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Foundation Of Sri Harmandir Sahib

Originally built in 1574, the site of the Gurdwara was surrounded by a small lake in a thin forest. 'Harmandir' literally means a place of worship for all.

Mughal Emperor Akbar, who visited the third Sikh Guru, Guru Amar Das, in the neighbouring town of Goindval, was so impressed by the way of life in the town that he gave a jagir (the land and the revenues of several villages in the vicinity) to the Guru's daughter Bhani as a gift on her marriage to Bhai Jetha, who later became the fourth Sikh Guru, Guru Ram Das Ji.

Guru Ram Das enlarged the lake and built a small township around it. The town was named after Guru Ram Das as 'Guru Ka Chak', 'Chak Ram Das' and 'Ram Das Pur'. Before leaving to rejoin God, Guru Ram Das tasked Guru Arjan with completing his work and building Sri Harmandir Sahib.

During the leadership of the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan (1581–1606), the full-fledged Gurdwara was built. In January 1589, Guru Arjan initiated the construction of the Gurdwara. The foundation stone was laid by none other than Guru Arjan Sahib himself in January 1589. It is a common misconception that the foundation stone was laid by the Sufi saint Mian Mir of Lahore. Guru Arjan personally supervised the construction and would sit under the 'Lachi Ber' tree to oversee the work.

A mason afterwards accidentally displaced the first brick, whereupon the Guru prophesied that the foundation should again have to be laid. His words were subsequently fulfilled. Ahmad Shah Abdali, 1762 AD, destroyed Sri Harmandir Sahib and desecrated the sarovar. Two years afterwards, the great army of the Khalsa recovered possession of Sri Harmandir Sahib, relaid its masonry foundation, and reconstructed it.

The Foundation Stone of the Sri Harmandir Sahib


Contary to popular belief, Mian Mir did not lay the foundation-stone of the Harmandir Sahib.

Taken from "Sri Harmandir Sahib Sunehri Itihaas" published by Dharam Parchaar Committee SGPC;

Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji and Baba Budha Ji consulted with the leading Sikhs of the time and set a day for setting the foundation stone of Sri Harmandir Sahib. A great congregation took place of 1 Magh, 1654 Bk. The Sarovar had been drained in preparation and the divaan took place in the sarovar itself. Sri Guru Ji explained the meaning of Harmandir and the importance. After distributing karah parshaad and invoking the first four Satgurus, Baba Budha Ji asked Guru Arjan Sahib Ji to place the first brick.

Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji with his hands then placed the first brick;

ਇਮਿ ਅਰਦਾਸ ਕਰੀ ਬ੍ਰਿਧ ਜਬੈ। ਸ੍ਰੀ ਅਰਜਨ ਕਰ ਪੰਕਜ ਤਬੈ॥੧੩॥ ਗਹੀ ਈਟ ਤਿਹ ਕਰੀ ਟਿਕਾਵਨ। ਮੰਦਰ ਅਿਵਚਲ ਨੀਵ ਰਖਾਵਨ। (Gurpartap Suraj Ras 2, Ansu 53).

It is clear that Gurpartap Suraj Granth says that Sri Guru Arjan laid the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib with his own hands.

Sri Harmandir Sahib panoramaSri Harmandir Sahib panorama.

Why the Confusion?

The first Sikh historian to write otherwise was Giani Gian Singh. In the third Lahore edition of Sri Gur Panth Parkash, he writes that Mian Mir placed the brick. What is odd is that Giani Ji in the first edition of Panth Parkash (published in Delhi, 1936Bk.) and in the second edition (published in Amritsar, 1946 Bk) does not say who placed the first brick. Only in the third Lahore edition does he say that Mian Mir placed the first brick but does not say where he has learned this from nor does he give any reference.

From the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib to the writing of Panth Parkash, 300 years had passed. None of the writers of Gurbilas Patshahi 6, Gurbilas Patshahi 10, Mehma Parkash (1776), Bansavalinama, Gurkirat Parkash (1812), Suraj Granth nor Pracheen Panth Parkash by Rattan Singh Bhangu had indicated that Mian Mir was involved in laying the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib.

Further, none of the Muslim writers who have written biographies of Mian Mir have written that he laid the foundation. This is odd because they would have been very proud to note such a fact. It seems clear that the story of Mian Mir laying the foundation is imaginary.

Butay Shah: Beginning the Myth

Principal Satbir Singh has written that the first person to write about Mian Mir having laid the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib was Butay Shah (real name Ghulam Muhaiyuddin) in his book "Tavarikh-i-Punjab." Butay Shah was a Muslim Maulvi. He writes, "Shah Mian Mir came to Amritsar at the invitation of Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji and with his holy hands, placed four bricks in the four directions and one in the middle."

A hand-written copy of this work says that it was written in 1848AD. The British were in control of Punjab at that time. No Sikh or non-Sikh writer had written about Mian Mir before this time. How did Butay Shah find his information? He has not given any source. The method he outlines of how the foundation was laid is also unusual and has not been seen or read anywhere before.

Bhai Rattan Singh Bhangoo writes about Butay Shah in Pracheen Panth Parkash. Rattan Singh had found out that the British had hired Shah to write the Khalsa's history in Persian. He protested that a Maulvi would not do justice to Sikh history because there had always been tension/conflict between Hindus and Sikhs and the Moslems and they spoke against each other.

