiarities. It is now an appropriate appearance of impulsive eruptions of psycho-spiritual dynamism that rejoices the perfect magnificence of being within the blending mélange of opposites come across during existence — the ground for constant flattering. (S.S.Bhatti)
Sikh architecture imitates an energetic blend of Mughal and Rajput styles. Onion shaped auditoriums, multi foil arches, paired columns, in-lay work walls, etc. are without a doubt of Mughal extraction, more precisely of Emperor-Architect Shah Jehan’s era, while orial windows, strut supported attics at the sequence progression, chatters, richly decorated panels, etc. are evocative of rudiments of Rajput architecture design. (S.S.Bhatti)
Sometimes, the alteration in design is so great that it would be hard to recognize a gurdwara if the typical Sikh pole-mark were not there to help its proof of identity. Some of the gurdwaras look more like entrances, as is the situation with Fatehgarh (town of victory) Sahib, Sirhind, or like an instructive foundation, as is the situation with Ber (berry) Sahib, Sultanpur Lodhi, or like a Rajput citadel, when one first come across the temple’s encircling structures. But all this abnormality, if somewhat mysterious, does not diminish one from the fundamentals of Sikh architecture. On the contradictory verifies the very groundwork of imaginative liberty on which it is constructed.