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Politics Of Sikhi ?

Nov 23, 2010
I was interested in learning more about the institutional structure of Sikhi. As I understand it Guru Gobind Singhji intended for the Sikh Panth to be a democratic organization. While true democracy is the most noble of ideals but historicaly it's very hard to administer.
I've looked for information in English as I don't read Punjabi yet but there is very little out there.
What I did find was very interesting.Here are two links

It's also my understanding that only amritdhari have the right to vote in panthic affairs ,by the way I no problem with this as I feel that this was the intention of Guruji.
For the first of my questions ;
Is there an international registery of Amritdhari Sikhs?
If so who is in charge of maintaining it?
Do Sikh's outside of India have a chance to vote?
Who has supremacy in Panthic decesions, the S.G.P.C.? The Akal Tahkt? The Sarbat Khalsa?

From what little I found, The Jathedar of the Akal Takht as we know it today is a spurious position. It not something that was ever intended by Guruji. I myself have a very hard time with the thought of a "Sikh Pope"
If this is the case then the so called excomunications of various Sikh scolars are not valid.
How many people compose the S.G.P.C.and The Akal Takht?, How are they elected? Are these positions paid? Where does the money come from? How much transparency is there in the finances?
It seems to me that all these organizations are more involved in Indian politics than Panthic issues. I know that this is a hefty subject but what are your thoughts on the present situation and what about the future?
Any other sources of informationwould be helpful as well.
Jun 14, 2012
You have much to learn the Akal Takhat has been around since Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji's time and the Guru Gobind Singh Ji approved of it Bhai Mani Singh the scribe of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji was one of the jatehdars Bhai Gurdas appointed by Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji was the first jatehdar the akal takhat isn't much of a Pope like figure but more of a spokesman for the Guru Ji's teachings by trying to help correct things that are going against the Guru Ji's like anti-Dasam Granth etc.The current jatehdar is Giani Gurbachan Singh the SGPC is the elected supreme managment board of the Sikhs at the moment only Amritdhari (intiated Sikh) can vote.The SGPC is like the Sikh Congress or parliament that votes on issues concerning the Sikh Gurdwaras the current head is Avtar Singh Makkar and I believe there are 175 members from the districts of Punjab their are two parties the SAD(Badal) which is in control and Panthic Morcha the opposition members are paid their but I dont know the salaries at all and meet the sessions are in November and finances are transparent msotly they recently passed the 2012-2013 Budget I believe the money comes from the money you give at Guru Ghars in control of the SGPC.
Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
The so-called Jathedar of Akal Takhat Sahib


Akal Takht Sahib was revealed by Guru Hargobind Sahib on June 15,1606. The foundation stone of the building of Akal Takht Sahib was laid down by Guru Hargobind Sahib himself. (Guru Hargobind Sahib did not built or create Akal Takht Sahib, he revealed it. Akal Takht Sahib belonged to Waheguru and it was the Almighty who could have created Akal Takht Sahib). The rest of the structure was completed by Baba Buddha (the veteran Sikh servant) and by Bhai Gurdas (Sikh scholar) only. No mason or any other person was permitted to participate in the construction of the structure. Guru Hargobind Sahib himself was the Custodian of the Takht of Waheguru. According to a source, when Guru Hargobind Sahib remained in Gwalior Fort prison, he had asked Baba Buddha to perform the services of Darbar Sahib (HARIMANDAR SAHIB) and Bhai Gurdas to take care of Akal Takht Sahib. It was not the appointment of Bhai Gurdas as the Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib. It is ignorance to say that Bhai Gurdas was the Jathedar or the Custodian of Akal Takht Sahib. He was just the caretaker. Guru Hargobind Sahib left Amritsar in 1635. Between 1635 and 1696 (until the death of Harji), Amritsar was under the control of the descendants of Pirthi Chand (elder brother of Guru Arjan Sahib). In April 1698, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib appointed Bhai Mani Singh as Granthi of Darbar Sahib and Akal Takht Sahib. On December 30, 1711, Bahadur Shah, the Mogul emperor, "assigned" the Jagir of Chakk Ram Das (Amritsar) to Ajit Singh Palit (He had been adopted by Mata Sunder Kaur. Later, she discarded him). Bahadur Shah wanted to use Ajit Singh Palit against Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, the Sikh General. Ajit Singh returned to Delhi after the death of Bahadur Shah (February 27, 1712). After this Baba Kahan Singh of the so-called Tat Khalsa, who looked after Akal Takht Sahib and Mahant Amar Singh of the so-called Bandai Khalsa, who had the control of Jhanda Bunga. Bhai Mani Singh is not referred as so-called Jathedar in any Sikh work. Bhai Ratan Singh Bhangu calls him "Pujaran sion vado pujari" (chief priest among the priests).

