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Amritsar History, India

The Golden Temple has become synonymous with Amritsar and the same can be said about the history of Amritsar city. In fact, the city derives its name from Amrit Sarovar (meaning the pool of nectar), the holy water-body that surrounds the temple.

Nevertheless, if we probe a little deeper we will find that the region’s history dates back to the days of the Indus Valley Civilization. Excavations in the region have led to the finding of several archaeological sites. The great Sanskrit epic Ramayana identifies the region as the venue of Rishi Balmiki’s ashram where the twin sons of Lord Rama, Luv and Kush were born. Detailed study of history of Amritsar even reveals evidences of Greek influence. Following the defeat of the Greeks, the region became a part of the Mauryan Empire and then of the Gupta Empire. The region also saw brief rules of the Shahi Dynasty and that of Sultan Mahmood of Ghazni before the arrival of Sikhism.

History Of Amritsar And Sikhism

Amritsar is the holy-land of the Sikhs. Legend has it that the fourth guru of the Sikhs, Guru Ram Das, hearing of the healing powers of the pool, ordered his son and successor Guru Arjan Dev to construct a temple at the site. Construction work began around 1588 and by 1601 the temple complex was ready. (Known among the Sikhs as the Harimandir Sahib, the shrine houses the sacred scripture of the Sikhs, Guru Granth Sahib, also known as Adi Granth.) After the construction work was completed, the Sikh Guru appealed to the trading-communities to come and settle in the neighborhood of the temple and gradually a small township was formed.

The shrine has been revered by followers of other faith since its early days - Mughal Emperor Akbar is said to have donated the land surrounding the temple; however, tales of loot and plunder are also associated with the temple and the surrounding township. Ahmad Shah Durrani raided the town towards the end of the 18th century but the first Sikh ruler of Punjab, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, left no stones unturned to ensure that the city and the temple precincts looked better than before. The Maharaja donated 100 kilos of gold, which was used to cover the outer-walls of the temple with golden plating (giving the temple its popular name as ‘The Golden Temple’).

Following the persecution and execution of the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev, the sixth guru, Guru Har Gobind fortified the city and started organizing the Sikh communities into political and military outfits.

History of Amritsar and India’s Struggle for Freedom

The indomitable spirit of the Sikhs made it impossible for them to be dominated, subjugated and Amritsar became an important center during the days of India’s struggle for freedom. The gruesome mass-killing of innocent people in the Jallianwala Bagh is just one example of the mindless atrocities perpetrated by the British rulers. The incident, however, is seen as one of the prime reasons that ultimately freed India from the British rule.

History of Amritsar in Post-Independence Era

In the post-Independence era, Amritsar once again became the scene of gory warfare when Sikh militant took up weapons against Indian administration seeking self-rule for the State of Punjab. The Golden Temple once again became the center-stage of activities as armed Sikh-militants led by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale occupied the shrine in June 1984. The Indian army was called and the army started Operation Blue Star. In the ensuing war with the Indian army, Bhindranwale was killed and the temple complex was freed of miscreants.

As an outcome of this incident, the then Premier of India, Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh body-guards. This, in turn, saw retaliatory attacks by Hindus on the Sikhs and in 1987 Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi ordered another campaign, Operation Black Thunder, to liberate the temple from the clutches of militant-forces.

Today Amritsar is among the most prosperous cities of India.

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