Gurdwara Sri Tahli Sahib Amritsar is often called Gurdwara Santokhsar Sahib. However, Santokhsar is the name of the sarovar here.
In 1564, Santokhsar is said to have been the first sarovar where digging started at Amritsar. Bhai Jetha (later became Sri Guru Ram Das Ji) came here on the instructions of Sri Guru Amar Das Ji to find a place for the excavation of a holy sarovar.
When Bhai Jetha began the work on digging Santokhsar sarovar, he found a yogi, meditating nearby.
After sometime the yogi opened his eyes and told Bhai Jetha that he had been meditating here for a long time, waiting for a Guru to give him salvation. He disclosed his name as Santakha and then breathed his last.
The sarovar was then named as Santokhsar but before long, Bhai Jetha was called back to Goindwal, and Santokhsar remained half dug.
Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji completed the unfinished work of the excavations of sarovars - Santokhsar and Amritsar. Baba Buddha was appointed to supervise the work of construction. Santokhsar was completed in 1587-89.
Santokhsar fell into neglect during the turbulent 18th century and was resurrected only in 1903 after the municipal committee of Amritsar had declared it a health hazard and threatened to fill it up.
Although in 1824 it had been connected to a canal fed channel, or hansli, to make it independent of the vagaries of rainfall, the channel had become choked with silt and the tank was turned into a receptacle for locality garbage. A complete desilting was carried out in 1919 through karseva (voluntary free service) under Bhai Sham Singh and Bhai Gurmukh Singh.
The Gurdwara derives its name from a Tahli tree (Dalbergia sisoo) of which only a stump remains near the main gateway. It is believed that this was the tree under which Guru Ram Das and after him Guru Arjan stood supervising the excavation of the tank. The Gurdwara, comprising a rectangular hall on the western side of Santokhsar sarovar, is next to the Tahli Sahib stump as one enters the walled compound enclosing the sarovar and the Gurdwara.
The City of Amritsar (literally "pool of nectar") was originally called Ramdaspur (Guru Ram Das's city), or Chakk Ramdas, or Chakk Guru, or simply Guru Ka Chakk. The habitation was started by Bhai Jetha (the future Guru Ram Das) when Guru Amar Das asked him to establish a new colony of Sikhs.
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