After the martyrdom of Bhai Mani Singh (June 24,1734), there was no one to take care of the shrines at Amritsar during the dark period of the Sikh history. There were Sarbat Khalsa gatherings at Akal Takht Sahib, at least since 1726, but no reference is available as to who convened these gatherings. It is presumed that Jathedars of the Sikh army used to call these gatherings. Later, Budha Dal (the Sikh veterans) took over the charge of the shrines. As the caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib, he introduced authentic Sikh practices at Akal Takht Sahib and Darbar Sahib. Baba Prem Singh Hoti wrote a book about Akali Phula Singh in 1912. Baba Prem Singh did not use the term Jathedar even once.

On October 12,1920, when some initiated Sikhs, belonging to so-called low castes, went to Akal Takht Sahib to offer an Ardas (prayer), to caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib and the Granthis slipped away. The gathering found the Takht Sahib unattended. A Jatha (band) of 25 Sikhs was selected to take care of Takht Sahib. Bahi Teja Singh Bhucher was appointed as the Jathedar of the Jatha. Bhai Teja Singh was to be the chief of the Jatha and not Akal Takht Sahib.

On October 13,1920, the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar called a meeting of the (former) priests and the Sikh leaders. The priests abstained from the meeting. This meeting selected an ad-hoc Committee to look after the affairs of Darbar Sahib and Akal Takht Sahib. The Committee comprised Sundar Singh Ramgarhia (the manager of Akal Takht Sahib and Darbar Sahib). Professor Teja Singh, Bawa Harkishan Singh, Bhai Deva Singh, Bhai Bahadur Singh Hakim, Bhai Chanda Singh, Jathedar Kartar Singh Jhabbar, Jathedar Teja Singh Bhucher and Doctor Gurbakhash Singh. This Committee, later, called a Sarbat Khalsa gathering for November 15-16, 1920. A Hukamnama, signed by Dr. Gurbakhash Singh, a member of the ad-hoc Committee, was issued. (This Hudamnama wa not issued by Jathedar Teja Singh Bhucher, the Jathedar of the Jahta appointed to take care of Akal Takht Sahib on October 12, 1920). Bhai Kahan Singh of Nabha published his encyclopedic work, Mahan Kosh in 1930. He did not even mention anything such as the Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib.

Even after 1920 or 1925 of even 1947, the caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib, (though the term Jathedar was being used by the leaders of the SGPC and the other officials) was not known to be any specific entity. When on November 29, 1961, the Panj Piaray gave their verdict from Akal Takht Sahib against Master Tara Singh, Fateh Singh ect., the so-called Jathedar came to be known as something extraordinary. When on October 2, 1962, the Fateh Singh group wrested the control of the S.G.P.C. from the Master Tara Singh, Jathedar Achchhar Singh, the caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib resigned his position to protest against the mismanagement of the affairs of Darbar Sahib and the other shrines. No one bothered about the institution of the caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib. No one reacted when Sadhu Singh Bhaura, who had been defeated in the S.G.P.C. elections, was appointed as so called Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib. It was not only on September 26, 1979, when Jathedar Jagdev Singh Talwandi and Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra approached Akal Takht Sahib for settlement of the internal affairs of the Akali Dal, that the so called Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib came to be known as some "extra special" entity. Since then the caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib has been considered as an officer, who is a sort of object of fear (like a Mafia boss or even a monster) for every Sikh. It was the promotion of fascism. It was and it is utterly in contradiction to the Sikh ideology.

