Avast majority of the Sikh community is very progressive and forward looking. They have most admirably adopted new professions and cutting edge technologies. But there are some Sikhs, who want to generate controversies even on nonissues. Of late some Sikhs are advocating that we should call our most revered heritage shrine only as Sri Darbar Sahib. They contemplate a complete ban on the alternate name of this holy place “The Golden Temple”. I strongly contend that this is a non issue and we should concentrate our energies on some other real life issues. Most popular things are generally known by several names. Alexander the Great was called Sikandar in oriental civilizations. Egypt is known as “Misr” in the Arabic and Persian speaking countries. The West calls one of our neighbors Thailand, but its neighbors call it Siam.World’s most popular name is “God”. Millions of people all around the world question even the very existence of “God” and they are within their rights to believe so. The Hindus call “God” using several names like “Ishwar”, “Parmatma”, “Bhagwan”, “Vidhata” etc. The Mohammedans address “God” as “Allah” in the Arabic countries and as “Khuda” in Persian, Uzbek, Tajik, Dari, Pashton, Baloch, Sindhi and Punjabi speaking people. All these people believe that there is one God. All fathers and mothers love their daughters and they call them by several names. When Hazrat Mian Mir laid the foundation stone of “Sri Darbar Sahib”, it had, of course only one name. As the time passed, there came about a proliferation of names for it. Some people started calling it “Hari Mandir Sahib”. Some simplified it as “Harmander Sahib”. At one time the forces of Ahmed Shah Abdali not only ransacked the “Darbar Sahib”, they even damaged the shrine quite extensively.When the Sikh Misls became powerful in the second half of the eighteenth century, they rehabilitated the structure with the original materials- bricks and lime mortar. On annexation of Amritsar by the Sikh Emperor Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the emperor wanted to develop this home of “God” into a distinctly unique structure.
Although the rules of historic preservation call for keeping the heritage structures in the same condition, in which those structures were originally constructed, but the Sikh custodians of religion believe in replacing the ancient structures with magnificent marble structures. Of course, Emperor Ranjit Singh also had the same beliefs as the other custodians of the Sikh heritage.
He may not have altered the structure of the sanctum sanctorum in the “Darbar Sahib”, but he completely covered its interior and exterior with gold leaves. From the point of view of historic preservation, gold plating of the structure was wrong. But it has gone through two hundred years ago, under orders of the Sikh emperor Ranjit Singh.
What the present Sikh generation inherited from Emperor Ranjit Singh was a beautiful shrine in white marble and gold. The Imperial British Indian Forces, after defeating the Imperial Sikh Army in 1949 occupied Amritsar along with Lahore. Those British officers, who actually visited “Sri Darbar Sahib” were dazzled by its ambience and the peace of mind that it gives. In order to acquaint the occidental world with the magnificence of this amazing place of worship, the British rulers of India gave it their own name “The Golden Temple”. It could also be called the “Gold and Marble Temple”, but that was too unwieldy name and the British were known to dislike long names. So the new name Golden Temple clicked with the world and it has become a shrine of the world. Some of our Sikh brethren want the world to know this place only as the “Darbar Sahib”. They want all the signs in Amritsar to change to reflect the old name.We sometimes forget that Guru Nanak was the social reformer for the entire world and not for a tiny community.
This home of Guru Nanak is for the entire world and the world longs to pay their respect to this sacred place. Everyone is welcome and should be welcome in this home of God. It should not hurt any person’s sentiments, if this great place is known by more than one name. That is how I think, I may be wrong. In case you think, I am wrong, please forgive me for this transgression