The Five Takhts of Sikhism

By Dr (Professor, Retired ) Surjit Singh Bhatti, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar

Popularity of the rational philosophy of Guru Nanak Dev Ji (1469-1539) and the four Gurus after him, among the downtrodden people of India in the 15th and 16th centuries, did not suit the bigots among the priestly and ruling classes. They conspired to coerce, the 5th  Guru to  convert to their religion. On his refusal to give up his right to freedom of religion, Guru Arjan Dev Ji (1563 – 1606) was executed by Emperor Jahangir. This martyrdom changed the course of History. His son, Har-Gobind Sahib, the Sixth Guru, decided to prepare the Sikhs to protect themselves with arms, while remaining spiritually and morally upright. The five Takhts were the symbolic seats of the Assertion of the Sikhs’ Self-Respect, of which Akal Takht was the first, established at Amritsar (Punjab) in the Darbar Sahib complex in 1609.

Akal Takht Sahib –behind Darshni Deodhi – Entrance to Darbar Sahib (Amritsar)

AKAL TAKHT (The Eternal Throne) was established by Guru Har-Gobind Sahib with the assistance of a saint-warrior Baba Buddha ji and a scholar, Bhai Gurdas ji. Jahangir had banned wearing of a Sword and Dastaar (Turban), Horse-Riding, and sitting on a throne (more than three feet high). Guru Sahib defied these orders and regularly sat on Akal Takht, a 12 feet high marble platform, with a courtyard in front, as in Saint Marcos in Venice. He donned a Dastaar,  with all Marks of Royalty and dispensed Justice. He was an adept horse-rider and a warrior who wore two Swords: one for Spirituality (Peeri) and other for Temporal Power (Meeri). Ahmad Shah Abdali, the Afghan Invader, damaged this Takht but  Sultan-ul-Qaum Jassa Singh, leader of Ahluwalia confederacy, re-built it during 1775-80.  General Hari Singh Nalwa, built its Gilded Dome.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji used to sit on the ground floor (called Kotha Sahib) which faces Darbar Sahib while all other floors above it were tilted axially towards the East. Symbolic of the  respect which Akal Takht has for Darbar Sahib, the two are not opposite each other. Two Kesari flags stand atop Akal Takht, one for Spirituality, which is higher, and the other for Temporal Power, which is lower. Swords of Guru Har-Gobind Sahib, Baba Buddha Ji, Baba Deep Singh Ji,  Arrows of Guru Gobind Singh Ji (gold-tipped for cremation expenses of his enemies), Katars of Sahibzadas Ajit Singh Ji, and Jujhar Singh Ji, are among the historic weapons preserved in Akal Takht.

Akal Takht had punished Maharaja Ranjit Singh for his acts of Indiscipline. He submitted before the Jathedar (during 1800-23), his own General. However, seeing Maharaja’s Faith and Honesty, the penalty was changed to a Heavy Fine. Santa Singh, a Nihang Leader, was excommunicated from Sikhi for some of his acts. However, Bhai Sahibs Bhai Kharak Singh and Bhai Randhir Singh, two dedicated Sikhs were honored for their outstanding Services to Sikhi.  Bhai Gurdas Ji, who helped the 5th Guru to compile Adi Granth, was the First  Jathedar of Akal Takht during 1618-38 . Bhai Mani Singh Ji, a Sikh Martyr who helped the 10th Guru to update Adi Granth (to Sri Guru Granth Sahib), was Jathedar during 1721-34 and General Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, was Chief  during 1753 -83.

TAKHT PATNA SAHIB (at Patna, the capital of  Bihar) is the place where Guru Gobind Singh Ji was born (on December  22, 1666). Guru Sahib spent his early years here before moving to Anandpur Sahib in Punjab. Now this place is the Eastern Epicentre of Sikhism in India located on the banks of the river Ganges. The original name of this city was Patliputra. Patna was the name given by Guru Gobind Singh Ji to this city in one of his verses:  “Tahi Parkas Hamara bhayo Patna Shahar bikhey bhav layo”. As a mark of respect for Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the name is now changed to Patna Sahib.

Salas Rai Johri,  who was a great devotee of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, built the original Haveli, or the big house where Guru Gobind Singh Ji was born (as documented by Mulla Ahmed Bukhari, in his book “Mirat-ul-Ahwal Jahan Nama”). Maharaja Ranjit Singh started its construction in 1839, after its destruction by a fire.  An Earthquake rocked the state in 1934, whereby a portion of the building fell down. Re-construction of the present building was finally done by the Sikhs during 1954-57. The 350th  Birth Anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh Ji was celebrated at Patna Sahib in 2017.

