Akal Takht

in  Amritsar


Akal Takht is the primary seat of Sikh religious authority and central altar for Sikh political assembly. Through hukamnamas edicts or writs, it may issue decrees providing guidance or clarification on any point of Sikh doctrine or practice referred to it, may summon and order penance  on persons charged with violation of religious discipline or with activity prejudicial to Sikh interests or solidarity and may place on record its appreciation of outstanding services rendered or sacrifices made by individuals furthering the cause of Sikhism. The Akal Takht stands in the Darbar Sahib facing Sri Harmandir Sahib, now famous as the Golden Temple.

The word Akal, a negative of kal(time), is the equivalent of timeless, beyond time, everlasting, and takht, in Persian, that of royal throne or chair of state. Akal Takht would thus mean "timeless or everlasting throne" or throne of the Timeless One, i.e. God.

In the Sikh system, God is postulated as Formless (Nirankar), yet to proclaim His sovereignty over His creation, He is sometimes referred to as sultan, patshah, sacha Patshah, or the True King. His seat is referred to as sacha Takht. the True Throne, sitting on which he dispenses sachcha niao, true justice (cc 84, 1087). It also became common for Sikhs, at least by the time of Guru Arjan (1563-1606), to refer to the Guru as sacha patshah and to his gaddi or spiritual seat as Takht and the congregation he led as darbar or court.  For the ceremonies of succession, he had a platform constructed opposite the Harmandir Sahib, naming it Akal Takht on 15th June 1606. The Guru laid the cornerstone and Bhai Buddha and Bhai Gurdas completed the construction, no third person being allowed to lend a helping hand. From here, he conducted the secular affairs of the community and said to have issued the first hukamnama (q.v.) to far flung sangats or Sikh centers announcing the creation of Akal Takht and asking them to include in their offerings thenceforth gifts of weapons and horses. Bhai Gurdas was named in charge of the Akal Takht. A building subsequently raised over the Takht was called Akal Bunga (house) so that the Takht is now officially known as Takht Sri Akal Bunga although its popular name Akal Takht is more in common use.

The Sikhs recognize four other holy places as Takhts, namely Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Anandpur; Takht Sri Harimandar Sahib, Patna; Takht Sachkhand Hazoor Sahib, Abchalnagar, Nanded; and Takht Sri Damdama Sahib, Talwandi Sabo. All four are connected with the life of Guru Gobind Singh (1666 - 1708). All five Takhts are equally venerated, but the Akal Takht at Amritsar enjoys a special status. Historically, this is the oldest of the Takhts and along with Harimandir Sahib, across the yard, constitutes the capital of Sikhism. Meetings of the Sarbatt Khalsa or general assembly representative of the entire Panth are traditionally summoned at Akal Takht and it is only there that cases connected with serious religious offences committed by prominent Sikhs are heard and decided. Hukamnamas or decrees issued by the Akal Takht are universally applicable to all Sikhs and all institutions.

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