Akal Takht Sahib is the Throne of the Almighty. It is supreme-most seat of the Sikh nation and all those who choose to owe their allegiance to this Throne. Akal Takht Sahib is not an ordinary shrine. It is not an organization. A Jathedar means the chief of the President of the leader of a Jatha (band) of an organization. Hence the term Jathedar is a misnomer. There can be a "caretaker" of Akal Takht Sahib of there can be a Jathedar of Sarbat Khalsa (the Sikh Commonwealth). He must represent the whole of the Sikh nation. He must have the confidence of the whole of the Sikh nation. It implies that he should be SELECTED through the consensus of the whole of the Sikh nation. The proper course to SELECT the Jathedar of the Sarbat Khalsa or the "caretaker" of Akal Takht Sahib, is to convene a Sarbat Khalsa. It should be a gathering of representatives of all Sikh organization and Sikh intellectuals (who consider themselves as the subjects of , and owe their loyalty solely to, Akal Takht Sahib). The S.G.P.C. represents the Sikh nation with regard to the management of the Sikh shrines and on this issue it is supreme. None can challenge S.G.P.C.'s jurisdiction in the case of the management of the Sikh shrines. But, the S.G.P.C. is not the Sarbat Khalsa for the purpose of the selection of the "Jathedar of the Sarbat Khalsa" or for the appointment/selection of the "caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib". This Sewadar must be selected by way of a Gumatta of the Sarbat Khalsa. The caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib can be named as Mukh Sewadar (chief attendant) or Sarbrah (manager) or Nigran (custodian) or Safir (ambassador) of Bulara (spokesman) or Diwan (a sort of minister). I will suggest the term Mukh Sewadar in Punjabi and "caretaker" in English.

The caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib is not a monarch, nor is he like the President (as in the USA), nor is the Pontiff (like Catholic Pope). He is just a speaker, a spokesman, an attendant. He is not a dicator. He can not issue Hukamnamas as a per his whims of his will. He can issue the Gurmattas of the Sarbat Khalsa as the Hudamnamas of Akal Takht Sahib. The issues of the petition of the persons excommunicated from the Sikh Panth, the cases of punishment must be considered by the Sarbat Khalsa. There can be a "standing committee", which should consist of the representatives of the organizations which are loyal to Akal Takht Sahib, plus a few Sikh intellectuals (to be coopted by these representatives). The members of this "standing committee" shall continue to be members of the Committee as long as they have the confidence of their organizations as well as the Sikh nation. Even these members shall not be consider themselves as some authority. They are the Sewadars of the Sikh nation. For the local issue, the petitions may be decided by Panj Piaray.


Hukamnama of Akal Takht Sahib

(History and Concept)

Hukamnama, literally means "Royal Order." As Akal Takht Sahib is the Throne of the Almighty, the orders issued by Akal Takht Sahib are called Hukamnamas. The letters written by the Sikh Gurus too were also called Hukamnamas. In the middle ages, the orders from the worldly rulers were also known as Hukamnama but the people carried out the orders under compulsion. But, the Hukamnamas of the Sikh Gurus was a matter of pride and privilege. Not only the carrying out the Guru's Order but even the Darshan (a simple look) at Guru's Hukamnama was a matter of pride for a Sikh.

The first Hukamnama from Akal Takht Sahib was issued by Guru Hargobind Sahib himself. This Hukamnama asked the Sikhs to wear arms for self defence. Since then several Hukamnamas must have been issued. Some Hukamnamas issued by Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, his wife, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, Sarbat Khalsa, Akal Takht Sahib etc. are still available in the original. (Two collections of Hukamnamas are available in print form, one edited by Dr. Ganda Singh and the other one by Bhai Shamsher Singh Ashok, both published in 1968 by Punjabi University and the S.G.P.C. respectively. These volumes have Hukamnamas by the following: 2 by Guru Hargobind Sahib, one by Guru Harkrishan Sahib, 22 by Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib, 34 by Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, 2 by Banda Singh Bahadur, 2 by Thrones etc.).