Takht Patna Sahib, at Patna Sahib ( Bihar )

Some weapons and personal belongings of Guru Gobind Singh Ji are preserved here. These include: four iron Arrows, one iron Chakri , a small iron Khanda, a wooden Comb, two iron Chukers, a pair of Sandals made of elephant teeth and a  pair of sandalwood (Chandan) Sandals, worn by Guru Sahib, and Saint Kabeer Das  Ji’s three wooden spinning instruments. According to 1781 Records of Sir Charles Wilkins, there is a rare copy of Sri Guru Granth Sahib with Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s Signatures and some “Hukumnamas” of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji and Guru Gobind Singh Ji at this Takht. Besides, there is a “Chhabi Saheb”, a big oil painting of Guru Gobind Singh Ji in his young age,  a “Panghura Saheb”,  or Guru Sahib’s cradle with four stands covered with Gold plates and his “Saif” (small Sword) and a small iron “Baghnakh-Khanjer” (or Dagger).

There are some other historic Gurdwaras at Patna sahib. These include Gurudwara Gai Ghat,  built to commemorate visit of Guru Nanak Dev Ji to Patna, Gurudwara Kangan Ghat, situated on a Ganga ghat and Gurudwara Bal Leela, once a palace of Raja Fateh Chand Maini who loved Guru Ji. There is a Gurdwara at Guru Ka Bagh, at a place where  Guru Teg Bahadur Ji once stayed in a garden belonging to the Nawabs Rahim Bakhsh and Karim Bakhsh. They became devotees of Guru Sahib and lovingly  presented this garden  to him. In addition, there is a Museum in  the Takht premises housing the relics belonging to the Sikh Gurus, including  the hand-written  “Hukumnamas” preserved  in the form of a book.

TAKHT KESGARH SAHIB (at Anandpur Sahib, in Punjab) is the venue of the historic first Baisakhi held by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in April 1699, which gave birth to Khalsa (The Pure), also called  “Akal-Purakh ki Fauj”. The largest Sikh Festival, Hola Mohalla, is celebrated here every year since then. Guru Teg Bahadur Ji founded Anandpur Sahib (place of bliss) in 1675  (earlier named Chakk Nanaki after his Mother), in Shivalik Hills, which became home to Takht Kesgarh Sahib.  Guru Gobind Singh Ji selected five brave Sikhs, his beloved devotees or Panj Pyarey, (some from so-called low castes). They were initiated by giving them Amrit  by Guru Ji and then asked them to initiate him into the New Order.  Khalsa  was required to wear for life five K’s (Kes, Kangha, Kara, Kachera and Kirpan) and follow a Disciplined Path, defined as Rehat Maryada. Appellations of  ‘Singh’ (Lion) to men and ‘Kaur’ (Princess) to women were given, for affixing after their names, to bring equality among people of all castes and also between men and women. Historian Syed Muhammad Latif (1851-1902) in his book: History of the Panjab (page-263), wrote : In less than a fortnight 80,000 Sikhs flocked to Anandpur Sahib.

Takht Kesgarh Sahib, Anandpur Sahib (Punjab)

The present Takht complex was built during 1936 – 44 on a hillock in Anandpur Sahib, in District Rupnagar (earlier Ropar). It has a Gurdwara inside a 30 square meter courtyard. There is a marble platform with Sri Guru Granth Sahib on it and some weapons (of Guru Gobind Singh Ji) . The dome is like a Fluted Lotus. Lower level  has a Langar Hall, a Divan Hall, and 300 rooms for pilgrims.  Guru Ji built five forts for the protection of this city. These are:  Qila Anandgarh, Qila Lohgarh, Qila Holgarh (where Holla Mohalla began),  Qila Fatehgarh Sahib (in honour of Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji) and Qila Taragarh. The other landmarks include Guru-ka-Lahore (where marriage of Guru Gobind Singh Ji was performed), Bhai Kanhaiya ji Gurdwara in memory of  a self-less Sikh (who served friends and foes alike), Virasat-e-Khalsa, a masterpiece museum of Sikh History (designed by an Israeli-Canadian Architect‎ Moshe Safdie: Established in 1999), Sri Dasmesh Academy: a Leading School: Established in 1980) and a large Khanda: one of World’s  Tallest, on 81 feet high Pedestal.

TAKHT  DAMDAMA SAHIB  (at Talwandi Sabo, near Bathinda in Punjab) is the place where Guru Gobind Singh Ji rested for some months after the Battles at Chamkaur and Muktsar . Guru Sahib prepared here the updated version of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, after including the hymns of Guru Teg Bahadur Ji, with the help of Bhai Mani Singh ji. Here Guru Sahib pronounced the historic words: “Here we will create a pool of literature. No one of my Sikhs should remain illiterate”. Mughals and Hill Kings had besieged Anandpur Fort  for several months in 1705 on the orders of Aurangzeb. They promised safe passage to Guru Sahib if Fort is handed over to them without fight. Guru Ji left the Fort with his family, but were attacked by their pursuers. Guru sahib’s  younger sons, Sahibzada Zorawar Singh Ji and Sahibzada Fateh Singh Ji, and their Grandmother were separated from them. Guru’s former cooks betrayed and handed them over to the Governor of Sirhind. The three were kept in a cold tower (Thanda Burj) to compel them to change their religion. On their steadfast refusal, in December 1705, the brave Sahibzadas became the youngest martyrs in history when they were bricked alive at Sirhind by Moghuls.

