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Sikh Architecture at its very best
THE GOLDEN TEMPLE COMPLEX, AMRITSAR
By Sikh Architecture what has been meant is precisely the religious buildings of the faith. In other words these buildings which have served the religious-ritualistic and devotional functions of the Sikh community. Anywhere in the world we can spot a Sikh temple as a building apart from others. It has its own flag mast (nishan sahib) draped in yellow or blue with triangular flag with the Sikh insignia fluttering in the breeze. Its dome is different from domes of mosques or Hindu temples, so are its arches, balconies, columns, interiors and general layout.
The Architecture of Gurudwaras The buildings of the Sikh Shrines could be classified into two categories on the two fundamental principles i.e. the ground plan and the elevation. In the ground floor s many as four basic types of formation could be seen-the square, the rectangular, the octagonal and the cruciform. Similarly in elevation, 5 different types of can be noticed with the number of storeys i.e. 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 storeys.
SRI AKAL TAKHAT, AMRITSAR Opposite the Golden Temple, Amritsar, on the western corner of the marble paved courtyard, stands Sri Akal Takhat, the highest Temporal seat of the Sikhs. The building of Sri Akal Takhat is a five storeyed structure with a dome at the top. The façade of the monument consisting of four stories including the basement has a semicircular orientation. Architecturally speaking the monument is quite complicated in its details of composition and layout.
The ground floor • larger platform having one hall underneath, with only one opening in the northern side. • The hall is flanked by stairways on its northern and southern side leading to the first floor. • The façade has an attached pillared marble portico, cusped arch opening on a raise plinth in its central part.
The first floor • Divided into three parts. It consists of a central hall and rooms on both the northern and southern sides. • The façade of the central hall has three openings formed by two pillars. • On both the sides of this central opening, there are two chambers having openings to the east and to the central hall.
The second floor • Repeats the same scheme of the first floor. • It has same rooms in the south and a gallery in the form of a rectangular room on the northern side. • The facade of this floor is in the form of a gallery formed by side chambers and central pillared openings of the type similar to that of the lower storey • The façade terminates into projected eave, supported by decorative brackets & is surmounted by parapet. • A flight of steps spirals in the western wall upto the top
Golden fluted dome
Octagonal kiosks on octagonal minarets
Decorative eave surmounting marble parapet
Pillared marble portico on raised plinth
THE AKAL TAKHAT
The third floor • A large hall formed by cusped arches and square pillars, and galleries on all sides. • In the façade, there are nine cusped arched openings • The façade terminates into a projected eave supported on pairs of decorative brackets. • Two beautiful octagonal minarets, each supporting an octagonal kiosk surmounted by domes are there on N-E and S-E corner of the floor.
The fourth floor • It is an extension of the lower central hall and has three foliated arched openings on each of its sides. • Each of its four corners has a pilaster. • The room is decorated with a projected ornamental eaveand a kiosk on each corner. Finally, there springs a graceful fluted dome with lotus petal base on a circular drum. It is surmounted by an inverted lotus which supports a big Kalasa.
GURUDWARA BABA ATAL, AMRITSAR The Gurudwara Baba Atal is basically a smadh (cenotaph) to the memory of Baba Atal, the revered son of the sixth Guru, Har Gobind. It is located to the S-W of the Golden Temple, Amritsar. • The monument of Baba Atal is the highest building in the city of Amritsar. It is 150 feet high. • It is constructed on an octagonal plan. A larger octagonal structure encloses another structure of the same plan upto the sixth storey, thus leaving circumambulatory path in between. • The inner sanctuary, where the Holy Granth is enshrined rises upto Ninth storey surmounted by the fluted gilded dome. • The outer structure has four rectangular gates, one in each alternate side. The exterior walls are relieved by various decorative patterns. • There are 2 stairways on northern and southern walls leading upto the sixth storey.
• The most interesting feature is the projected balconies supported on brackets throughout the exterior walls. • The top of the 6th storey is in the form of an open octagonal space guarded by balustrade supported on number of pairs of decorative brackets and surmounted by an iron railing. • The 7th stage does not have any opening on the exterior excepting a perforated screen throughout. • The 8th stage has one arched opening on each of its sides • The 9th stage has one arched opening in each of its alternate facets, the remaining ones have windows or projected balconies. Finally, there springs the graceful fluted dome with the inverted lotus supporting Kalasa in the centre.
Within the premises, there is a large tank named Kaulsar, in the west, and also the mausoleums of Nawab Kapoor Singh, S.Jassa Singh and of other sardars.
