Hard Talk - The Myth of Akaal Takht | Sikh Philosophy Network
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Hard Talk The Myth of Akaal Takht

Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer

Sep 26, 2019
Today, Akal Takht is being presented as Theo-political seat of the Sikhs. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and the supporters of the party controlling the SGPC claim that Akal Takht is ‘Throne of Akal (God)’ and the verdict, edicts, fatwas issued by the chief priest (whom they call Jathedar) are ‘Divine proclamations’. They also assert that Akal Takht was ‘built’ by Guru Hargobind, the Sixth Guru. In a way, this is a ‘strange’ statement; because, it means that God did not have a ‘Takht’ before Guru Hargobind Sahib; and, secondly, it was Guru Hargobind who built a ‘Takht’ for God (meaning thereby that Guru Hargobind was superior to God) … all this is contradiction in terms.

For some time, it had been preached and some writers have been mentioning (though unintentionally) that ‘Akal Takht’ was built in 1606. The fact was not contested because it was mentioned in a book ‘Gurbilas Patsahi Chhevin’ (biography of Guru Hargobind Sahib), and, it was claimed that that book had been written in 1718 (later, it was proved that the book was written in 1830s).

The building, which is now known as Akal Takht, was a Bunga(Persian word meaning ‘residential quarters’) of the Akalis (Akali Naina Singh and Akali Phula Singh) till 1823. As it was the Bunga of the Akalis, it was known as ‘Akali Bunga’ or ‘Bunga Akalis’. After the death of Akali Phula Singh (1823), this Bunga was occupied by Giani Gurmukh Singh (son of Sant Singh Giani, the chief priest of Darbar Sahib). From among the Misls, the Akalis were the only group which did not occupy any land; hence they were respected by all the 11 Misls for their neutral stand on all issues. During that period, all the Misls used to have gatherings (known as Sarbat Khalsa) which were attended by the representatives of all the Misls and Jathas (groups) of the Sikhs. Because the meetings were held at their Bunga, some writers of the twentieth century wrongly stated that these gatherings were held at Akal Takht. The word Akal Takht was not known even when the last ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ gathering was held in 1804 (when Maratha Holkar came to Amritsar to seek support of the Sikh Misls for his fight against Lord Lake). This has been clearly mentioned by Lt. Col. Malcolm (in his book ‘Sketch of the Sikhs’, written in 1812). Malcolm mentions (on p. 120) that the Akalis used to call such meetings at Amritsar; he does not mention even the word Akal Takht. It is interesting to note that not a single writer had ever used the word Akal Takht in any of his book, till the nineteenth century. Bute Shah wrote his book ‘Geographical Description of the Punjab’ in 1842 (in Persian); its Punjabi version was published by Rev J. Porter at the American Presbyterian Mission Press, Ludhiana in 1850; he has given detailed description of the Darbar Sahib complex. On page 51 he mentions Akal Bunga which was residence of the Akalis; even he does not mention the word ‘Akal Takht’ in any part of this book.

As I have mentioned that Giani Gurmukh Singh had occupied the Bunga of Akalis after 1823; he, with the help of Darbara Singh, a priest of Darbar Sahib, wrote a book named ‘Gur Bilas Patsahi Chhevin’, and, in this book he concocted the story of ‘foundation’ of Akal Takht. His sole purpose was to establish that Bunga as a new shrine and attract pilgrims visiting Darbar Sahib to make offerings at his Bunga (now declared as Akal Takht). As his father was head priest and he was his son and Darbara Singh was a priest of Darbar Sahib, it took no time to get his new ‘shrine’ established. This is how the concept and history of Akal Takht was concocted. After this, Sikhs began visiting ‘Akal Takht’ building too. So much so that even Hari Singh Nalwa was also convinced by Gurmukh Singh and, in 1835, the latter offered rupees one lakh for gold-plating the building (however, Nalwa died in 1837 and the money was embezzled by Gurmukh Singh (Gurmukh Singh was killed in 1843, during battle for the Lahore throne, fought between Rani Chand Kaur and Maharaja Sher Singh).

It is remarkable to note that Maharaja Ranjit Singh had never heard the word ‘Akal Takht’. He had visited Amritsar several times; and, he had made offering at various shrines of Amritsar, but, in his daily diary the word ‘Akal Takht’ appears nowhere. Events of his life and court (up to the time of his death in 1839) have been, now printed in English (and now in Punjabi too). It confirms that the word Akal Takht was still not in existence.