Giani Gian Singh also writes about the above incident. He writes how Rattan Singh and Cpt. Murray discussed the issue and Rattan Singh told him that Sikh history written by a Maulvi would be of harm to the Sikhs and he did not write the truth. He told Murray that each person could write about his own religion for which he was knowledgeable but he could not write about another's religion properly especially in the case where there was conflict between the respective religions. He said clearly to Murray after seeing the history written by Butay Shah, "he will write history in a way that will harm the Singhs." And also "how will he write the truth? He will write what is the opposite." (Sri Guru Panth Parkash Poorbaardh Bisram dooa)"

After this, Rattan Singh wrote Panth Parkash and gave it to Cpt. Murray. Murray kept both Panth Parkash and Tavarikh-i-Punjab with him. Rattan Singh did not however write in Panth Parkash who placed the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib.

Clearly from what Rattan Singh told Cpt. Murray, he saw that Maulvi Butay Shah was writing Sikh history in a twisted and inaccurate way.

Which Account is Authentic?

Accepting Butay Shah's statement that Mian Mir placed the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib, Sohan Lal Suri in his book Umda-Tu-Tavarikh (1885 AD) repeated the same thing. In the same way, the Amritsar Municipal Corporation in their record for 1849 to 1885 seem to have relied on Butay Shah and recorded Mian Mir as having placed the foundation.

Before all these, Kavi Santokh Singh wrote in Gurpartap Sooraj Granth (1900 Bk) that Guru Arjan had placed the foundation. Bhai Santokh Singh had received his training at Sri Amritsar Sahib from Bhai Sant Singh. Bhai Sant Singh used to do Katha every day at Sri Darbar Sahib. Before him, his brother Giani Gurdas Singh and their father, Bhai Surat Singh used to do this seva at Sri Harmandir Sahib.

Bhai Surat Singh's ustad was Bhai Gurbaksh Singh, who had received his training in Gurmat and Sikh history from Bhai Mani Singh Ji himself. Bhai Mani Singh Ji had been in the Guru's service since the time of Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib. Bhai Sahib's grand father, Bhai Baloo Ji was a Sikh of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib and was shahid in the Battle of Amritsar in 1691 Bk.

Bhai Mani Singh Ji must have known from his grandfather and father about the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib and certainly must have been told by the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth Guru of the same.

Bhai Mani Singh passed on his knowledge to Bhai Gurbaksh Singh, who then passed the knowledge to Bhai Surat Singh who educated his two sons, Bhai Gurdas Singh and Bhai Sant Singh. It was from Bhai Sant Singh that Kavi Santokh Singh learned of the foundation of Sri Harmandir Sahib. It is clear that Kavi Santokh Singh's knowledge is more reliable than that of Butay Shah.

Butay Shah and Sohan Lal Suri do not have even a distant relationship with Sri Harimandir Sahib nor did their ancestors have any link. It is clear that these writers have not relied on anything besides their own imaginations. In fact, Butay Shah and Sohan Lal Suri's accounts do not match between themselves. Butay Shah writes that four bricks were placed in the four directions and one in the middle. He then writes that Mian Mir was invited to Amritsar by Guru Arjan Sahib Ji. Sohan Lal writes however that Guru Ji himself went to Lahore and invited Mian Mir to place the foundation of Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar.

There is no further mention of whether Mian Mir came to Amritsar and whether he placed one or five foundation bricks. In a court of law, where the statements of the witnesses don't match, they are not given any credence. Therefore the writings of Butay Shah and Sohan Lal cannot be accepted, especially since they have both been written after Gurpartap Suraj Granth.

Dr. Madanjit Kaur on the Issue

Sikh historian Dr. Madanjit Kaur writes in "The Golden Temple: Past and Present, "According to the earliest Sikh tradition, the foundation stone of the Harmander was laid by Guru Arjan himself. A mason, so goes the story, accidentally displaced the brick (the foundation stone). On seeing this, the Guru prophesized that the foundation would be laid again in the near future. This version of Bhai Santokh Singh is carried by almost all subsequent Sikh sources right up to the twentieth century …."

The author further writes: "The story of Mian Mir having laid foundation of Harmander appears amongst the Persian sources for the first time in Bute Shah's, 'Tawarikh-I-Punjab'… The real objective of the author (Bute Shah) was to eradicate any chance of animosity between Sikhs and Muslims after fall of Sikh Kingdom…"

"The first recorded reference to this version in European sources is to be met immediately in, "The Punjab notes and queries". It records: 'The foundation stone was laid by Mian Mir...' The contributor of the entry, E. Nicholl, (Secretary, Municipal Committee, Amritsar) does not cite any authority, he merely states the facts".

Renowned Sikh historian, S. Piara Singh Padam also accepts that Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji laid the foundation. He writes "Mian Mir was barely 36-37 years old at the time. Only after considerable meditation did he finally (later in life) become so respected."

Therefore it is clear that the foundation Sri Harmandir Sahib was laid by Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji. The myth of the foundation being laid by Sai Mian Mir is a fabrication of the mid 19th Century.

  • Gurdwara Sri Lachi Ber Sahib

    Gurdwara Sri Lachi Ber Sahib

    Amritsar City, Punjab, India.

    Associated with Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji.

    In 1577, Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji used to sit here under the Lachi Ber tree and supervise the excavation of the Sri Harmandir Sahib sarovar.


  • Gurdwara Sri Harmandir Sahib

    Gurdwara Sri Harmandir Sahib

    Amritsar City, Punjab, India.

    Associated with Sri Guru Ram Das Ji, Sri Guru Arjan Sahib Ji, Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji.

    Sri Harmandir Sahib, also known as Darbar Sahib and informally referred to as the 'Golden Temple' is one of the most prominent Sikh Gurdwaras.


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