The Golden Temple in Amritsar is the most exalted of all Sikh shrines. For the Sikh community the Harmandir Sahib Gurdwara better known as Golden Temple is the final spiritual vision.
Four centuries ago, the third Sikh Guru Amar Das asked Guru Ram Das (successor of Guru Amar Das) to build a central place for the congregation of the Sikhs and thus the Golden Temple was built. Guru Arjan Dev completed the work started by Guru Ram Das in the 16th century. The followers of Guru Arjan Dev settled in a nearby town that later was called Amritsar.
The first Sikh Maharaja, Ranjit Singh, made Amritsar his spiritual capital while Lahore was the temporal seat of his newly founded expanding kingdom. Ranjit Singh oversaw the temple's further development, gilding the embossed plates, renewing the pietra dura and embellishing the interior with floral designed, mirrored ceilings.
Golden Temple is widely regarded as being amongst the most tastefully decorated shrines anywhere. The art and architecture of the temple has been praised lavishly by generations.
The gurdwara has four entrance doors, called deoris, in all four directions-symbolic of the new faith that made no distinction between caste and creed. People could enter and bow in any direction they preferred.
The main structure rises from the center of the sacred pool and is approached by a long causeway. The 52-meter, square-based Hari Mandir stands on a square platform, its lower parts marble, and its upper portion fully covered with plates of gilded copper. In the interior, on the ground, the "Guru Granth Sahib" (holy book of the Sikhs) is placed under a jewel-studded canopy.
On the first floor is a small pavilion called the Shish Mahal (mirror room). It is ornamented with pieces of mirrors inlaid in the ceiling and walls. Above is another smaller pavilion. Exquisite murals adorn the walls of the pavilions, but other than that, the emphasis is on simplicity.
Situated at the other end of the causeway connected to the Harmandir Sahib is the Akal Takht. Literally, it means the eternal throne and its building opposite the temple has a significance. While the temple stands for the spiritual guidance, the Akal Takht symbolizes the dispensing of justice and temporal activities. During the day, the Guru Granth Sahib is kept in the temple and at night at the Akal Takht. Traditionally all Sikh warriors sought blessings here before going for war.