HARIMANDAR (lit. the House of God; hari = Viṣṇu, or God; mandar = temple, house), Golden Temple to the English-speaking world, is the Sikhs' most famous sacred shrine. Also called Srī Darbār Sāhib (the Exalted Holy Court), it lies in the heart of the city of Amritsar in the Punjab. The city in fact grew around what initially stood as the temple portal. The present structure could well be described as a golden beauty amid a glittering pool of water. It is a heaven of peace for the devotees as well as a rare attraction for the lay tourists. Its basic architectural design was conceived by the Fifth Nānak, Gurū Arjan (1563-1606), setting the building with a door in each of the four directions signifying its accessibility to all irrespective of caste and creed. Ghulām Muhay ud-Dīn, also known as Būṭe Shāh, Twārīkh-i-Pañjāb (MS.), in the Dr Gaṇḍā Siṅgh Collection, Punjabi University, p. 139, states that Shāh Mīāṅ Mīr came to Amritsar at Gurū Arjan's request and "with his own blessed hand put four bricks, one on each side, and another one in the middle of the tank". Sohan Lāl Sūrī in his 'Umdāt-ut-Twārīkh, Ārya Press, Lahore, 1885, Book 1, pp. 28-29, says that Gurū Arjan went to Lahore to see Shāh Mīāṅ Mīr and sought his assistance in the construction of the tank and buildings at Amritsar. Giānī Giān Siṅgh, Twārīkh Gurū Khālsā (Urdu), Wazīr Hind Press, Amritsar, 1896, part 1, p. 96, is more explicit and states that the foundation of the building of the Harimandar was laid by Mīāṅ Mīr. According to the current tradition, the Gurū had the cornerstone laid by the Muslim saint Mīr Muhammad (1550-1635), popularly known as Hazrat Mīāṅ Mīr, of Lahore, on 1 Māgh 1645 Bk/28 December 1588.

        Work on the holy tank of Amritsar had been commenced in AD 1577 by Gurū Arjan's predecessor, Gurū Rām Dās (1534-81), on a site which, according to some sources, was purchased during the time of the Third Nānak, Gurū Amar Dās (1479-1574), from the inhabitants of the nearby village Tuṅg, and which, according to other sources, was a gift from the Mughal emperor Akbar (1542-1605) to the latter Gurū's daughter, Bībī Bhānī, married to Gurū Rām Dās. The habitation which developed around the tank first came to be known as Rāmdāspur, after the name of Gurū Rām Dās, or simply as Chakk Gurū (the Gurū's village). The tank was completed and lined by his son and spiritual successor, Gurū Arjan, who also raised the structure, Harimandar, in the middle of it, Sikhs, i.e. disciples, contributing with devotion the labour of their hands. Some of the leading contemporary Sikhs took a hand in excavating the tank and in raising the masonry in the middle of it. Counted among them are Bhāī Buḍḍhā, Bhāī Gurdās, Bhāī Sāhlo, Bhāī Bahilo, Bhāī Bhagatū, Bhāī Paiṛā and Bhāī Kalyāṇā. The completion of the temple was consummated with the installation in it, on Bhādoṅ sudī 1, 1661 Bk/ 16 August 1604, of the Holy Scripture, the Ādi Granth, which Gurū Arjan had himself compiled. Bhāī Buḍḍhā, revered for his holiness since the days of Gurū Nānak, was named the first granthī or officiant. According to Gurbilās Pātshāhī Chhevīṅ, Gurū Arjan set the daily routine and liturgy, which are operative till today. Kīrtan or singing of scriptural hymns goes on the whole day and through the best part of the night, starting between 2 and 3 in the morning, depending on the season, and continues till late in the evening. The Holy Book is then reverently escorted from the premises amid the chanting of the holy hymns to Koṭhā Sāhib at Gurū kā Mahal, the Gurū's chamber. The custom continued until the Holy Book came to be installed at Akāl Buṅgā, the edifice raised over the Akāl Takht, the Throne of the Timeless, raised by Gurū Hargobind in 1606. The Holy Book is ushered back into the sanctum sanctorum at the Harimandar between the hours of 4 and 5 the next morning. The interval between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. is utilized for cleaning the premises and washing and scrubbing the floor of the Harimandar.

