A watercolour painting of the Harimandir or ‘Temple of God’, situated in Amritsar in the Indian Panjab, executed by an anonymous artist in the Panjab style in the 1860’s.

The painting

Harimandir Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, is Sikhism’s most sacred shrine. Built at the behest of the fifth Guru, Arjan Dev, its structure is replete with symbolic meaning. The temple is approached by a causeway and stands at the centre of a pool of holy water, the Amrit Sarovar or ‘Pool of Nectar’, from which the city takes its name. Its construction was completed in 1604 at the same time as the compilation of the Ādi Granth, the greatly revered Sikh sacred scripture, which was subsequently installed there.

The centrality of the Ādi Granth in Sikh worship and the profound reverence accorded to it as the manifest body of the Gurū is reflected in its honorific title of Gurū Granth Sāhib.

Why is it interesting?

This watercolour was sent to England to be displayed at the International Exhibition held in London in 1862. It does not appear in the Exhibition catalogue published in the same year, so there is a possibility that it was not included. Although the artist who produced it is anonymous, an accompanying label shows that it was drawn at Amritsar under the direction of Lalla Chumba Mull. On European paper with a watermark dated 1854, the painting is inscribed in Persian characters: Naqshah i sri darbar sahib jiv waqi‘ah i shahr i Amritsar -jiv parastish-gah i Sikhan (‘Picture of the Holy Sikh Temple situated in the city of Amritsar; the holy worshipping place of the Sikhs’).