During the eighteenth century, the Sarbat Khalsa issued Hukamnama-s to the Sikhs for manifold purposes. Through one Hukamnama, Akal Takht Sahib asked the Sikhs to release the wife of a Brahmin (Hindu of priestly class) whom the Afghan Chief of Kasur had carried away. In 1759, Sarbat Khalsa issued a Hukamnama to the Sikhs to send funds for the reconstruction of the Sikh shrines.

After the British annexation of the Sikh Homeland, Akal Takht Sahib was misused by the occupying managers. A Hukamnama against Professor Gurmukh Singh was issued in 1879. A Hukamnama, it has been said, was issued against the Ghadar Party workers. There is no direct evidence of the issuance of such a Hukamnama. As these two and alike Hukamnamas were not in accordance with the Sikh ideology, hence the Sikh nation rejected them.

Hukamnamas excommunicating persons or cults guilty of harming Panth or for acts of blaspheme, too, have been issued from time to time: Gurdial Sinh Nabha (1923), Teja Singh Bhasaur and his associates (1928), Nirankari cult (1978) etc. During the period of attempt at the hijacking of Akal Takht Sahib too Hukamnamas were issued to excommunicate Zail Sinh, Buta Sinh, Santa Sinh, Rachhpal Sinh, Surjit Barnala, Pashaura Sinh etc.

Hukamnama of Akal Takht Sahib is different from a verdict given from Akal Takht Sahib in some disputes. Decisions in the cases of the Sikhs who surrender at Akal Takht Sahib for their anti-Sikh activities are not Hukamnamas. These decisions had been given in the case of Kartar Singh Bedi (1924), Bhai Narain Singh (1924), Buta Singh M.L.C. (1935), Master Tara Singh, Fateh Singh and eight members of the Executive of Akali Dal (1962), Piar Singh (1993) etc. In some cases partial decisions were taken by the caretakers of Akal Takht Sahib for forgiving or for giving minor punishment due to reasons best known to them. These cases were: Zail Sinh, Surjit Barnala, Buta Sinh, Amarjit Grewal, Pashaura Sinh etc. All these persons were given concessionary treatment. The Sikhs have not accepted these decisions by the respective caretakers of Akal Takht Sahib.

This has happened due to ignorance about the concept of Akal Takht Sahib and its Hukamnama. The Hukamnama of Akal Takht Sahib is the consensus of Sarbat Khalsa. During the eighteenth century, the issues of the Sikhs were decided by way of Gurmata. The leaders of all the groups, Misls, battalions of the Sikhs used to gather at Akal Takht Sahib to finalize a particular issue. The decision was reached by way of consensus in accordance with the Sikh ideology. This was called Gurmata (the counsel of Guru Sahib). This Gurmata was issued to the Sikh nation from Akal Takht Sahib as Hukamnama of Sarbat Khalsa or Akal Takht Sahib. This represented the "will of the Sikh nation." A Hukamnama can not be issued by caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib by way of personal whims. The political monopolization and the adoption of Western political system made the Sikh intelligentsia indifferent to the institution of Akal Takht Sahib and the institution of Akal Takht Sahib was "hijacked" by ignorant but clever politicians. All the Gurmatas are not Hukamnamas. When a resolve to execute some planning is made, it is called Gurmata and it applies to the persons who participate in it. But, if this Gurmata is of national importance then it is released to the Sikh nation. In that case it becomes Hukamnama. Sarbat Khalsa made several Gurmatas in the eighteenth century. Some of the well know Gurmatas are: the issue of acceptance of Jagir (1733), construction of Sikh fort (1747), formation of Dal Khalsa (1748), to recognize Rakhi (1753 and 1758), to attack Lahore (1760), to emphasize the supremacy of Sarbat Khalsa (1765), the petition of Jaswant Rao Holkar (1805), to form the S.G.P.C. (1920), to form Gurdwara Sewak Dal, later named Akali Dal (1920) etc.

