Originally a small lake in the midst of a quiet forest, the site has been a meditation retreat for wandering mendicants and sages since deep antiquity. The Buddha is known to have spent time at this place in contemplation.Two thousand years after Buddha's time, another philosopher-saint came to live and meditate by the peaceful lake. This was Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of the Sikh religion. After the passing away of Guru Nanak, his disciples continued to frequent the site; over the centuries it became the primary sacred shrine of the Sikhs.
The lake was enlarged and structurally contained during the leadership of the fourth Sikh Guru Ram Dass , 1574-1581, and during the leadership of the fifth Guru Arjan, 1581-1606), the Hari Mandir, or Temple of God was built. From the early 1600s to the mid 1700s the sixth through tenth Sikh Gurus were constantly involved in defending both their religion and their temple against Moslem armies. On numerous occasions the temple was destroyed by the Moslems, and each time was rebuilt more beautifully by the Sikhs. From 1767 onwards, the Sikhs became strong enough militarily to repulse invaders. Peace returned to the Hari Mandir.
During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), Hari Mandir was richly ornamented with marble sculptures, golden gilding, and large quantities of precious stones. Within the sanctuary, on a jewel-studded platform, lies the Adi Grantha, the sacred scripture of the Sikhs. This scripture is a collection of devotional poems, prayers, and hymns composed by the ten Sikh gurus and various Moslem and Hindu saints.
Amritsar, the original name of first the ancient lake, then the temple complex, and still later the surrounding city, means "pool of ambrosial nectar." Or "Amrit".