THE POOL OF NECTAR - PAGE 1
(PICTURE 1: The Golden Temple on a cloudy afternoon shining as brilliant as always.)
One of the most fascinating cities of northern India, Amritsar is also one of the most ancient and legendary sites in the Punjab. According to popular belief – which is doubtless of local origin – Valmiki wrote his celebrated epic, the Ramayana, near around this hallowed site of the "Pool of Nectar". It was here, too, that Sita stayed during the period of her vanavasa (banishment). Here again, the twin sons of Lord Rama, were taught the Ramayana. Yet another legend identifies the site of this pool with the place where the whole of Lord Rama's army was destroyed by his sons, Lava and Kusa, and relates how at that time a jug of nectar descended from heaven to restore the soldiers to life.
Valmiki's ashram, it is said, lay within a short distance of the renowned "Pool of Nectar". In Valmiki's time, the area was a thick forest. There were around Valmiki's ashram some more tanks with historical associations. One such hexagonal tank, Ram Tirth, is at a distance of around 1.1 kilometres from Amritsar; the others are Ramsar, Santokhsar, Ram Talai and Durgiana.
Guru Ram Das must have known-the legendary importance of the place when he sanctified the pool of nectar in the sixteenth century. The Sikh faith founded by the saint Nanak, of which Ram Das was the fourth Guru, was, in essence, a catholic and all-embracing faith. It took in its stride the egalitarian traditions of Islam and blended them with the transcendental wisdom of Hindu thought.
Actually, it was in 1574 A.D., that Guru Ram Das made his home by the side of the pool, which was regarded as blessed with miraculous powers of healing. The place where the Guru lived was known as Guru-ka-Mahal.
In 1577, Guru Ram Das, finding the air and water of his abode health-giving, purchased the pool and some surrounding land from its owners, the neighbouring Jats. Several times, Emperor Akbar had himself offered the grant of twelve villages to the pool, but the Guru had, on every occasion, declined the gift. One of the first acts of Guru Ram Das was to excavate the tank further, to construct a shrine at the centre.
( PICTURE 2: Painting of Guru Ram Das by Sewa Singh Khalsa.)
On the first day of Magh Sankranti Vikrami Samvat 1645 (1588 A.D.), the foundation stone of this temple was laid by the renowned Muslim Sufi divine, Hazrat Mian Mir of Lahore, at the specific request of Guru Arjan Dev. The followers of the Guru built their houses in the neighbourhood. And thus there speedily came into existence a small town called Ramdaspur. The town derived its later name, Amritsar, from the holy tank or the Pool of Immortality, ig the centre of which now stands the Hari Mandir or Darbar Sahib – nowadays more commonly known as the Golden Temple.
The sacred building was completed by the son and successor of Guru Ram Das, Arjan Dev. In the lifetime of the fifth Guru, a flourishing town had begun to grow around the holy site. As the followers of Sikhism increased in number, the town grew in stature.
This holy site became the religious resort not only of the Sikhs but also of members of various communities seeking asylum from Imperial oppression. The Sikh Gurus encouraged all, irrespective of caste and creed, to come to reside in Amritsar. Thus an atmosphere of religious tolerance prevailed. And the city became a kind of refuge not only for holy men but for fighters of freedom.