The foundation stone of the historic building was laid by a non-Sikh. The Guru gave the task of initiating the building to a Muslim Saint Hazrat Mian Mir ji of Lahore in December 1588. Can you imagine Julius II the Pope who asked Michaelangelo to redesign the Vatican asking him to find a Jewish Rabi to lay its cornerstone? The Guru had been asked by the previous Guru to find the Holiest man in India to lay the stone for the Gurdwara. Guru Arjan in choosing his friend Hazrat Mian Mir ji to lay the stone showed the world the true message of religion, promoting Interfaith dialogue and interaction.
During the 1400 hundreds, the site had a small lake, which was surrounded by a wooded area. Travellers and holy people used the site for meditation and rest. These visitors recognised it for its special sense of tranquillity and its pure and sweet water. Historical records show that Gautama Buddha stayed for some time at this ancient lake even recommending it as a place for Sadhus and Rishis to meditate.
Alhough there is no ‘paper trail’ to prove the claim, it is thought that the land was gifted to the Guru Ram Das’s daughter as a present for her wedding to Guru Arjan.
The lake was enlarged and a small community was established during the leadership of the fourth Sikh Guru (Guru Ram Das, 1574-1581). It was during the leadership of the fifth Guru (Guru Arjan, 1581-1606), that the Golden Temple was built. It was completed in 1601.
The development of Sri Harmandir 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.