There are certain issues which can not be covered by Gurmata or Hukamnama. These include the basic principles, postulates or doctrines of Sikhism. A Gurmata, which applies to the whole of the Sikh nation (national issues) must represent the will of the whole nation and must not be a decision of an ad hoc hand-picked assembly of special invitees by a party or faction or self-styled Jathedar/Pope.

Since 1979, Akal Takht has been used by the Akali leaders for their factional activities. As a result the institution of Akal Takht Sahib has suffered a lot. The caretaker (whom they wrongly call Jathedar) of the Takht has been acting as an agent of the ruling Akali faction. Specially under the reign of Kirpal Singh Badungar, Akal Takht caretaker has acted as an ordinary Akali worker, loyal to the president of the SGPC. This is mockery of the institution. Akal Takht Sahib which is the greatest seat of the Sikh Panth has been defiled by the Akali leadership. Akal Takht is not a court of mediation between factions, groups; nor it is an industrial tribunal to decide disputes. Akal Takht Sahib should not deal with each and every case like an ordinary tribal court. It should deal with only those issues which are of national importance and the Hukamnamas should be issued only after a Gurmata has been passed by the Sarbat Khalsa. What is Sarbat Khalsa is still a moot point. In the present circumstances, a meeting of all the Sikhs is not possible. In such a situation the representatives of all those parties and institutions, which are loyal to Akal Takht Sahib plus the Sikh intelligentsia, should form the Sarbat Khalsa. This is not the final formula. The Sikh intelligentsia can discuss the procedure to for Sarbat Khalsa. But, the president of the SGPC appointing a caretaker of Akal Takht as per his political need is against Sikh philosophy. AND the caretaker issuing Hukamnamas of his personal whim in association with 4 more priests, in line with the SGPC president is still further un-Sikh like. The Sikhs should stop playing games with the Sikh fundamentals.

Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer

International Director
Guru Nanak Institute of Sikh Studies, England

Former Director
Sikh History Research Board
& the Sikh Reference Library

Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer has written about 40 books on Sikh history, culture and philosophy. The SGPC Amritsar and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara

source: http://www.sikhmarg.com/english/akal.html


At present the management of Sikh Gurdwaras is dictated by


Last edited:

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
There is a vast difference today ...from the theory and imagined ....

1. Akal Takhat - Sikhs worship ONLY AKAAL PURAKH..His TAKHAT is SGGS..and any HUKMNAMAH must come form SOURCE- SGGS.
Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji was one of the Living Human DEH gurus...but since 1708 we have ONE and ONLY SGGS...and that means SGGS sits on the Akal Takhat that Guru Hargobind Sahib sat on. Period. Any Hukmanmah or commands that are Ultra Vires the SGGS cannot be form the Genuine Akaal Takhat.

2. SGPC is a BRITISH-INDIAN created Body established and maintained under INDIAN CONSTITUTION. Hence ONLY INDIAN CITIZENS can vote and that is further RESTRICTED to Punjab/Haryana/Himachal and Chandigarh areas ONLY. Even an Amrtidharee form DELHI CANNOT VOTE in SGPC elections much less one form Hyderabad..so what about USA ?? NO way.

3. The Most RECENT ELECTIONS to SGPC has so mcuh OVERWHELMING VIDEO and other Factual EVIDENCE that not only did NON-Amrtidharee Sikhs vote in huge numbers, proclaimed MUSLIMS and other NON SIKHS etc also voted in large numbers.ALL this is due tot he POLITICISATION and CORRUPTION of the Electoral Process sanctioned by the PRESENT STATE / Authorities.

4. Previously the SGPC didnt hold elections for a continuous period of 25 YEARS and GS Tohra remained President of an DEFUNCT SGPC HOUSE ( Illegal since it passed its life of 5 years many times over) for 25 years. This is because the Electoral comission is under the Delhi Govt and thus under the Thumb.