After Gurmukh Singh’s death (1843), his son Parduman Singh remaine din occupation of the Akalian Da Bunga; hence the offerings made there remained with the family. After 1859, the English regime placed these shrines under control of a government appointed Sarbrah (meaning: care-taker), and this continued till October 1920.
In 1873, the Singh Sabha was formed. Within ten years this organisation was divided into two groups: Amritsar Group (headed by Khem Singh Bedi) and Lahore Group (headed by Prof Gurmukh Singh). Khem Singh Bedi group had the support of the management of the Darbar Sahib, the Akal Bunga, Baba Atal and Tarn Taran etc.
As mentioned earlier that the Singh Sabha got divided into two groups and Khem Singh Bedi, using the name of Darbar Sahib, Bunga Akal Takht, Baba Atal and Tarn Taran issued a verdict (Fatwa) against Prof Gurmukh Singh (leader of Lahore group) on 18 March 1877. It is interesting to note this ‘Fatwa’ was not issued by (so called) Akal Takht or (so called) Jathedar or (so-called) Punj Piaray (Jathedar word was not in existence till 12 October 1920); it was signed by Sarbrah (manager) of all the Gurdwaras (of Amritsar and Tarn Taran), one Raes (noble man) as well as granthis, mahants, nambardars, flower-decorators, incense burner, in charges of flag post, prayer-chanters and other office-bearers of Akal Bunga, Jhanda Bunga, Darbar Sahib, Baba Atal and Tarn Taran. Those priests etc. who signed it all of them had used the word Akal Bunga with their name, and not ‘Akal Takht’.

Birth of the word Jathedar

From the 10thto the 12th of October, the Khalsa Biradari Karaj Sadhak Dal held a function at Jallianwala Bagh Amritsar; on the first day of the three-day function no Sikh leader participated; but on the second day, Sundar Singh Majitha, Kartar Singh Jhabbar, Teja Singh Bhuchchar, Mangal Singh Maan, Hakim Bahadur Singh etc. attended the function.

During those days the priests of Darbar Sahib would not accept Karah Prasad offered by the so-called untouchable people. The Sikhs were angry for this discrimination as it was against the Sikh philosophy; hence, on the night of the 11th of October, a resolution was passed that the following morning the Sikhs of the so-called untouchables should go to Darbar Sahib with prasad and, the Sikh leaders should accompany them and brings an end to this anti-Sikh practice. The next day, early in the morning, several Sikhs got initiation at Jallianwala Bagh and at the end of the ceremony; at about 8 a.m. all these Sikhs went to Darbar Sahib; as it was expected, at first, the priests did not allow the so-called untouchable people even to enter Darbar Sahib, but the people accompanying them, who were in large numbers, pushed their way in; but when they offered prasad, the priests became adamant and did not perform ardas. When so many Sikhs, including professors of Khalsa College and the leaders of Chief Khalsa Diwan, who had gathered there, insisted, the priest realised that they had no option but to accept prasad of the (so called) untouchables. After this, all the Sikhs went to the building of Akal Bunga (now came to be known as Akal Takht); seeing them arriving, the priests ran away leaving the Akal Bunga building and Guru Granth Sahib unattended. When the Sikhs found the premises had been abandoned, Bhai Deva Singh (Secretary of Amritsar Singh Sabha) made an appeal to the Sikhs present there to assume the service of Akal Bunga Takht; at this, the sangatconstituted a sewak jatha (care-taker Jatha) of 17 Sikhs to take care of the building of (so-called) Akal Takht and observance of the ceremonies therein; Teja Singh Bhuchchar was selected the Jathedar of this jatha. This Jathedar was selected as head of the Jatha and not (so-called) Akal Takht. This event has been fully explained in the book Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Kiven Bani (published by SGPC itself); this book has quoted details from a newspaper of October 1920. Later, some ignorant people began calling the head priest of the Bunga building as Jathedar.

Even after selecting a Jathedar (chief) of care-taker Jatha on 12 October 1920, not a single person had ever been summoned in the name of Akal Takht; and, there is NOT a single instance of issue fatwa against any Sikhs.

Summoning and excommunicating Sikhs

During the period of the Sikh Gurus, not a single hukamnama was issued regarding any conceptual issue of the Sikhs nor to expel nor for social boycott of any Sikh. Not a single Sikh was ever excommunicated, through a Hukamnama even by any Guru. It is important to note that even Guru Har Rai did not expel his son Ram Rai from Panth when the latter tried to please the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (in 1661). The Guru simply declared that his son won’t be entitled to Guruship. The Guru did not issue even a command for his social boycott (history books narrate that Ram Rai attended ceremonies of family; it was Ram Rai who accompanied the family when the ashes of his (Ram Rai’s) brother Guru Harkishan were carried from Delhi to Keeatpur (when he died at Delhi on 31 March 1664).

Even after the Gurus (1708 onwards), not a single Hukamnama, edict or fatwa was ever issued in the name of (so-called) Akal Takht or any other (so-called) Takht. In fact, as explained above, there was never any such institution known as ‘Akal Takht or a Takht’.

