Amritsar
Amritsar City, Northern Punjab State, Northwestern India. It is located about 25 kilometers east of the border with Pakistan. Amritsar is the largest and most important city in Punjab and is an important commercial, cultural and transportation center. It is also the center of Sikhism and the location of the main place of worship of the Sikhs - the Harmandir Sahib or Golden Temple Amritsar was founded in 1577 by Ram Das, the fourth guru of the Sikhs, on a site conferred by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Ram Das ordered the excavation of the sacred tank, or pool, called the Amrita Saras (pool of nectar), from which the name is derived. A temple was built on an island in the center of the tank by Arjan, the fifth guru of the Sikhs, which was then reached via a marble causeway. During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1801–39), the upper part of the temple was decorated with a gold-foil covered copper dome, and since then the building has been popularly known as the Golden Temple. Amritsar became the center of the Sikh faith and, as the center of the growing Sikh power, the city experienced a corresponding increase in trade. It was annexed to British India in 1849.
Amritsar is not only home to hundreds of thousands of Sikhs, but is also the main pilgrimage destination for Sikhs living elsewhere in India and abroad. The main focus for those pilgrims is the Golden Temple and the complex of several adjacent buildings surrounding the tank. To the west, opposite the causeway to the temple, is the Akal Takht, the main center of authority of Sikhism and the headquarters of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Supreme Akali Party), the main Sikh political party in Punjab. On the north side is Teja Singh Samundri Hall (clock tower), which is the headquarters of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (Supreme Committee of Temple Management), which oversees the main Sikh gurdwaras (places of worship). To the east of the temple are pilgrim guest quarters, a dining hall that provides thousands of meals for pilgrims and other visitors each day, and in the southeast corner is the Assembly Hall.
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