5. Jathedars of the 3 Takhats in Punjab esp Akal takhat come under SGPC jurisdiction..so a corrupt sgpc gives birth to corrupt jathedars..period. They are REMOVED and APPOINTED at WILL by the Ruling Party of Punjab as it controls the SGPC for past decade or so. One Akal takhat jathedar had to go hide in a toilet and lock the door to escape being PUNISHED by the CM, when he made the mistake of asserting his supposed Religious Authority and summoned the CM to the Akal Takhat..He tried to be a WANNA BE Akali PHOOLA SINGH who had summoned Maharaja Ranjit Singh to Akal takhat and punished the Maharaja with a public flogging for a religious error....BUT the Wanna Be Akali Phoola Singh of modern times forgot that the Present CM also a Wanna Be Maharaja Ranjit Singh was NOT the type to be tied to a tree and flogged even SYMBOLICALLY.
Nov 23, 2010
So let me get this straight, the Panth is theoretically bound by decisions made by the Jathedar of the Akal Tahkt, but the position is appointed by the S.G.P.C. , a political body in which only those living in Punjab can vote.
What do you see for the furture of the Panth as Sikhi spreads around the globe?
There is no organization that governs activities of Gurdwaras outside of India ?
How can an equitable representation be achieved?
Soul Jyotji thanks for posting these articles and thanks also Gyani Jarnalji for your input.
If you know of any other articles or books in English let me know. I think this topic need to be addressed for the future of Sikhi.
Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Sovereignity Of The Akal Takht

Jasdev Singh (Rai)

(University of Waterloo Conference : May 25-27, 2001)

Note: Misl – a military unit of organization of the Sikh confederacy
Sarbat Khalsa – meeting of the entire Sikh nation for the purposes of making decisions by consensus


The history of Sri Akal Takht is well known for its controversial ambiguities rather than for clarity and continuity. It has been venerated differentially in history and its status is interpreted and treated differently by different academics, people, organisations and powers.

This paper leans towards recognising Sri Akal Takht as the sovereign institution of the Guru Panth thus establishing the independence of Sikhi as a religious philosophy and the Sikhs as a people. It treats historical evidence more critically than has been usual to justify the central assertion. It justifies the need for such recognition in International relations and develops its role on concepts within the Sikh philosophy. It further briefly looks at the possible problems and the functional aspects.

The Akal Takht

According to Sikh historical sources, Guru Hargobind Sahib established the Akal Takht in 1606 as a sovereign institution. Literally interpreted, the words Akal Takht mean the ‘throne of the eternal’. The first edict given to Sikhs from here was to bring horses and arms. Symbolically, the Takht had an army under Guru Hargobind Sahib that engaged in defensive battles.

Although the Guru did not always stay or seat himself at the Akaal Takht and neither did the Gurus who followed, the issue is irrelevant as the Gurus themselves were sovereign.

The Takht is seldom mentioned as a sovereign institution until the Misl period when the Sarbat Khalsa met there twice a year to take decisions reached by consensus. It was a form of confederal republic, with the Akal Takht as an epicentre.

Maharajah Ranjit Singh observed the Takht’s sovereignty symbolically rather than in reality and in fact undermined the Sarbat Khalsa by discontinuing it. He, like the British after him, clearly saw the republican form of Sikh polity as a threat to a hereditary Monarchical system.

The British period brought an end to any independent authority that the Akal Takht had and replaced it by a form of control through the District Commissioner (DC), while letting the Sikhs manage the institution.

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee (SGPC), which wrestled control in the 1920′s, brought it back into democratic control of the Sikhs but the DC still had some power of veto. The SGPC in turn appoints the Jathedar, that is the custodian of the Sri Akaal Takht Sahib, as an employee, thus unwittingly eroding the authority of Sarbat Khalsa and the sovereignty of the Akaal Takht. This arrangement has been maintained by law in India.