Gurudwara Baba Atal
GOLDEN TEMPLE, AMRITSAR The Golden Temple, known as the Darbar Sahib or the Hari Mandir, is the most celebrated Sikh shrine situated in Amritsar. The foundation stone was laid by Hazrat Mian Mir of Lahore, a friend and admirer of Guru Arjan, in 1588A.D. The major dates known for construction and reconstruction are as follows: • The first construction took place sometimes between 1588 and 1604A.D. • Subsequent reconstruction took place between 1764 and 1776A.D., following attacks by Ahmad Shah Abdali. • Renovation, and perhaps a major change in the design and fabric, was done by Maharaja Ranjit Singh starting from 1802 and continued through 1839A.D.
ARCHITECTURAL DETAILS • It is a 3 storeyed square building with an additional 2-storeyed building of half-hexagon shape appended to the back, thus the ground floor plan is like a hexa-square. • The main building is surmounted by a central domical structure and kiosks at the cardinal sides. • The building is placed on a square platform in the centre of a square tank, crossed over, in the western side, by a causeway terminating into double storeyed entrance pavillion with an imposing archway. • The sides of the square platform of the temple serve as the Parikrama and a similar function is served by the paved paths of the tank. • The arched pavillion serves as the entrance gateway (Darshini Deorhi) for an access into the causeway leading to the temple.
Northern Gateway The entrance to the precincts of Hari Mandir, is obtained from the northern side through a three storeyed structure, surmounted by a domical member. • The ground floor is divided into three section by two rows of square pillars. • Stairs leading to the upper storeys have been provide in both the sides of the entrance. • The first floor consists of a big hall which serves as a Central Sikh museum. There are projected balconies on northern and southern sides of this floor. • The second floor consists of a small room erected exactly on the central four pillars. • The third storey has been built exactly on the walls of the second storey. There are three rectangular windows in its each wall over which is fixed a clock on each of its sides. • On each corner there is a small kiosk. At the top is fluted dome with lotus petal base fixed on a circular drum.
The Southern & Eastern Gateways • The southern gateway is identical to the northern gateway in architectural design. • The eastern gateway has a big archway as the main architectural feature
The tank of Immorality • The tank or Sarovar is a rectangle, measuring 510’x490’ and is 17’ deep. • The main source of water for the tank is through a canal dug from river Ravi in 1778A.D. • The banks of the tank which serve as pradakshina is paved with marble on all sides. • To avoid any accident, or to prevent people from going deep in the tank, perforated marble walls have been put in the water.
Darshini Gate On the western banks of the tank is a two storeyed building known as Darshini Deorhi. The whole building can be divided into three parts i.e. the central archway, northern and southern wings. • The ground floor has the management offices in the side wings of central doorway • The Darshini Gate is 66’ in length and 36’ in width. The ante chamber in which the ate opens is 25’ in length and 14’6” in width. • The first floor contains the Tosha Khanna (temple treasury). It has 3 openings on each side of its side winga, both in western and eastern facades. In the centre, on both the facades, there is a bi projected balcony. • At the top are 4 chhatris, one each in the middle of all four sides • All the chhatris are roofed with decorative fluted domical tops with Kalasas on inverted lotus base at the top.
The Causeway • The causeway or bridge that leads to the Hari Mandir is 202’10”long and 21’ wide. • It is constructed in the pool of Nectar. • The bridge is constructed on 8 large and 35 small spans, which are known as Swarg Dwaries. • Ten golden lanterns supported on tapering fluted marble pillars decorate both the sides of the causeway. These pillars are joined by lattice balustrades on both the sides. • The bridge was constructed by Mohd. Yar and his brothers of Amritsar who were well reputed masons and craftsmen of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s time.
Pradakshina The bridge is connected with the 13’11”wide circumambulatory path which runs the main shrine, measuring 68’2” each side.
Har Ki Pauri A two storeyed structure appended on the eastern side of the temple is an irregular quadrangular in plan. This is known as Har Ki Pauri. • In the centre of the structure, is 8’10” wide entrance to reach the pool of Nectar. • In northern and southern wings of the central entrance stairs have been provided which move in circular plan upto the top of the temple with terminal openings in the first floor. • The first floor is a large pavillion, supported and formed by semicircular arches. • It is beautifully decorated with gold and mirror work in all its sides including cielings. • It is roofed with fluted dome with the usual Kalasa motif at the top.