         The control of the Harimandar passed into the hands of the schismatic sect of the Mīṇās after Gurū Hargobind, who had succeeded Gurū Arjan in the spiritual line, left Amritsar (Gurū Chakk) in 1635 to settle at Kīratpur in the Śivālik hills. First Bābā Miharbān of the sect and then his son Harijī managed the shrine, the latter having had a long tenure of about 57 years from 18 January 1639 to 17 April 1696. It was during his stewardship that Gurū Tegh Bahādur, Nānak IX, was barred entry into the Harimandar at the time of his visit to Amritsar in 1664. Soon after the inauguration of the Khālsā in 1699, Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, on a request from the Amritsar saṅgat, sent Bhāī Manī Siṅgh (d. 1737) accompanied by Bhūpāl Siṅgh, Gulzār Siṅgh, Koer Siṅgh Chandra, Dān Siṅgh and Kīrat Siṅgh to take charge of the Harimandar and the Akāl Takht on behalf of the Khālsā. Bhāī Manī Siṅgh remained the custodian throughout the rest of his life except for a brief interval spent in Delhi in the service of Mātā Sundarī, widow of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh.

         Harimandar being the source of Sikh life and faith, remained the main target during the period of persecution by the Mughal rulers and by Afghān invaders from across the northwest frontier during the eighteenth century. In March-April 1709, the governor of Lahore set up a police post at Amritsar and sent an army contingent to suppress the Sikhs. Yet they thronged the shrine, especially on festival occasions such as Baisākhī and Dīvalī. This continued even after the arrest and execution in 1716 of Bandā Siṅgh along with a large number of Sikhs. At the Dīvālī of 1723, the holy premises were the scene of a conflict between the factions of the Sikhs, Tatt Khālsā, the puritans, and Bandaīs, who claimed Bandā Siṅgh to be their mentor. An open clash was, however, averted at the intervention of Bhāī Manī Siṅgh who suggested seeking, in settling the dispute, the guidance of the Gurū. Two pieces of paper with the Khālsā salutation "Vāhigurū Jī Kī Fateh" written on one and the Bandaī salutation "Fateh Darshan," an innovation introduced by Bandā Siṅgh, on the other were set afloat in the holy tank from steps behind the Harimandar. The slip with "Vāhigurū Jī Kī Fateh" inscribed on it kept floating while the other sank in water. This was interpreted to be a verdict in favour of the Tatt Khālsā which most of the Bandaīs then joined.

         The Harimandar regained the bustle and glory of the days of Gurū Hargobind as Zakarīyā Khān, the Mughal governor of Lahore, admitting how his unrelenting campaign against the Sikhs had failed to subdue them, made peace with them in 1733, offering them a large jāgīr and conferring the title of Nawāb upon their leader, Kapūr Siṅgh of Faizullāpur, thus opening the way for them to come out of their hiding-places and station themselves at Amritsar. With the abrogation of the accord in 1735, Sikhs were driven back into their former haunts. Bhāī Manī Siṅgh custodian of the shrine, was captured and executed in 1737. Amritsar was occupied. Masse Khān, a Raṅghāṛ Rājpūt landlord of Maṇḍiālā, who was appointed kotwāl or police commissioner of the town, befouled the sarovar and converted the Harimandar into an asylum for his dancing girls. To avenge the sacrilege, two Sikhs, Bhāī Matāb Siṅgh of Mirāṅkoṭ and Bhāī Sukkhā Siṅgh of Māṛī Kambo, setting out from their desert resort in Rājasthān, came to Amritsar, entered the Harimandar in disguise, killed Masse Khān, and rode back to safety. This occurred on 11 August 1740. In 1746, Lakhpat Rāi, a Lahore official, had the pool surrounding the Harimandar levelled up with sand. The Sikhs got the chance of having it cleared up three years later when the governor of Lahore, Mu'īn ul-Mulk, nicknamed Mīr Mannū, slackened military operations against them to enlist their help in his expedition against Multān. After Mīr Mannū's death in November 1753, Sikhs had freer access to the Harimandar. Delhi government had lost control over the Punjab and Sikhs were establishing their sway through the rākhī system introduced by different misls or commands of the Dal Khālsā, Amritsar falling within the area held by Sardār Harī Siṅgh of the Bhaṅgī misl.