However, when the Darbar Sahib was attacked in 1984, the news of the destruction of Sri Akal Takht had an immediate impact upon Sikhs around the world. Despite a lack of any formal arrangement of sovereignty, the Sikhs consider the Takht as a sovereign institution and interpreted the attack as an assault on its sovereignty. This gave rise to a movement for an independent Sikh state.

A convincing case for the restoration of this sovereignty through the evidence of history can, however, be made if history is treated more critically. It is evident that, whenever circumstances allowed or the Sikhs understood implications, the Akaal Takht was treated as a sovereign institution.

Leaving aside historical justification, Sikhi provides for the Sikhs to resolve to creative rationales when necessary. Guru Gobind Singh ji vested sovereignty in the Guru Panth and the Guru Granth. The Guru Panth acts through the institution of Sarbat Khalsa as a body where decisions are reached by consensus rather than democratic majority. This also differentiates the traditional form from the current SGPC system, which has emulated the Westminster model.

The notion of Sarbat Khalsa and the Panj Piaré is a unique institution both in the history of peoples and religions. As a non-dualist religion, Sikhi does not divide the spiritual from the physical world and promotes the concept that the eternal is present through the entirety of existence that we can comprehend and cannot comprehend.

In keeping with this proposition the faith maintains that, while individuals may be corrupt, in the collective of the community goodness and the spirit of the eternal prevail over individual interests. Therefore, the community of Khalsa as a collective is divine and sovereign, above that of any individual King or temporal authority. This is the basis of Sikh republican political ideology or the supremacy of the Panth over any individual or earthly power. The combination of this spiritual and temporal unity and the sovereignty of Guru Granth and Guru Panth is expressed uniquely through the Akaal Takht Sahib.

The sovereignty of the Khalsa is based on the proposal that within the Khalsa is vested the wisdom of the Guru Granth thus Guru Panth. The Guru Granth is inviolable and its teachings cannot be altered. However, as living Guru Panth, the Khalsa is not enslaved by historical precedent or limited by the exactitudes of the lives and actions of the Gurus. The Khalsa is a dynamic and evolving body with the power to make its own decisions.

The Gurus established principles, concepts and discipline. It is left to the Khalsa to work from those principles and make collective decisions in their applications. From this the Khalsa derives the power of action that makes historical evidence and precedent irrelevant as long as the action is based on principles established by the Gurus and elaborated in the Guru Granth Sahib. The Khalsa, however, venerates the institutional structures that the Gurus established and takes those as its reference.

According to this author, the issue is not whether substantive historical evidence exists to justify the observance of Sri Akaal Takht Sahib as a sovereign institution but whether such establishment and decision contradicts the principles established by the Gurus.

The most important aspect in the issue of Sri Akal Takht is that of the Sarbat Khalsa. This is the collective republican concept of Khalsa democratic participation and collective consensus. It is then expressed through a collective leadership of Panj Piaré, thus again negating the idea of a supreme leader or a Monarch.

It can be said that the Misls were gradually moving towards an eventual and workable practice of collective republicanism. This was broken by Maharajah Ranjit Singh whose period and reign can be seen to fall back on classical concepts of governance tempered with Sikh concepts of collective and pluralistic rule. Rather than delve on the merits or lack of them in his rule, Maharajah Ranjit Singh can be considered to be a victim of his time when monarchies were the only existing model of governance. It can be argued that he lacked the intellect to explore new possibilities based on Sikh political theory and may have seen the sovereign Panth as a threat rather than a new innovation in South Asian polity.

The Sarbat Khalsa, however, is a complex idea. This author’s view is that, as in many other fields, the Gurus established principles and working models. The applications are dependent on the needs and practicalities of the period.

Today, a Panth spread across five continents needs new dynamics and the practicalities are dependent on a number of factors – for instance the size of the community, the distance the community is spread over, the practices that are in existence and many other factors. Thus, for the period immediately after Guru Gobind Singh ji and the Misls, the Sarbat Khalsa, as it functioned, was a workable model for the small community of Sikhs. Today, a different model is needed maintaining basic principles but able to cope with new realities.