The Hukamnama against Nirankaris (10 June 1978)

When, during clash with Nirankaris, 13 Sikhs were killed at Amritsar, Sikhs from all shades gathered at Teja Singh Samundari Hall (Darbar Sahib Complex) and decided that a command should be issued to the Sikhs for boycott of the Nirankaris. A Committee of seven Sikh intellectuals was formed to draft this letter, which was finally announced from the platform of Akal Bunga (Akal Takht); hence it is evident that this letter was not drafted by any Jathedar or even five priests etc.

The new authority of ‘Jathedar’ is an outcome of militancy

The new authority of so-called Jathedar was self-assumed by the priests during the period of militancy (after 1984). They did this with an intention to intimidate and threaten their opponents and to have their will implemented by creating religious awe. It was in this situation that the new designation of Jathedar Akal Takht and his power were created; hence the concept of ‘Jathedar Akal Takht’ and a ‘supreme power’ is a creation of militants.

Priests, now known as Jathedars had assumed power to summon, excommunicate or issue fatwa for social boycott against anyone at their will. This was neither in consonance with Sikh philosophy, nor had this authority ever existed in Sikh history.

Politicization of the institutions of Akal Takht and Jathedar

When the militants were expelled from Darbar Sahib in 1988, the rulers of the SGPC considered it a golden chance to take over the new authority of Jathedarship created by the militants. In 1999, Parkash Singh Badal expelled Gurcharan Singh Tohra and became ‘supremo’ of the SGPC. Now, he began using the name of Jathedar and the building of Akal Bunga (as Takht) for his personal promotion and as his personal power. Since then, this office has been used to defame, insult and awe the opponents of those who control the SGPC (the authority which appoints and expels the priests of the building known as Akal Takht). The SGPC is the appointing authority for the priests; and, it (SGPC) removes them as per the will of the President (in the name of executive). The SGPC expels them at its will, as it had happened in the case of Bhai Ranjit Singh, Puran Singh, and Balwant Singh Nandgarh etc. Those who don’t follow the line of the President SGPC (in fact, the ruling party’s chief, i.e. Badal Akali Dal), they are either expelled or compelled to resign (e.g. Vedanti, Gurbachan Singh) or are transferred to other Gurdwaras (e.g. Gurmukh Singh).

The SGPC has been set up under an Act of Government of India. It is elected by people of Punjab, Himachal and Chandigarh (Haryana has formed its own SGPC, though it has been challenged in High Court). The Sikhs of other provinces and those living abroad have no role in formation of the SGPC; hence the SGPC represent a limited part of the Sikhs. Secondly, the jurisdiction of the SGPC is to manage the shrines listed in its legal right. It has no control over any Gurdwara beyond its jurisdiction. SGPC has no right to control or monitor Sikhs religious, social or political issues. Such issues can be discussed and considered by a house representing all the Sikhs of the world.

But, contrary to law, the decisions in the name of Akal Takht are done as per the will and command of the chief of Badal Akali Dal. This has been stated by Balwant Singh Nandgarh, Gurmukh Singh and Iqbal Singh Patna that the decision to forgive Gurmit Ram Rahim (who is presently in jail for rape and murder) was taken at Badal’s residence. This is just one example; Balwant Singh Nandgarh had clearly stated that the decisions are taken by the chief of the party ruling the SGPC (i.e. Badal).
The decisions are taken just to help, promote and facilitate the chief of the party ruling the SGPC. It is very interesting that when the Haryana Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee was formed by a Haryana Government law, the president (Jagdish Singh Jhinda) and General Secretary (Didar Singh Nalvi) and a minster of Haryana (Harminder Singh Chatha) were expelled by these priests, just to please and help Badal.

The Sikh intellectuals do not recognize these SGPC appointed priests as Jathedar. Even a gathering (in the name of Sarbat Khalsa) of the Sikhs from all the shades and throughout the world (held in 2015) had rejected the SGPC appointed priests; and, had appointed their own Jathedars. Now, there are two sets of (so-called) jathedars.

The (so called) Takhts of Patna Sahib and Hazur Sahib don’t accept the authority of the priests of Akal Bunga (Takht). They follow their own maryada. Thousands of deras (cult centres) don’t accept the authority of any (so called) Takht or the SGPC. All have their own maryada. The SGPC or the priests never talk about their disobedience.

Thus, it is evident from the above details that there is no institution such as Akal Takht; the Gurus did not build or create any ‘Throne’; it is a post-1830 creation. The so-called Jathedars are just senior clergy appointed by the SGPC and they are parrots of the cage of the party which rules the SGPC.


Jun 6, 2018
Along the same lines, I started a thread(below) regarding the centrality of Darbar Sahib.How did Darbar Sahib became the MECCA of Sikhism when 7th,8th,9th and 10th Guru never visited this place and was never in existence during 1st,2nd,3rd,4th Gurus.


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