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(əmrĭt`sər), city (1991 pop. 709,456), Punjab state, NW India. It is a district administrative center, as well as a trade and industrial city where carpets, fabrics of goat hair, and handicrafts are made. The center of the Sikh religion (see SikhismSikhism
, religion centered in the Indian state of Punjab, numbering worldwide some 19 million. Some 300,000 Sikhs live in Britain, and there are smaller communities in North America, Australia, and Singapore.
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), Amritsar was founded in 1577 by Ram Das, the fourth guru [Hindustani,=teacher], on land given by AkbarAkbar
, 1542–1605, Mughal emperor of India (1556–1605); son of Humayun, grandson of Babur. He succeeded to the throne under a regent, Bairam Khan, who rendered loyal service in expanding and consolidating the Mughal domains before he was summarily dismissed (1560) by
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. The Golden Temple (refurbished 1802), set in the center of a lake, is especially sacred to Sikhs. The city was the center of a Sikh empire in the early 19th cent., and modern Sikh nationalism was founded there. Khalsa College, a branch of Punjab Univ., is in Amritsar. The first Amritsar massacre took place in the Jalianwala Bagh, an enclosed park, in Apr., 1919; hundreds of Indian nationalists were killed and thousands wounded when troops under British control fired upon them. The second massacre occurred June, 1984, when Indian troops, opposing a militant Sikh separatist movement, shot their way into the Golden Temple, killing more than 400 people inside.

Amritsar (India)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The city of Amritsar in Punjab, India, is the center of the Sikh religion. Throughout the fifteenth century, where now a large urban complex is situated, there was only a small lake to which Guru Nanak (1469–1539), the founder of the Sikh faith, was known to retire and meditate. Through the decades following Nanak’s death, his followers visited the site, which subsequently emerged as the religion’s most holy place. The name of the city and the lake means “pool of nectar.”

Nanak was succeeded in leadership of the small but growing Sikh community by designated gurus. The third guru, Amar Das (1479–574),began to recognize the sacredness attributed to the lake, and he entrusted his successor, Ram Das (1534–1581), with the construction of an appropriate place for worship. He saw to the enlargement of the lake and laid the foundation of the temple, which was completed by the fifth guru, Arjun Dev (1563–1606). The temple was finished in 1601, and three years later the Adi Granth, the collection of the writings of the gurus that constitute the Sikh scriptures, was formally placed inside the temple. The Har Mandir Temple of God, as it was called, became the center of the relatively small Sikh community and a target by its enemies. In the eighteenth century it was destroyed on several occasions, the last time in 1767, only to be rebuilt.

The temple is entered via a causeway over the pool of nectar. Pilgrims may walk completely around the temple and find entrance doors on every side. Inside the temple, the space is dominated by the platform holding the Adi Granth. A tank within the temple contains water from the spring that feeds the lake. Here pilgrims may symbolically wash their soul with the holy water. On the shore of the lake at the other end of the causeway is a second, smaller temple, the Akal Takht. Each day begins with a priest bringing the Adi Granth to the Har Mandir. It is placed on its platform, and readings from it may be heard throughout the day. At the close of the day, the Adi Granth is wrapped in ritual cloths and returned to the Akal Takht. Next to the complex of temple buildings are dormitories and dining halls where all persons, regardless of religion, race, or gender, may find free room and board. The Har Mandir received its common name, the Golden Temple, after the upper exterior of the temple was covered with gold in 1830.

The Golden Temple made world headlines in 1984 when it became the site of a battle between Punjabis seeking a separate, autonomous Sikh nation (for which some Sikhs had argued throughout the twentieth century) and Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi (1917–1984). As he carried out this struggle, Sikh leader Jarnail

Singh Bhindranwale (1947–1984) made the Golden Temple his headquarters, and Gandhi vowed to capture him even if it meant storming the temple complex. In the end, the Indian Army stormed the complex, largely destroying the Akal Takht and killing a number of people, including many innocent pilgrims who were trapped in the temple when the army had originally set up a siege. Bhindranwale was also killed in the process. In retaliation for the violation of the Golden Temple, two of Indira Gandhi’s bodyguards were assassinated.

Guru Nanak had been opposed to the very idea of pilgrimages, and to this day, Sikhs have shown some reluctance to identify visits to Amritsar as making a pilgrimage. However, the emergence of the Golden Temple as a sacred center of the faith prompted some of the faithful to view their visits as pilgrimages. Within a short distance of Amritsar, other sites sacred to the Sikhs may be found, including the gurudwara (worship center) at Tarn Taran built in honor of Guru Arjun Dev, the gurudwara at Gobindwal built by Guru Amar Das, and the memorial to Guru Angad Devji at Hazoor Sahib.


Dogra, Ramesh Chander, and Gobind Singh Manusukani. Encyclopedia of Sikh Religion and Culture. New Delhi: Vikas, 1995.
Duggard, K. S. The Sikh People Yesterday and Today. New Delhi: UBS Publishers’ Distributors, 1993.
Macauliffe, Max Arthur. The Sikh Religion. 6 vols. New Delhi: S. Chand & Company, 1978.



city in northern India in the state of Punjab. Population in 1965, 398,200. Railroad junction; trade center; important textile center. Famous for the manufacture of wool, cotton, and silk fabric; rugs; and metal, bone, and leather articles.

Amritsar was founded around the sacred Pool of Immortality (in Sanskrit, Amrita Saras) in the late 16th century by Ram Das, the fourth Sikh guru. It became the Sikh holy city and religious and cultural center. The Golden Temple, the sanctuary of the Sikhs, is in Amritsar. In the 19th century it was part of the state of Ranjit Singh. In 1849, as a result of the second Anglo-Sikh War, it was seized by the British East India Company. From 1918 to 1922, Amritsar was a center of the rising national liberation struggle. On April 13, 1919, a protest meeting against the policy of the colonial government was held there, and the colonial authorities opened fire at the meeting, killing and wounding more than 1,000 people. The Amritsar massacre, as it came to be known, caused an explosion of indignation in India and other countries. During the partition of India in 1947, Amritsar suffered great destruction as a result of battles between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs.


a city in India, in NW Punjab: centre of the Sikh religion; site of a massacre in 1919 of unarmed supporters of Indian self-government by British troops; in 1984 the Golden Temple, fortified by Sikhs, was attacked by Indian troops with the loss of many Sikh lives. Pop.: 975 695 (2001)
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