For instance, one such model would require regional assemblies, sub regional forums and even district forums that would work through a system of consensus.

The introduction of Sarbat Khalsa in this paper requires its own principles to be defined. However, as this is not the purpose of this paper, they will be stated in summary and not be exhaustive.

The Sarbat Khalsa

The Sarbat Khalsa has to work on the principle that it is meeting in a spirit of independence – for instance from the laws of a State, the political pressures of a regime, the corruption of business interests or ambitions for political office. The Khalsa does not recognise the absolute sovereignty of any temporal body but only the absolute sovereignty of the eternal as comprehended through the Guru Granth Sahib.

Secondly, the Sarbat Khalsa has to be one of achievable consensus rather than Westminster majority style democracy.

Thirdly, the Sarbat Khalsa has to enable every member of the Khalsa Panth to be a participant directly or indirectly. The eligibility of participants has to be debated. However, it is suggested that the Sarbat Khalsa would be incomplete as a body if it did not represent the interests of the entire Sikh community in some form.

Fourthly, the Sarbat Khalsa has to realise its own limits and capacities. For instance it cannot debate on altering the Guru Granth Sahib but it can decide on methods of engagement with the rest of the world based on the principles of Guru Granth Sahib.

Fifth, the Sarbat Khalsa has to enable its decisions to be made applicable through a collective and functional leadership such as the Panj Piaré and represented through a spokesperson such as the Jathedar.

Sixth, the decisions have to be accessible and their clarification in different circumstances be possible.

These are broader principles that come to mind but more can be elaborated and suggested by other authors. Working from the above principles, the inference that is arrived at is that the Sarbat Khalsa can only meet in a sovereign territory of its own where it expresses its sovereignty through an institution that can function freely without interference from other bodies. In today’s world where every inch of land is under the jurisdiction of some state or other, the Sarbat Khalsa can engage realistically in the world by enacting its own sovereign institution to relate with the rest of the world. The Sarbat Khalsa can meet in Europe or in India but its announcements have to come from an institution that exists in its own right and is not constrained by the limitations of any other sovereign power.

This author considers that sovereignty to be historically vested in the Akaal Takht Sahib. Thus the sovereignty of Guru Granth and Guru Panth functioning through the Sarbat Khalsa is symbolically expressed through the institution of Sri Akaal Takht Sahib whose sovereignty is the sovereignty of Guru Granth in function.

Role of the Jathedar

The role of the Jathedar is another complex subject that stretches the limits of this paper. In brief, there is contradictory evidence as to the exact name of the custodian of the Akaal Takht in history – whether it is Jathedar or Granthi. However, the author reverts back to the scope of the Sarbat Khalsa, which can disregard history and call the custodian by any title as long as the role is based on the same principle.

The role of the Jathedar is one of spokesperson and mediator. The Jathedar does not have divine authority as corresponding positions do in some other religious traditions. The Jathedar does not have the authority to give orders that deviate from practice or have not been sanctioned by the Sarbat Khalsa. Moreover, there is an argument to suggest that the Jathedar should not be a lifetime appointment position but changed periodically

There is also the question of whether sovereignty is necessary if a Sikh state were to emerge.

The experience of the Sikhs during the reign of Maharajah Ranjit Singh and the status of the Akaal Takht in post independence Indian Punjab under various Sikh governments is argument enough that its sovereignty cannot be entrusted to Sikh governments either. The State has both Sikhs and non-Sikhs and has to function in their interest while the Sarbat Khalsa is a Sikh institution.

In summary, there is enough historical evidence to justify the establishment of the sovereignty of Akaal Takht in international relations. Even if historical continuity is contested, the Sarbat Khalsa has the power to decide upon this course. The Akal Takht is a symbol of the sovereignty of Guru Granth and Guru Panth acting through the Sarbat Khalsa and expressed through the institution of the Akaal Takht.

SOURCE: http://www.sikharchives.com/?p=9329



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