Guru Arjan Sahib (Fifth Guru of Sikhs) wished to construct a pilgrimage center for the Sikhs and he designed the architecture of Sri Harmandir Sahib on his own. Earlier the sketching to dig the sacred pool (Amrit Sarovar) was chalked out by the Third Guru of Sikhs, Guru Amar das Sahib. But it was dug by Guru Ram Das Sahib under the direction of Baba Budha Ji. The land for the Amrit Sarovar was obtained by the earlier Gurus on free of cost from the land owners of local villages. He also made a plan to establish a town here, thus the construction work of holy tank and the town begun concurrently during 1570s and completed around 1577 AD.
The great Sufi saint of Lahore named Hazrat Mian Mir laid the foundation stone of the temple during 1588 AD on the request of Guru Arjan Dev. Then a craftsman straightened the foundation stone which was laid by Hazrat Mian Mir, at that time Guru Arjan Dev told him that, as he should not be involved in that work which was laid by the sacred man less any unfortunate incident happen in the temple. Guru Arjan Dev set up the Guru Granth Sahib in Harmandir Sahib and appointed Baba Buddha Ji as the first Granthi (reader) of Guru Granth Sahib during in the month of August 1604 AD. During the middle 18th century Harmandir Sahib was damaged, when it was attacked by the Afghans. Hence it had to be substantially reconstructed during 1760 AD. However, as a reaction for this attack a Sikh army was sent to capture the Afghan strength. They were under instructions to show no sympathy and historical evidence advises the Sikh Army was absolutely champion in the ensuing battle. Military forces of Afghan and Sikhs met each other at Amritsar outskirts; Afghan army was destroyed. Guru Arjun Sahib designed the architecture of the temple unlike the architecture style of Hindu temples, hence he built it with four doors (Hindu temples have single door for entrance and exit) therefore he made a mark of new faith, Sikhism. And he made it available to everyone without any difference of dogma, gender and religion. For this reason, Harmandir Sahib got the position of 'Ath Sath Tirath'.
The building work was completed in the year 1601 A.D. on Bhadoon Sudi 1st, 1661 Bikrmi Samvat (August/September, 1604).
Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who ruled Amritsar during 1780-1839, gilded the Harmandir Sahib with 165 Kg of gold valued at 65,00,000 INR in those days. That took almost 25 years to finish the entire reconstruction and gilding work. Gilding work was completed during 1830 AD, from that time the Harmandir Sahib was called as Golden Temple.