In a grim battle in the same month, at Chamkaur Sahib, a handful of Sikhs defied many thousands of enemies. The Guru’s elder sons, Sahibzada Ajit Singh (18) and Sahibzada Jujhar Singh (14) were martyred. Historian Allah-yar Khan Jogi recorded their brave acts in his poems, Shahidani-Wafa. Guru Ji sent Zafarnamah (Epistle of Victory), to Aurangzeb castigating him for violating all his promises. The Moghuls failed to vanquish or capture Guru Sahib. Here a brave Lady Bhag Kaur inspired the 40 soldiers, who had earlier deserted Guru Ji,  to join the  battle. She led them all, donning a turban, in the Battle of Muktsar, defeating 20,000 Moghuls, (with 4000 dead). These 40 were forgiven and blessed by Guru Sahib as Mukte (The Liberated). City of Muktsar got its name from these martyrs. Guru Ji finally moved on to Talwandi Sabo.

Takht Damdama Sahib – Guru Kashi – Talwandi Sabo, Bathinda ( Punjab)

Baba Deep Singh was the first Jathedar of Takht Damdama sahib. A tower (Burj) stands in his memory on the left, where he meditated. Sri Guru Granth Sahib’s copies were made by him for other four Takhts. It is also the Headquarters of Nihangs (Armed Warriors), called  Guru ki Ladli Fauj. There are three historic Sarovars (tanks), Nanaksar Sarovar (honoring Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s visit, in 1510), Akalsar Sarovar (built during Guru Gobind Singh Ji’s visit) and Gurusar Sarovar (dug up on orders of Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib). A seal with the  words “Akal Sahai Guru Gobind Singh ji ki Jagha -Takhat Damdama Sahib ji”, was prepared during Guru Ji’s stay here. Damdama Sahib was made the 5th Takht in 1966 by the SGPC, Amritsar, and was recognized by Government of India in 1999.

TAKHT HAZUR SAHIB  is situated on the banks of Godavari (at Nanded in Maharashtra) where Guru Gobind Singh Ji installed Sri Guru Granth Sahib as the (Last) Eternal Guru of All Sikhs, after his life. The present Gurdwara was built during 1832-37 by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The Hyderabad Legislature Act of 1956 placed Takht Hazur Sahib and 15 other nearby Gurdwaras under a 17-member Board and a five-member Managing Committee. Both Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Dasam Granth are worshipped here. (A practice at Takht Patna Sahib also). There is a special place, called Angitha Sahib, where Guru Sahib was cremated. An inner vault houses some priceless objects, weapons, and  personal belongings of  the 10th Guru. These include  a chakra (quoit), a sword, a steel bow, a steel arrow, a gurz (heavy club with knob), a small gilded kirpan  and five gilded swords.

Being prescient of his end, the Guru dispatched Baba Banda Singh Bahadur with his five Sikhs to Punjab, on his journey of Khalsa Victory. Mata Sahib (Devan) Kaur was sent to Delhi with a separate escort and Bhai Santokh Singh was asked to stay back to keep Guru ka Langar going. He named Nanded as “Abchalnagar” (Steadfast city forever). In his writings, Guru Gobind Singh Ji has stated:  Agya Bhai Akal ki Tabhi Chalayo Panth,  Sab Sikhan ko Hukam Hai Guru Manyo Granth,  

Takht Hzur Sahib, Nanded (Maharashtra)

The other historic Gurdwaras at Nanded are: Gurdwara Bhai Daya Singh Bhai Dharam Singh, Gurdwara Sri Banda Ghat, Gurdwara Sri Gobind Bagh, Gurdwara Nagina Ghat, Gurdwara Sangat Sahib, Gurdwara Mai Bhago,  Gurdwara Langar Sahib, Gurdwara Maal Tekri, Gurdwara Sri Chandan Sahib, Gurdwara Nanakpuri,  Gurdwara Ratangarh Sahib,  Gurdwara Shikar Ghat,  Gurdwara Hira Ghat, Gurdwara Sri Mata Sahib and Gurdwara Damdama Sahib, Basmath.

(By Dr Surjit Singh Bhatti, Retired Professor & Head, Dean Sciences, Guru Nanak Dev University)

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