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Granth-Guru Panth & the Institution of Sri Akal
Granth-Guru Panth & the Institution of Sri Akal Takht Sahib
Note: The background to the present discussion is the episode
of “saadh” Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who runs the so called “Dera
Sacha Sauda”. Recent related events in Panjab have started much
controversy about the Institution of Sri Akal Takht Sahib itself.
Some even deny the historical background of the Institution going
back to Guru Hargobind ji, as the miri-piri (temporal-spiritual)
seat of authority in the Sikh tradition.
The Doctrine of Double Sovereignty:
“We hereby place our impress of sovereignty upon both
worlds, the seen and the unseen”
(Sikkeh zad bar har alam)
– State seal of the Khalsa led by Banda Singh Bahadur.
“A man of religion must always owe his primary allegiance to Truth
and morality, and he must never submit to the exclusive claim of
the secular state to govern the bodies and minds of men...
(Sirdar Kapur Singh, “The Golden Temple: Its Theo-Political
Status”, published by Dharam Parchar Committee, 1998.)
A government dealing with the Sikhs and seeking their allegiance,
must accept own limitations. Sirdar Kapur Singh has stated two
pre-conditions for dealing with the Sikhs:
That group must accept and respect the rights of other groups,
including the Sikhs.
- Sikhs must be approached and dealt with at state level as a
collective group and entity.
- They must be governed impersonally, that is through the rule
of law and not by arbitrary will. ...The State, in practice,
is the government, and the government is no more than a group
in control of the government machinery.
The underlying principle of Double Sovereignty is derived from Guru
Nanak Sahib’s egalitarian, freedom loving and asserting,
revolutionary ideology. It needs to be understood in the context of
Guru Granth – Guru Panth twin track approach to Sikh theo-political
affairs and, why and how the position of the Institution of Sri Akal
Takht Sahib is supreme in the Sikh tradition and psyche.
The background to the present discussion is the episode of “saadh”
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who runs the so called “Dera Sacha Sauda”.
It has started much controversy about the Institution of Sri Akal
Takht Sahib itself. The saadh impersonated Guru Gobind Singh. Some
Sikhs lost their lives in the clashes which followed. Like other
dera heads in India, the saadh has political clout and backing. Five
jathedars, led by Jathedar, Sri Akal Takht Sahib, exonerated him
without his personal appearance at the Takht to seek forgiveness and
to accept “tankhah” (punishment). Some argue that he is not a
Sikh and his appearance was not necessary. Either way, the decision
by the jathedars makes little sense.
Some see this as an opportunity to challenge the authority of the
Institution itself; while, others have been active setting up
splinter groups denying the authority of the Takht as an institution
Perhaps a review of the underlying concept and principle behind the
original establishment of Sri Akal Takht Sahib by Guru Hargobind
Sahib, would help.
According to the Doctrine of Double Sovereignty, men and women of
religion, cannot be unconditional slaves of an unjust regime. They
will resist such a regime.
Founded on Guru Nanak Sahib’s revolutionary ideology by the 6th
Nanak, Guru Hargobind, the Sikh Institution of Akal Takht Sahib is
also an expression of Double Sovereignty. It stands for the miri-piri
(temporal-spiritual) sovereignty of the Khalsa Panth.
Guru Gobind Singh instituted the Guru Granth- Guru Khalsa Panth
tradition replacing the Guru-in-Person with the collective Guru
Khalsa Panth as in the Guru’s image (“Khalsa Mero Roop hai khaas”).
The Five Takhts, including Sri Akal Takht Sahib, recognised by the
Khalsa Panth, represent the Throne of the Guru Khalsa Panth.
Geographically, and perhaps strategically during periods of
conflict, these seats of miri-piri focus of the Khalsa, are
located in different parts of the country; but they all represent
the supreme authority of the Guru Khalsa Panth for the Sikhs
worldwide. By Khalsa tradition and the Sikh Reht Maryada, Sri Akal
Takht Sahib located at Amritsar is accepted as the main Takht, as
the first amongst equals.
So, why are the “spokesmen” at the Takhts, the “Jathedars”,
being confused with the “Authority” of the Takhts which
should be in the hands of Guru Khalsa Panth ? The reason behind this
confusion is political, and its background needs to be understood.
Let me start with a simple local level illustration. The Granthi of
a Gurdwara is a highly respected person. Nevertheless, he or she, is
not the same as the institution of the Gurdwara. Guru Granth Sahib
and the “Gur Sangat” (referred to as such in the Sikh Reht
Maryada) represent the twin Institution of the Gurdwara. Neither the
Granthi, nor the parbandhaks (Gurdwara managers) can
claim that authority. Only the Gur Sangat has the authority
to collectively interpret and apply the Guru’s Word. The Sangat can
select 5 Gursikhs, as the Panj Piaray to interpret and apply
the Gurmat as per Sri Guru Granth Sahib i.e. Gurbani. The Granthi
Singh, or the parbandhaks, may or may not be one of the Panj
Piaray, who then represent the twin institution of Gur
Sangat before Guru Granth Sahib.
A Jathedar of a Takht is not the same as the Institution of the
Takht. “He can not issue Hukamnamas as per his whims of his will. He
can issue the Gurmattas of the Sarbat Khalsa as the
Hukamnamas of Akal Takht Sahib.” (Dr H S Dilgeer). There can be no
doubt about that when we look at the background of the Institution
of Sri Akal Takht Sahib.