         In 1757, the Afghān invader Ahmad Shāh Durrānī, returning from Delhi with his spoils, attacked Amritsar, desecrated the Harimandar and defiled the tank casting into it the waste and entrails of slaughtered cows. Sikhs wrested control of the shrine as Bābā Dīp Siṅgh of the Shahīd misl led a band of warriors into Amritsar, himself falling fighting valiantly (11 November 1757), and had the holy tank cleaned by Afghān soldiers captured during their campaign undertaken jointly with Ādīnā Beg, the faujdār of Jalandhar Doāb, and the Marāṭhās against Ahmad Shāh's son, Prince Taimūr, and his deputy Jahān Khān. In 1762, during his sixth invasion of India, Ahmad Shāh Durrānī blew up the Harimandar with gunpowder. The Sikhs, however, rallied to return to Amritsar and celebrated there the festival of Dīvālī a few months later. After the conquest of Sirhind in January 1764, Jassā Siṅgh Āhlūvālīā, commander of Dal Khālsā, federated army of the Sikh misls, gave a call for collecting funds for the reconstruction of the Harimandar. The misl Sardārs set aside part of the booty for this purpose. Money so raised was deposited with the bankers of Amritsar, and Bhāī Des Rāj of the village of Sursiṅgh was entrusted with the supervision of the work and given a special seal, Gurū dī Mohar, to collect more funds. Bhāī Gurbakhsh Siṅgh of the village of Lil, stationed at Akāl Buṅgā to look after the ruined Darbār Sāhib (Harimandar), turned out with his small contingent of 30 Nihaṅgs to challenge the Durrānī who had reached Amritsar on 1 December 1764 marching down unchecked during his seventh invasion. Bhāī Gurbakhsh Siṅgh and his comrades-in-arms fought gallantly and fell to a man.

         With Ahmad Shāh getting on in years and showing signs of exhaustion, Sikh misl leaders started occupying territory and ruling within their domains as autonomous chiefs, Amritsar and the holy Harimandar remaining their common rendezvous and cherished place of pilgrimage. Several misl chiefs made endowments in land for the maintenance of the shrine and of the Gurū kā Laṅgar attached to it. They also constructed around the tank their buṅgās or rest houses to stay in during their visits to the Harimandar. Some of the buṅgās became in due course the centres of religious and secular instruction. The reconstruction of the Harimandar, the causeway and Darshanī Ḍeoṛhī, the main gateway, was completed by 1776 and the renovation of the terrace around the pool by 1784. The haṅslī or canal bringing water from the River Rāvī to fill the Harimandar tank had been dug by 1781 under the supervision of two Udāsī mahants, Prītam Dās and Santokh Dās.

         The Harimandar assumed its present appearance during the reign of the Sikh sovereign Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh (1780-1839). While its basic design barring minor alterations and architectural embellishments remained the same as before, decorative art work on the walls and ceiling was carried out during this period. The source of its architecture cannot be related to any particular prototype, its elements lying in different contemporary or preceding architectural practices prevalent in the country. Broadly speaking, it may be called a mixture of the Mughal and Rājpūt models. What is most striking to the eye of a casual visitor as well as that of a connoisseur is the beauty of the Harimandar's superb setting and the richness of detail. The main building, a 12.25 metre square two-storeyed domed edifice, stands on a 19.7 metre square platform in the middle of the almost square amritsar or amrit-sarovar (the Pool of Nectar), 154.5 X 148.5 metre in expanse and 5.1 metre deep, and connected to northwestern bank, by a 60-metre causeway bridge ending at a magnificent gateway called Darshanī Ḍeoṛhī. On the opposite side is added to the square sanctum sanctorum a half-hexagonal appendage sheltering Har kī Pauṛī, holy steps, a flight of steps leading to the waters of the tank.

         The total ground plan of the Harimandar is thus a hexa-square. This leaves a 3.7 metre wide circumambulatory passage, uncovered on three sides and running through the semi-hexagonal appendage on the fourth. The building is divided into two floors. The ground floor has a central square where the Gurū Granth Sāhib is seated. The first floor is formed by an all-round gallery spreading over the space between the inner square and the outer walls and approached by stairs built on either side of the back opening leading to Har kī Pauṛī. While the facade on the ground floor is lined with white marble worked with richly decorated panels and pilasters, the whole exterior above it is covered with gilded plates of copper conferring upon the edifice the popular name of Golden Temple. The four door-openings at the ground floor have multifoil arches, their shutters covered with gold-leafed copper sheets bearing beautiful embossed designs of flowers and birds and scenic motifs. The first floor facade is punctuated by numerous windows, some plain rectangles marked off by pilasters and top arches, others in the form of balconies thrown-out on carved brackets. An all-round wide awning at the roof level separates the decorated masonry on the top from the floors below. A low, fluted, semispherical dome topped by a tall ornamental pinnacle and an umbrella-shaped finial covers the central square. Arched copings on the sides with small solid domes and corner cupolas adorn the central dome. There are domed kiosks at the corners and smaller cupolas on the parapet.

