Detail: Featuring watercolor paintings, photographs, prints, and more, The Golden Temple: Center of Sikh Faith showcases the enduring splendor of Sikhism’s central spiritual monument. Located in what is today the city of Amritsar, in the Punjab state of northwestern India, the Harmandir Sahib (the Punjabi term for “The Golden Temple”) is the centralized place of worship for all Sikhs. The idea for the temple was conceived by Guru Arjan Sahib (1563-1606), the fifth Sikh Guru. In 1577, a town and water tank were built on the site where the temple would be erected, and construction on the building began in 1588, with a Muslim saint laying the cornerstone. The Guru’s design for The Golden Temple placed the monument at the center of the water tank. A causeway connected the sacred structure to a circumambulatory path, and doors on the temple’s four sides symbolized the accessibility of the Sikh faith, which makes no distinction between the four Hindu castes. Builders completed construction in 1601, but through the decades, The Golden Temple was destroyed several times. The present structure dates to 1764, and renovations over the centuries introduced various design elements. The temple’s upper floors, for example, are now covered in 750 kilos of pure gold, an addition made by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh Empire of India (1799-1849).
Spanning the 19th century through the 21th century, The Golden Temple: Center of Sikh Faith presents historical and contemporary works depicting the renowned site, which harmoniously blends art and architectural elements from the Hindu and Muslim traditions. Featured works include images by Felice Beato, one of the first photographers to capture images of Asia, and watercolors, prints, and paintings by Indian and American artists who have visited the temple in the past two centuries. The exhibition culminates with works by both Sikh and non-Sikh contemporary artists whose visual narratives draw inspiration from The Golden Temple and its intricate, extraordinary design.
The Golden Temple: Center of Sikh Faith is presented in the Khanuja Family Sikh Heritage Gallery, the second gallery space in the United States dedicated exclusively to the exhibition of Sikh art. The exhibition continues the Museum’s initiative to showcase artwork and objects that explore themes of Sikh history and visual culture.