(Dr) Surjit Singh Bhatti, Formerly, Professor & Head ,
Dean (Sciences) ,Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar
“Akal Takht” means “Throne of the Immortal or Timeless One”, and is the first of the five most respected and Chief Centres of Religious and Temporal Authority of Sikhism. Originally it was named Akal Bunga. It is located in the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) complex at Amritsar in East Punjab (India).
(L to R : Darbar Sahib, Darshani Deodhi, Akal Takht Sahib)
The other four Takhts (Seats of Authority) of Sikh Panth are :
Takht Patna Sahib in Bihar (where Guru Gobind Singh Ji was born in 1666)
Takht Kesgarh Sahib at Anandpur, East Punjab (where Khalsa Panth was born in 1699)
Takht Damdama Sahib at Talwandi Sabo, (where Sri Guru Granth Sahib was finally completed by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1704), near Bhatinda in East Punjab
Takht Hazoor Sahib at Nanded in Maharashtra state (where Guru Gobind Singh Ji installed Sri Guru Granth Sahib in 1708, as the Eternal Guru of Sikhs, after his life.
Political sovereignty of the Sikhs, as an independent and powerful force, was symbolized for the first time by Akal Takht. It soon became the Centre where both spiritual and temporal concerns of Sikhs could be addressed. Guru Har Gobind Sahib, the sixth Sikh Guru, challenged Jahangir, the tyrant Moghul Emperor and put on two swords: one indicated his spiritual authority (Peeri) and the other, his temporal authority (Meeri). He ignored Jahangir’s proclamation forbidding wearing of Sword, Dastaar (Turban), Horse-riding and sitting on elevated Throne. Guru Ji defied the Royal Edict that no other person except the Emperor himself can sit on a Throne more than three feet high. Guru Sahib would regularly sit on the Takht, with all marks of Royalty and dispense Justice for all disputes of Sikhs.
The Takht is a 12 feet high concrete platform built in 1606 by Guru Har Gobind Sahib with the help of Baba Buddha Ji and Bhai Gurdas Ji. It was damaged during the attacks of the Afghan hordes of Ahmad Shah Abdali and Massa Rangarh. It is on the first floor, where Sri Guru Granth Sahib is seated. It was rebuilt in brick during 1770-80, under Sultan-ul-Qaum Jassa Singh, leader of a Confederacy (Ahluwalia Misal). The entire building is a five-storey structure with marble inlay, of which three were added by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The dome atop the building was built and gilded by his General, Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa. The basement has a spacious hall where Amrit-Sanchar is done. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is seated on the first floor. The elaborate structure, resting on marble pillars, has a semi-circular platform with an open view of the courtyard below. It is reminiscent of the open space in front of Saint Marco in Venice (in Italy).
Nanakshahi bricks, (each one inch thick, three inches wide and eight inches long), had been used originally in the construction of Akal Takht and Darbar Sahib. Even if one manages to take out a brick from a wall made using these bricks, the other bricks stand unchanged and for removing the next brick the same effort is required, unlike modern modular bricks in use today. All important items and precious ornaments are stored in a strong room called Toshakhana, also built with the Nanak-shahi bricks. (It has four keys. Even if one has all four keys, one cannot open its lock as they are used in a particular order and every key opens lock only one fourth of a cycle). These invaluable gifts are called Jalau and are displayed for two hours on five occasions every year (on Gurpurabs) in the Darbar Sahib, when all the four door Kivaarhs are also replaced by identical Golden Ones.
Kotha Sahib, where Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the Fifth Guru, used to sit while construction work was going on, is an important place on the ground floor of Akal Takht. Only this part faces Darbar Sahib while all the other stories above it are tilted axially towards the East side. This is symbolic of the respect which Akal Takht, the throne of temporal power has for Darbar Sahib, the Court of the Supreme Spirituality of God and is not opposite the Holy Place. One can see Darbar Sahib from Akal Takht, but Akal Takht can not be seen from Darbar Sahib. Darshani Deorhi, the main Gate of the causeway to Darbar Sahib, is constructed in such a way that these two buildings do not appear to oppose each other. Spiritual view has to be wider than the Temporal view. There are two Kesari Flags atop Akal Takht, the one representing Spirituality is slightly higher than the other for Temporal Power.
Weapons of great historic and emotional significance for Sikhs are preserved in the Akal Takht building. These include: Sri Sahibs (swords) and Kirpans of Guru Har Gobind Sahib, Guru Gobind Singh Ji and Baba Buddha Ji. The famous Khandas and swords of Baba Deep Singh Ji and many other Sikh Shaheeds (Martyrs), the arrows of Guru Gobind Singh Ji (tipped with gold to meet expenses of performing the last rites of his targeted enemies) and the Katars of Sahibzadas Ajit Singh Ji, and Jujhar Singh Ji, are also preserved here. All these, and many other smaller weapons, are displayed daily in the evenings and on Gurpurabs.
(L to R : Darbar Sahib, Darshani Deodhi, Akal Takht Sahib)
Importance of Akal Takht
Akal Takht is the Supreme Authority in all Sikh matters, with powers to announce Hukamnamas (Edicts or Writs) that provide guidance on Sikh Code of Conduct. It acts both as a Watchtower and a Lighthouse for all Sikhs. Punishment may be given for acts prejudicial to Sikh interests. Appreciation may be recorded for outstanding services rendered by Sikhs or organisations to Sikhism. This was seen in the case of Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Sikh Emperor who ruled North India between Sutlej and Indus rivers for first half of the 19th century.
Akal Takht awarded punishment of lashes on Maharaja’s back for an act of Moral Indiscipline. He submitted before Chief Phoola Singh (Jathedar during 1800-1823), who was once his own General and had fought in Maharaja’s victorious military campaigns. However, seeing Maharaja’s good faith, the penalty was changed to a heavy fine. But a Nihang Leader, Santa Singh, was excommunicated from the Sikh Panth for some of his acts. Akal Takht had also honoured some dedicated Sikhs like Bhai Sahib Bhai Kharak Singh and Bhai Sahib Bhai Randhir Singh for their qualities of steadfastness, sacrifices, and outstanding services in the cause of Sikh Panth.
Importance of the Chief of Akal Takht
Chief or Jathedar of Akal Takht is the Custodian of this great Sikh Institution. He is similar (though not identical) to Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. A very distinguished Sikh Scholar, Bhai Gurdas Ji, who helped Guru Arjan Dev Ji to compile the Adi Granth, was the first Chief from 1618 to 1638. The Sikh martyr, Bhai Mani Singh Ji, who helped Guru Gobind Singh Ji to prepare the final version of Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), was the Chief during 1721-1734. The great warrior, General Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, was also the Akal Takht Chief from 1753 to 1783. It is hoped that in future, the Sikhs will have the benefit of guidance of such enlightened, courageous, and capable persons who will lead the community to greater heights.