         The beauty of the interior is still more bewitching. Its richly ornamented floral designs, either painted in tempera, embossed in metal or inset in marble are a warm expression of the intense religious emotion of the Sikh faith captured in visual designs. Arabesques with floral designs in fine filigree and enamel work decorate the walls and the ceiling of the central hall. Its arches are ornamented with verses from the Gurū Granth Sāhib reproduced in letters of gold. There also are decorative inlaid figures and floral designs studded at places with semi-precious stones and pieces of reflecting glass in stucco. Hundreds of frescoes depicting floral patterns interspersed with animal motifs also decorate the walls. Walls along the stairs abound in some rare murals, among them a portrait of Gurū Gobind Siṅgh on horseback out on a falconry excursion.

         The marbled causeway is a bridge 60 metre long and 6.36 metres wide having 52 large and small spans called svargdvārīs (lit. doors of heaven) formed by trefoil arches and rectangular pillars including those underneath the Harimandar itself. A special feature of the bridge is the construction of the inner narrower aqueducts connecting the svargdvārīs on both sides of the bridge.

         Darshanī Ḍeoṛhī at the end of the bridge is built within the sarovar. It is a two-storeyed building divided by the pathway to the Harimandar into two wings, identical in architectural design though with slightly differing measurements. The ground floor houses some management offices and the first floor contains the toshākhānā, the temple treasury. The heavy portal, 3x2.4 metres, of 15 centimetres thick shīsham (Dalbergia sissoo) wood is covered with silver sheets ornamented with panels inlaid with artistic ivory work. Above the gate on either facade is a projected balcony, and above it is a bukhārchā (a rectangular kiosk with an elongated dome).

         The composite management of the Darbār Sāhib (the Harimandar and the related shrines) by the misl chiefs was taken over by Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh who claimed exclusive right to 'serve' and manage it. He appointed Desā Siṅgh Majīṭhīā and later his son, Lahiṇā Siṅgh Majīṭhīā, to manage the shrines. Bhāī Sūrat Siṅgh, of Chinioṭ, was appointed manager of the Darbār Sāhib and of the jāgīrs or land grants endowed for its maintenance. Sūrat Siṅgh's son, Giānī Sant Siṅgh, who replaced his father as manager in 1806, was additionally charged with the ornamentation of the building with funds provided by the Mahārājā and princes and chiefs. After Giānī Sant Siṅgh's death in 1832, his son Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh was appointed to this duty. The position became hereditary in the family and it was Bhāī Gurmukh Siṅgh's eldest son, Giānī Parduman Siṅgh who, after a brief period in exile following the arrest and assassination of his father in 1843, was appointed to it.