Our focus is the Institution of Sri Akal Takht Sahib, traditionally
regarded as, “the highest seat of earthly authority of the Khalsa
(the collective body of the Sikhs) and the place of the jathedar,
the highest spokesman of the Sikhs.” where a “spokesperson” seeks
instruction from the Khalsa Panth, and represents not his own will
or choice, but the Will and wishes of the Guru Khalsa Panth. Bhai
Kahn Singh of Nabha’s Mahan Kosh, published in 1930, does not
mention “Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib”.
Dr H S Dilgeer writes, “Akal Takht Sahib was revealed by Guru
Hargobind Sahib on June 15,1606. ….Akal Takht Sahib belonged to
Waheguru and it was the Almighty who could have created Akal Takht
Sahib…. 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 dictator. He can not issue Hukamnamas as per his whims of
his will. He can issue the Gurmattas of the Sarbat Khalsa as the
Hukamnamas of Akal Takht Sahib.”(Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer’s essay
“The so-called Jathedar of Akal Takhat Sahib”
From Bhai Gurdas and later Bhai Mani Singh, the early “caretakers”
of Akal Takht Sahib, none were referred to as “Jathedar”
“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.” Dr Dilgeer mentions an interesting
episode, “On October 12, 1920, when some initiated Sikhs, belonging
to so-called low castes, went to Akal Takht Sahib to offer an Ardas
(prayer), the 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. Bhai
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
And so, it seems the title “Jathedar” came in vogue and was later
exploited for political purposes. The Jathedar became the means for
asserting outside political influence on Sikh affairs. “It was 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.” One can only but agree with Dr Dilgeer that such a
post is “in contradiction to the Sikh ideology…the term Jathedar is
When the so called “Jathedars” of the Takhts of the Guru Khalsa,
allow themselves to be influenced by the State or deras and cults,
they forfeit their right to hold their positions as “spokesmen” of
the Khalsa Panth.
Only Guru Khalsa Panth has the final authority to interpret the
Guru’s Word in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, to seek and give guidance.
Some, who say that we should be guided only by Guru Granth Sahib
according to own interpretation, ignore the practical need for
consistent interpretation and application of Gurbani to a changing
world and new circumstances.
Such a free for all will immensely damage the corporate (Panthic
Jathebandi) aspect of Sikh living.
We need to look at ways for ensuring that the Institution of Sri
Akal Takht Sahib “revealed” by Guru Hargobind ji on 15 June, 1609,
remains independent of vested interests and State influence.
Let me start with my own simple bias, most probably shared by
millions of ordinary Sikhs around the word. My personal belief in
the Institution of Sri Akal Takht Sahib as a medium for the Sarbat
Khalsa (Guru Panth), as well as the location of “Sri Akal Bunga
Sahib” (the official name for Sri Akal Takht Sahib) at Amritsar, is
spiritual, and remains firm.
We reflect on the numerous sacrifices made for the location when we
say in Ardaas, "Sri Amritsar ji de ishnaan, chaunkian jhanday,
bungay jugo jug attal, Dharam ka jaikar, bolo ji Waheguru."
(The bath in the holy tank at Amritsar, the hymn singing parties,
the flags and the hostels, abide from age to age, may righteous
conduct reign supreme. Say “Wondrous Destroyer of Darkness”!)
From time to time the bungay will be occupied by political
touts or even demolished, but they will be taken over and erected
again. The Institution of Sri Akal Takht Sahib is accepted as
supreme; but only when it is the Will and the Voice of Guru Khalsa
Panth, not the will of some political office holders. How do we make
it so, is the challenge before us. Scholars have suggested possible
Present conflict between the will of the Khalsa Panth and the
political appointees, has its own significance in that it provides
an opportunity for urgently needed reforms. Not surprisingly, in
today’s age of a shrinking global village, some sort of consensus is
emerging about the selection process for appointing the office
holders or sewadars at the Takhts. They can be given some
suitable title, so far it is not misleading regarding their position
as the speakers who convey the collective wishes of the Guru Khalsa
Panth through consultation, including the calling of the Sarbat
Khalsa on the most important issues.
For Sarbat Khalsa, an upwards representational approach from local Sangat
through, regional and national to international levels, is possible.
Periodical assemblies of Sarbat Khalsa can be held. Dr Dilgeer
suggests that the Sarbat Khalsa, “should be a gathering of
representatives of all Sikh organizations and Sikh intellectuals who
consider themselves as the subjects of, and owe their loyalty solely
to, Akal Takht Sahib.” That is a thought which can be developed.
Electronic technology and information systems can make regular
networking possible. The means are there, and, where there is a
will, there is a way.
Footnote: The withdrawal on 16 October, 2015, of the Hukmnama
exonerating the "asaadh" of Sirsa Dera Sacha Sauda, Gurmeet
Ram Rahim Singh, of blasphemy over wearing of attire similar to Guru
Gobind Singh Ji, issued earlier by the Akal Takhat Jathedar and four
"High Priests", though placing the Jathedar and his august 'team' in
very poor light, also highlights the persuasive power of the Guru
Panth, represented by Sri Akal Takhat Sahib.
Gurmukh Singh (U.K.)
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