Main Sanctuary • The main sanctuary of the Hari Mandir is a square edifice of 40’4”x40’4” in dimensions erected on a square platform of 64’ side. • The building has one rectangular doorway from each of its four sides. • The doors of eastern and Western were plated with silver by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1830A.D. • Stairways spiral to the thickness of wall in the northern side upto the top with terminal in the first floor. • The parapet of the sanctuary has been decorated with small turrets, 58 in number, with their individual square base of 2’ in side. • The four architectural members in the four corners re crowned with cupolas. • The cupolas are roofed with fluted domes, surmounted by Kalasa on the inverted lotus base. • The cupolas on the Har Ki Pauri are octagonal with eight openings • Exactly on the top of central hall of main sanctuary, is the third storey in the form of a square room having three gates.
• Finally there springs the low fluted gumbaz having lotus petal motif in relief at the base and inverted lotus at the top, which supports the Kalasa having a beautiful chhatri at the end. • The dome at its base has a series of small turrets, 36 in number, and one kiosk in each corner.
View from southern gateway
Sri Akal Takhat
The causeway Har Ki Pauri
pradakshina Amrit Sarovar
The Decoration and Ornamentation Golden Temple The Hari Mandir is decorated in such a marvelous manner that there is no other building which can be compared to its grandeur. • The beautification of the Hari Mandir was taken in hand by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. • The whole work of gold plating was executed by Mistri Mohammad Yar Khan of Amritsar. • The lower walls of the whole edifice of the temple are faced with marble slabs with arabseques of conventional flower sprays in precious stones of different colors and shades.
• The inlay work of floral decoration on the walls in the ground floor was executed by the Muslim masons from Chaniot under the supervision of Badaru-Mohiudin, the Chief Architect. • The interior of the Hari Mandir is exquisitely beautified and ornamented with floral designs. • The embellishments of the cielings of Darshini Gate was done by Raja Sangat Singh of Jind. • There are abut 300 different designs on walls of Golden Temple
Darshini Gate ceiling
• The only surviving mural can be seen on the lintel of northern stairways of the first floor.
Gurudwara Baba Atal, Amritsar • The ground floor Pradakshina and the first floor are beautifully embellished with fresco painting. • The roof of the circumambulatory is beautified in Gach technique. • The first floor is decorated with paintings from the life of Guru Nanak. • The archway or Deorhi contains paintings in their original form and colors.
• Large panels illustrate scenes from the life of Guru Nanak and Baba Atal Rai.
Sri Akal Takhat, Amritsar The interior of the first storey of Sri Akal Takhat has been beautified on the pattern of the Golden Temple, Amritsar. The second storey of the north wing was adorned with paintings depicting themes from Sikh History.
Techniques Gach Work: Gach was a sort of gypsum or stone. This was propounded & fried in pan. When it formed a paste being mixed with water, it was put to use on walls like lime. Tukri Work: Tukri work is another kind of Gach work. It involves the setting of the pieces of glass of various sizes in the cut clay work. Colored glass, mirror, glass pieces and gold leaves were used. Jarat Kari: It involves the in-laying of colored stone in marble. The designs are prepared by artists and transferred to marble slabs. The multi-colored stones were then cut in that pattern.
Architectural Features The Dome: Almost all important Sikh shrines have an imposing visual effect because of the types and forms of the domes. The dome of Golden Temple, Amritsar is unique not only in view of its imposing size and dignified grandeur but also due to interesting formation of its domical superstructure. The dome represents the synthesis of all important characteristics of the shape and details of ornamentation noticed in the domes of other shrines.
The Kiosk: The Sikh shrines have number of subsidery structres in the form of Kiosks. The most common type of a kiosk is a square miniature room crowned by a domical member. The room normally has the walls disposed into number of entrances , often with arched or foliated upper portion. The maximum number of entrances is however 3 on each side.
Kiosk at N. gateway
Kiosk& dome- main sanctuary
The Golden Temple has kiosks of octagonal, rectangular and square form. Varieties of kiosks can be seen in Sri Akal Takhat also.
The Balconied Windows A very distinctive characteristic of Sikh Shrines is represented by the balconied windows. Several varieties of windows could be noticed in Sikh monuments.
Window detail(Baba Atal) Bay window at golden temple
Window at N. gateway
The Arches: Sikh shrines offer interesting varieties in respect of the types and forms of the arches. The most common, perhaps the foremost popular, type of arch is represented by foliations or cusps. The number of cusps is invariably found to be nine.
Arches along Parikrama
The Pillars and Pilasters: One of the major distinctive features of Sikh shrines seems to be the presence of pillars and pilasters.
The shafts are mostly plain, without any carving, except the vertical lines of accession. The capitals consists of floral or foliage designs.