         The importance of the Harimandar in the religious and political life of the Punjab was not lost on the British, who upon their conquest of the Punjab in 1849 assumed the authority, like their predecessors, to the right the former rulers had exercised in controlling the Darbār Sāhib. At the suggestion of Lahiṇā Siṅgh Majīṭhīā, who had retired to Benāras in January 1848, Sardār Jodh Siṅgh, an Extra Assistant Commissioner from the Punjab, was appointed to manage the Darbār Sāhib. The British authority had issued in 1847 public instructions mindful of religious scruples of the Sikhs. Also, a General Committee composed of some prominent Sikhs, with Rājā Tej Siṅgh as president was appointed to oversee the affairs of the Temple. In one sense Jodh Siṅgh was the executive officer of the Committee. He was the dominant power. For a decade following the annexation in 1849 the British government bore a direct hand in the management of the Darbār Sāhib. After the incidents of 1857, the government appointed a committee of Sikh nobles (1859) to nominate a sarbarāh (superintendent or manager) for the Golden Temple. The appointment was subject to the approval of the deputy commissioner of Amritsar. This arrangement continued till 1920 notwithstanding the fact that the Government of India had passed an Act in 1863: "An act to enable the Government to divest itself of the management of religious endowments." This Act required local governments to appoint trustees to whom powers and responsibilities for the management of religious institutions would be transferred and who would thereafter be autonomously self-perpetuating. In the case of Sikh shrines in Amritsar, collectively known as the Darbār Sāhib, the Punjab Government, virtually ignored the Government of India legislation. A meeting of the Sikh elite called by the deputy commissioner of Amritsar was held at the koṭhī (bungalow) of Rājā Tej Siṅgh from 5 to 12 September 1859. Sardār Shamsher Siṅgh Sandhāṅvālīā, Bhāī Parduman Siṅgh, Sardār Dyāl Siṅgh Majīṭhīā, Sardār Mahtāb Siṅgh Majīṭhīā, Rāi Mūl Siṅgh, Rāi Sāhib Bachittar Siṅgh, Sardār Jaimal Siṅgh Khaṇḍālvālā, Sardār Maṅgal Siṅgh Rāmgaṛhīā, Sardār Hardit Siṅgh Bhaṛāṇā, Sardār Lāl Siṅgh Talvaṇḍīvālā, and Sardār Mīhāṅ Siṅgh Bhāgovālīā drew up a manual called Dastūr-ul-Amal (managerial procedure) "for settlement of disputes among pujārīs (priests) and rabābīs (choristers), etc. and for the future management of Darbār Sāhib at Srī Amritsar Jī." It laid down shares of different categories of priests and choristers in the income from offerings subject to good conduct and behaviour of the officiants. From 1849 to 1859, the government had virtually maintained a direct management. The first officially nominated sarbarāh was Jodh Siṅgh who also as part of his duty handled all cases relating to the Temple and could fine pujārīs for misconduct and exclude them from the Temple precincts for up to six months. His immediate successors in the line were Sardār Maṅgal Siṅgh Rāmgaṛhīā, Honorary Magistrate, Amritsar, and Risāldār Major Mān Siṅgh. Members of the first General Committee were Rājā Tej Siṅgh; Sardār Shamsher Siṅgh Sandhāṅvālīā Rājā Sūrat Siṅgh Majīṭhīā Sardār Bhagvān Siṅgh, son of Jamādār Khushāl Siṅgh; Bhāī Parduman Siṅgh Giānī, Honorary Magistrate, Amritsar; General Gulāb Siṅgh Bhāgovālīā Sardār Jaimal Siṅgh Khuṇḍāh; Sardār Sardūl Siṅgh Mān; Rāi Mūl Siṅgh, Honorary Magistrate, Lahore; and Sardār Rājā Siṅgh Mān. In 1883, the Committe included Rājā Harbaṅs Siṅgh of Sheikhūpurā Rājā Sāhib Diāl Siṅgh K.C.S.I, of Kishankoṭ Sardār Ajīt Siṅgh, Honorary Assistant Commissioner of Aṭārī Sardār Ṭhākur Siṅgh Sandhāṅvālīā, Extra Assistant Commissioner; Captain Gulāb Siṅgh Aṭārī, Honorary Magistrate, Amritsar; Sardār Arjan Siṅgh Chāhalvālā Rāi Kalyāṇ Siṅgh, Honorary Magistrate, Amritsar; Sardār Attar Siṅgh of Bhadauṛ and Sardār Jagat Siṅgh, representative of the Mahārājā of Jīnd.

        Translation of Administration Paper for the Golden Temple, dated 12 September 1859.

         Administration Paper for the settlement of dispute among priests, choristers, etc., and for the future management of the internal affairs of the Sikh Temple at Amritsar drawn up at the suggestion of and in consultation with Rājā Tej Siṅgh, Sardār Shamsher Siṅgh Sandhāṅvālīā, Sardār Dyāl Siṅgh, Sardār Mahtāb Siṅgh Majīṭhīā, Sardār Jaimal Siṅgh, Bhāī Parduman Siṅgh, Sardār Lāl Siṅgh, Rāi Mūl Siṅgh, Sardār Maṅgal Siṅgh Rāmgaṛhīā, Sardār Hardit Siṅgh Bhaṛāṇā, Bhāī Lahiṇā Siṅgh, Jodh Siṅgh, Bāvā Sundar Siṅgh and signed in the presence of the entire gentry of Amritsar district together with pujārīs of each shrine in the Darbār Sāhib (complex) assembled in a general meeting by the permission of Mr Frederic Cooper, Deputy Commissioner, District Amritsar, with the approval of His Honour the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab.


