By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Amrtsar, AmRtsar, Amrritsar
Amṛtsar literally means ‘Lake of Nectar’.
Amṛtsar or Amritsar is the principal holy city of the Sikhs. It is in Punjab and is also the district headquarters. The foundation of the city was laid by guru Rāmdās (A. D. 1534-1581), the fourth Guru of Sikhism, when he inaugurated the digging of the holy tank ‘Amṛt-sar’ (‘lake of nectar’) on a piece of land purchased from the residents of the neighboring village of Tuṅg during the time of the previous Guru, Amardās (A. D. 1479- 1574). The habitation that grew round the holy lake was initially called ‘Rāmdāspur’ or ‘Chakk Rāmdās’ or ‘Chakk Guru’.
Guru Arjan (A. D. 1563-1606) completed and lined the tank. He also constructed the holy shrine in its middle, “Harimandar’ (now famous as the Golden Temple). Guru Hargobind (A. D. 1595-1644) constructed the Akāl Takht (‘Throne of the Eternal’) near the pool. He also got dug up two more tanks in the town, known as ‘Kaulsar’ and ‘Bibeksar’.
During the eighteenth century, Amṛtsar witnessed many ups and downs like the Sikh community. It suffered repeatedly, desecration and destruction by the hands of the Muslim rulers of Delhi. Only by the time of Mahārājā Raṇjit Singh (A. D. 1780-1830) order and peace were established.
Amṛtsar gradually grew into an important industrial and commercial city. Amṛtsar has many Sikh shrines associated with the memory of the Gurus, martyrs and heroes. Some of them are :
- Akāl Buṅga
- Gurdwārā Dukh Bhañjanī Berī
- Gurdwārā Tharhā Sāhib
- Gurdwārā Mañji Sāhib
- Gurdwārā Guruke Mahal
- Bābā Aṭal Sāhib
- Gurdwārā Rāmsar
- Gurdwārā Bibeksar
- Gurdwārā Darśanī Diorhī
- Gurdwārā Damdamā Sāhib
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore