Principal Inder Singh (Retd.)

Although to start with the designers of the Golden Temple, had in view “the late form of the Mughal style of architecture,” harmonized with the Hindu style of temple structure but in the course of time the “Sikhs had acquired skill in adopting motifs and patterns suiting to their own taste, philosophy and way of living with its exterior covered all over with golden plates and marble and the interior profusely decorated with fresco paintings and filigree embellishments.” This came to be known as the Sikh Architecture style which is at once striking and attractive and presents a certain character of its own.

“The Harimandir owes its present structure to joint efforts of the missiles. It began to take shape from the year A.D. 1765 when the Sikhs had beaten back successfully Ahmed Shah Abdali and his hordes. The marble laying and gold plating however came much later through the devotion of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who had great reverence for this nerve center of Sikh power.”

Nevertheless the prime credit of the original design of the Harimandir with only a single bridge to reach imparting the building a heavenly look and four entrances to the sanctum sanctorum, as against the single one in Hindu temples goes to Guru Arjan Dev himself.

“The sacred tank which holds the temple in its midst like a lotus flower is 150 metros square with a 60 foot wide parkarma running around the edge of the tank. The architecture of the Darshani Deorhi is extremely impressive. The air houses on the top of the

Deorhi stand modeled on the Bengal Mughal Chhatri style. The gate frame of the Darshani Deorhi is 10 feet by 8 feet. The wooden portals attached to it are 6 thick covered with silver sheets which, in their turn, are ornamented with panels. Contrary to the general belief, these portals are not the ones belonging to the famous Somnath Temple and recovered by the armies of the Ranjit Singh from the Afghans. A causeway about 60 meters long spans the water on the western side of the tank to connect the Temple with the Darshani Deorhi. The causeway has nine balustrades on either side, covered with elegant lanterns of copper gilt. Reaching the center of the tank the causeway opens into a platform, 20 metres square over which the Temple proper (52 metres square) stands. This square building a two storied structure has a dome shaped roof, plated with copper gilt. The dome is designed after the shape of a lotus flower. In the words of an art critic “The Hindu Kalsa, based on mount Kailas, atop this shrine is a fanciful elaboration of the Islamic dome above the Hindu cubist architecture, inspired by the synthetic Sikh faith.”

Sikh School of Fresco Painting and “Naqqashi”.

‘The marble walls and the ceiling contain fine artwork. The ceiling of the central dome is admittedly a work of rare craftsmanship. The decoration on the porch of the first floor displays a fine ‘naqqashi’ executed in gold and various colors and cut glasses of different shape and varieties. Likewise the walls of the stairs leading to the second floor abound in some of the rare masterpieces of the Sikh paintings.”

Speaking of the lavish embellishments and the colorful decorations of the Golden Temple, Percy Brown opines:

“As an example not so much of architectural style but of religious emotion materialized in marble, glass, colors and metal, the Golden Temple at Amritsar is equaled only by Shiv Dragon Pagoda in | Rangoon the former symbolizes the faith of the Sikhs and the latter is the highest expression in a very similar range of material of another Indian religion, that of Buddhists.” Percy also testified that the embossed metal work of the Golden Temple is a specimen of the excellence attained by the Sikh craftsmanship in the skillful harmony of brass and copper. The same is the case with frescoes, naqqashi and allied art displayed at the Temple. The word carving and the ivory mosaic work of the Temple display admirable perfection of the Sikh artists in this craft.”

“Mobrakashi’ or Fresco Paintings.

The walls of the Golden Temple contain a variety of excellent mobrakashi. These frescoes are said to be modeled after the wall paintings of its time found in the Kangra Valley. The techniques employed in fresco painting have few special features. Their foremost characteristic is their | end durability and fineness of details. These have stood the ravages of time, and look as fresh as at the time they were first mooted. The color scheme does not fail to attract the onlooker. The variety of color is sufficiently rich, the major hues used being red, blue, green, yellow and black. Brushes used by the painters were prepared by the artists (naqqashes) themselves.


(To be concluded)

Article extracted from this publication >>  July 12, 1985