         It is well-known that a dispute has been going on for some years among the pujārīs, rāgīs and rabābīs of Darbār Sāhib concerning the distribution of the votive offerings. The Deputy Commissioner in view of regard and respect for the holy shrine Srī Darbār Sāhib, the Gurdwārā of the Siṅghs of the entire Khālsā Jīo, and in order to settle the ongoing dispute as well as to make proper arrangements to avoid such disputes in future, had addressed letters to each of us on our suggestion and advice, and also forwarded judicial documents based on the enquiry and findings conducted in connection with the present case to the Rājā Sāhib and Sardār Shamsher Siṅgh. So in response thereto all of us, considering it our duty to serve for the management of the Gurdwārā Sāhib, assembled at the residence of Rājā Tej Siṅgh. We have perused all the court papers. We have also enquired orally from the parties concerned and consulted clerical record of Darbār Sāhib. It is clear that the sole proprietor of this sacred institution for ever is Gurū Rām Dās: no other person has any title to proprietorship. The claim to the service of the said place or chelāship belongs equally to the entire Khālsā and the holy congregation. The pujārīs and others receive their wages from the offerings fixed according to their appointed dues for service performed

        First Grade

         The granthīs of the Temple whose traditional duty is to attend upon Gurū Granth Sāhib. They are entitled to receive the proceeds of their respective jāgīrs granted by government. They may also keep any personal offerings which may be made to them, exclusive of their share in the general contributions on the floor of the shrine. It is arranged also that when one of the granthīs who have only a life-grant shall die, some provision out of the offerings and out of the perpetuity tenure of the original grantee shall be made; and it is considered that some assistance out of the lapsed tenure of the old jāgīr, as is the old custom, would be appropriate.

        Second Grade

         The pujārīs of the temple, whose duties are to arrange for the security of the offerings, compilation of the account of receipts and expenditure and related matters concerning Darbār Sāhib traditionally assigned to them by their superior officer.

         Their rank is above that of the rabābīs and ragīs for the reason that the latter have no concern with the above important offices. The pujārīs receive a certain fixed allowance out of the aggregate collections credited to the treasury of Darbār Sāhib in perpetuity from generation to generation.

        There are six shares in the name of the following six persons and devolving upon their descendants:

        1. Mān Siṅgh, whose son is Jodh Siṅgh, etc. -- one share.

        2. Nihāl Siṅgh whose sons are Rām Siṅgh, etc. and Kirpā Siṅgh -- one share.

        3. Khushāl Siṅgh whose sons are Gulāb Siṅgh, and Kāhn Siṅgh, etc. -- one share.

        4. Sahaj Siṅgh, whose sons are Jīt Siṅgh, Bhāg Siṅgh, Sher Siṅgh and Chet Siṅgh -- one share.

        5. Harī Siṅgh (ardāsīa), whose sons are Devā Siṅgh, Sher Siṅgh, Gaṅgā Siṅgh and Ratan Siṅgh - one share.

        6. Dyāl Siṅgh Dhūpīā, whose son is Jai Siṅgh etc. -- one share.

        An allowance of Rs 27/- at Rs 4.5 for each share is fixed for these six shareholders.

        Third Grade

         The rāgīs and rabābīs or choristers serve as hymn singers in the Darbār Sāhib. They are divided into 15 chauṅkīs or choral groups as per the following detail.

        The Rāgīs

        1. Bhāī Mān Siṅgh, Devā Siṅgh

        2. Misrā Siṅgh

        3. Bhāī Lahiṇā Siṅgh

        4. Ratan Siṇgh, Sūr Dās

        5. Gaṇḍā Siṅgh, etc.

        6. Āgyā Siṅgh

        7. Bhāī Bishan Siṅgh (at night)

        8. Bhāī Budh Siṅgh, etc. (at night)

        The Rabābīs

        1. Bhāī Bosna, etc.

        2. Bhāī Kāhnā, etc.

        3. Bhāī Lālā, Sardārī

        4. Bhāī Atarā, etc.

        5. Bhāī Dittū

        6. Bhāī Amīrā, etc.

        7. Hīrā Shikārpurīā

        The chauṅkīs perform kīrtan in Darbār Sāhib daily during their respective fixed hours, and are paid out of cash offerings of Darbār Sāhib (collectively) Rs 282 per month in perpetuity.

        Fourth Grade

        The gong-ringer, the treasurer, the key-keeper, clerk and other miscellaneous officials all receive certain salaries from the temple collections in perpetuity for their subsistence. In addition are gardeners, pālkī-bearers and floorers, etc., who receive monthly pay from the collections. Their appointment and dismissal are controlled by the Sarbarāh on report from the pujārīs.

        Interlocutory Memo

        The following are the replies of the convocation to four queries propounded by the Deputy Commissioner:

         Ist -- What are the customary rights of the pujārīs? Can they sell or mortgage their shares? Shall their next of kin automatically inherit them? or how shall it be disposed of?

         Reply -- Having carefully consulted the records of past years, and being well acquainted with traditional usage, it is clear that since sammat 1872, in the reign of the late Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh up to sammat 1908, during 36 years, they received Rs 5463 as pay only during 14 years, sometime for two, three, four, eight or twelve months in a year; while during the other 24 years they got nothing at all. Therefore the Extra Assistant Commissioner, Sardār Jodh Siṅgh cast the average of the rate of payment they would be entitled to. A result was attained, on 6 August 1852, that they were entitled to an equivalent of two months on the whole proceeds of the year's offerings. It was confirmed on 31 August 1852 by Messrs Saunders and Deputy Commissioner, Denison, former presidents, that in future they should get at the rate of two months per year. Although they have been paid accordingly, they have always been displeased. In our opinion, the decision of the Deputy Commissioner, on the representation of Sardār Jodh Siṅgh on 17 April 1857 that three months should be allowed and which was also acted upon accordingly, for the year sammat 1913, was highly equitable. If that arrangement had been allowed to continue, there might have been no dispute. Because, if the collection of the jāgīr amounting to Rs 304 allowed to the pujārīs which formerly were cast into the treasury, be taken into consideration and divided among the six pujārī shares, the value will be equivalent to five months' assets. The pujārīs now desire and pray that they may receive exactly in accordance with the rules in force during the reign of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh. In our opinion too their petition for the future is justified. The rules of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh were, that after paying ten months' wages to the rabābīs and rāgīs and other personnel and defraying the miscellaneous expenses of the Darbār Sāhib, sometimes two months, sometimes four months, sometimes eight months, sometimes twelve months, according to the balance in hand, be paid to the pujārīs: sometimes in case of deficit nothing at all (it has been shown that out of the 36 years, in 24 years they received nothing) . In future therefore it is proper in accordance with the above that after payment to the rabābīs, rāgīs and mendicants, and defrayment of three per cent towards miscellaneous expenses, the balance, whether more or less, be distributed among the six pujārī shareholders, as decided by the sarbarāh according to their several shares, on condition of good behaviour. Should ever possibly there remain in a whole year a balance after disbursement, it will be credited to the treasury of Gurū Rām Dās. On the question of right of sale or mortgage, no pujārī has a right or title to sell or mortgage his property in the six pattīs. The rights would devolve on successive heirs on condition of good behaviour. In the case of death without a male heir, transfer may take place by gift, in the presence of the shareholders of the pattī, to a grandson on the female side, or to a chelā on condition of his being a Hindu Sikh. But should there be a flaw or imperfection in the deed of conveyance, the right shall be reserved to other shareholders.

        2nd Question -- What should be the share-wise rate of payment to rāgīs and rabābīs out of the income of the Darbār Sāhib consistent with ancient customary practice?

        Answer -- It is clear from official records of the Darbār Sāhib and the schedule prepared by the court in respect of the previous years that these men have been receiving payment for ten months in a year. In our opinion too it is equitable that they be paid accordingly in perpetuity, after deduction of certain trifles according to traditional usage. They are to perform their functions of hymn-singing in Darbār Sāhib daily at their appointed hours. Fifteen days of absence only can be allowed, on report to the sarbarāh, for special circumstances. But in case a rāgī or rabābī goes to a rājā or sardār for a period up to three months, he shall find his own substitutes, who shall remain until the return of the incumbent.

        3rd Question -- To whom should the account of the works and buildings of Srī Darbār Sāhib be presented in future?

        Answer -- These duties had in the Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh's reign been performed by Bhāī Sant Siṅgh and his descendants, and Bhāī Parduman Siṅgh, his grandson, now performs the duties honestly and faithfully. It is believed that he will continue to be busy with the construction work with still greater zeal in future.

        4th Question -- Can the temple affairs be peaceably conducted without the support of government or not? If they can be, how? If not, what are the causes?

        Answer -- In our opinion this is not possible without the officially appointed sarbarāh, because without the sarbarāh disputes will supervene among the pujārīs and rabābīs, etc. In the first place, in the absence of the present supervisor there may be irregularities in the offerings. At the time of disbursement in the absence of a chief manager, distribution of dues will be impossible. In addition to this, the peaceful management of the temple and good repute of the government are closely allied. The sarbarāh does not and will not in future have the slightest connection either now or hereafter with any religious question raised. It seems proper that there should be some responsible authority to supervise certain works to keep an eye on bad characters, to keep the general peace and avoid disputes or wrangles and to ensure disbursement of dues in his own presence. It will however be requisite that an upright honourable and unprejudiced Sikh or Hindu should perform this duty. At present Sardār Jodh Siṅgh, Extra Assistant Commissioner, possesses these qualities and runs the affairs very efficiently. After him the government may appoint a similarly qualified person.

         In addition to the above decision, a general warning (in the spirit of Circular No.42, dated 8 April 1859, from Judicial Commissioner) is held out to all the pujārīs, rāgīs, rabābīs, etc., connected with the Darbār Sāhib, that persons connected with it should maintain the decorum enjoined by tradition, that none of them should enter the Darbār Sāhib drunk and that they should refrain from tampering with the offerings on which condition alone will they be entitled to their payments. In case of proved profligate conduct according to the terms of the circular quoted, the offender will not be entitled to his share.

         A Darogah on a salary of Rs 6 a month shall continue to be appointed as of old to guard the offerings at the shrine; he shall be changed every six months.

         Signed Frederic Cooper Deputy Commissioner, 12 September 1859, and other chiefs, citizens and priests of Akāl Buṅgā, Shāhīd Buṅgā and Jhaṇḍā Buṅgā.

         After the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee assumed control in 1920 of the holy shrines at Amritsar, including the Harimandar, the Akāl Takht and Bābā Aṭāl, a local committee under the chairmanship of Sardār Sundar Siṅgh Rāmgaṛhīā was formed for their management. After the Gurdwārā legislation had been placed on the statute book in 1925, the Shiromaṇī Gurdwārā Parbandhak Committee itself became the committee of management for the Harimandar as it did for other shrines at Amritsar, Tarn Tāran and Anandpur Sāhib. The secretary of the committee acting as manager of the shrines took over the responsibility for their general administration, buildings, accounts, etc, but the religious and ritualistic routine inside the Harimandar remained in the hands of the granthīs, rāgīs and sevādārs headed by Head Granthī of Srī Darbār Sāhib, a highly revered personage next only in importance to, if not equal with, the Jathedār of the Akāl Takht.

         The Gurdwārā legislation adopted under the Act of 1925 remained in operation until well into the forties. Special legislation had to be passed in view of the fact that gurdwārās had vast properties, real estate and lands, attached to them. To secure legal rights to the new owners statutory provisions had to be made in the state's laws. In the laws thus brought on the statue book amendments were made from time to time. An amendment was proposed in 1944 and carried in the Punjab Legislative Assembly to provide representation for Sikh backward classes for whom 12 seats were now statutorily reserved. Another amendment provided for greater centralīzation of power and removed some of the restrictions on the use of funds for the Sikh educational and missionary activity. Formerly every Sikh adult, man or woman, had the right to vote. Certain conditions demanding stricter compliance of the religious code of the Sikhs were laid down. The initiator of most of these amendments was Giānī Kartār Siṅgh, who was a member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly. Further amendments were necessitated by the merger in 1956 with the Punjab of the state of Paṭiālā and East Punjab States Union. The jurisdiction of the Shiromaṇī Committee was by these legislative amendments extended to the entire state of the Punjab including the territories of erstwhile princely rulers.


  1. Giān Siṅgh, Giānī, Twārīkh Srī Amritsar [Reprint] Amritsar, 1977
  2. Ṭhākar Siṅgh, Srī Gurduāre Darshan. Amritsar, 1923
  3. Tārā Siṅgh, Srī Gur Tīrath Saṅgrahi. Amritsar, n.d.
  4. Pratāp Siṅgh, Giānī, Amridsaru Sifatī dā Gharu. Amritsar, 1977
  5. Datta, V.N., Amritsar Past and Present. Amritsar, 1967
  6. Madanjit Kaur, The Golden Temple: Past and Present. Amritsar, 1983
  7. Patwant Singh, The Golden Temple. Delhi, 1988
  8. Archer, W.G., Paintings of the Sikhs. London, 1966
  9. Arshi, P.S., The Sikh Architecture. Delhi, 1986
  10. Teja Siṅgh, Essays in Sikhism. Lahore, 1944

Ian J. Kerr