It was during the leadership of the fifth Guru (Guru Arjan, 1581-1606), that the Golden Temple was built. It was completed in 1601.
Changes made between 1573-1606
The development of the Harmandar Sahib and Amritsar have gone hand in hand; the city was formerly known as Ramdaspur, and on construction of Harimandir Sahib became known as Amritsar. Guru Ram Das ji encouraged traders and businessmen to settle in the city with the development of the Guru Ka Bazaar and the market at Chowk Passian. During the times of the fifth and sixth Gurus, plans were made and implemented to expand the city; wells and baolis were constructed to supply water to the ever growing groups of pilgrims. The garden, Guru Ka Bagh was laid out to the south-east of the Harmandir. The area surrounding the temple was developed into markets, gardens, homes and residential palaces. Guru Arjan Dev ji also lived in one of these newly constructed houses.
Guru Arjan Dev ji’s martyrdom in 1606 gave a new direction to the faith and to the development of the city. Guru Hargobind added the political-temporal aspect to the spiritual aspect of Sikhism. This led to the construction of the Akal Takhat within the precinct space, a fortress named Lohgarh (lit. fort of steel) outside it, and a wall around the city to protect it from those who began to fear, envy and even attack the Sikhs.
Guru Hargobind also constructed the Chaurasi Atari adjoining the Guru Ka Bazaar and a new garden Akalian da Bagh adjacent to the Guru Ka Bagh in 1609.
The Struggle Period
The seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth Gurus did not make any additions to the Harimandir or the city. During this period the masands looked after the Harimandir and are known to have mismanaged the temple. At this time the Sikhs were engaged in several battles against corrupt practices and Mughal rulers. All efforts were directed towards protecting the Harimandir from desecration.
After the passing of Guru Gobind Singh ji in 1708, the Sikhs passed through a very critical phase where they were ‘legally hunted and killed, with prices having been fixed on their heads. It was during this period that the Harimandir Sahib was damaged and/or demolished five times. Each time the Sikhs took the earliest opportunity to rebuild it. It was in 1762 that Ahmad Shah blew up the building with gunpowder, but the Sikhs rallied to return to Amritsar and celebrated the festival of Diwali a few months later.
In January 1764, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia took over Sirhind and then he and other Sikh chiefs gave a call for the reconstruction of the shrine. Money raised was deposited with Des Raj of Sursingh village and he was also entrusted with the supervision of the work. The edifice then raised on an earlier original design has since remained the same with minor alterations and embellishments.
The Misl Period (1707-1801)
Development during the Misl and Maharaja Ranjit Singh Periods
During the Misl period, when the Mughal Empire declined and the power of Sikh chiefs rose, many Bungas were built, not only to defend the Harimandir but to fortify the city. These were military establishments, but they also served as educational institutions and rest houses for pilgrims. New roads, forts and Bazaars were also constructed during this period.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1801-39)
The inscription above the outer walls entrance to the Sri Harmandir Sahib reads, after the Mool Mantar: “The Great Guru in His wisdom looked upon Maharaja Ranjit Singh as his chief servitor and Sikh, and in his benevolence, bestowed on him the privilege of serving the Temple.”
The Parikarma around the Sarovar was made in 1784, Later after 1801, when Maharaja Ranjit Singh had defeated the Misl chiefs and established his headquarters in Lahore, the shrine was embellished and ornamented with gold. This process commenced in 1802 and the work included the application of inlaid marble panels onto the outer face of the building, richly embossed gilded metal sheets and a range of fresco techniques. Maharaja Ranjit Singh also constructed the Gobindgarh fort in 1805-09 along with his own summer palace and a series of gardens and canals.
The British Period (1849-1947)
The British took over the management of the Harimandir on the annexation of the Punjab (1849-1947). During their time they built several administrative buildings, railways, churches and roads within Amritsar. The clock tower was built in 1862 and with this the direction of the main entrance to the precinct of Harimandir Sahib was changed from the west to the north.