The Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple):
When coming across the terms Sikh art and architecture, there is one building which seems unanimous in all minds- the Harimandir Sahib (otherwise known as the Golden Temple), in Amritsar, Punjab. And indeed, art according to the Sikh mind can be seen as culminating through- this amazing structure. Although some have interpreted the Golden Temple as a later form imitating the Mughal style of architecture, what it represents in fact, is both Muslim and Hindu forms of art and architecture, as it truly is the most striking example of the hybridity in terms of Sikhs bringing together the most significant aspects of Muslim and Hindu styles of architecture. And what are these unique and amazing features?
To begin with, the very crux of the temple itself arises from the big tank, or “waters of life” area which was originally located by the first Sikh Guru, Guru NankDevJi, as being a majestic site for reflection and meditation. From this one spot, the shrine itself sprouted, much like a lotus flower as it is often described as, upon which its entire glorious reflection can be seen in the crystal clear waters. The exterior of the shrine itself is covered entirely with golden plates and marble, whereas the inside is covered with fresco paintings, detailed designs of art inlaid in marble, of varying textures, colors, and hues. The two storied shrine is topped by a golden dome which is also designed to resemble the lotus symbol. Once inside, and past the large hall, is where the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji emanates, resting under a fully and gorgeously decorated canopy. And yet, although the golden aspect of the shrine itself is what amazes most, it is the architectural layout of its surroundings which is just as impressive. The entrance gate to the temple for example, which is comprised of the models of Rajput and Bengal Mughal Chhatri style, is 10 feet by 8 feet piece embossed with panels in which the backside is decorated with glorious ivory artwork consisting of images such as birds, lions, tigers, etc. The art itself which is contained within the Golden Temple also reflects the diverse and open nature of Sikhism as it consists of Hindu mythological themes, as well as including Rajput, Persian, and Mughal influences. It is indeed no wonder that the Golden Temple incorporates such intrinsic architecture and art, all the way down to the minutest details. As the key site for Sikh religious spirituality, its historic beginnings and its gorgeous displays hold deep meaning and connections to Sikhs and even non-Sikhs around the world.