Akal Takht, Jathedar and Hokumnama

Charnjit Singh Bal

Sikhism is a lay religion i.e. there is no ecclesiastical hierarchy or clerical elite in Guru Nanakís Sikhism where everyone is Guruís Sikh (disciple) and One Godís devotee. Unlike some other religions, Sikhism is not a stratified religion controlled by few dogmatic ecclesiastics, but an open and inclusive religion that encourages universal participation.

Temporal Sikh leadership Model

The last Guru incarnate Gobind Singh Sahib invested the spiritual Guru-ship in Granth Sahib and the temporal leadership in the Sikh Panth (Nation). The Guru envisaged and instituted a cadre of five venerable Sikhs to exemplify his concept of democratic temporal Sikh leadership. In the post Guru-era, for a while, the prominent devout Sikh leaders did adhere to the Guruís concept of model democratic Sikh leadership.

But soon after this brief period the Sikh nation was engaged in the survival or annihilation struggle against the state sponsored Muslim Jihad and murderous invaders. With the truly devout Sikh leaders away in battlefields or hideouts, the quasi-Sikhs or pseudo-Sikhs with Hindu indoctrinations hijacked and took control of the Sikh religious and temporal leadership.

Since then many a self-serving Sikh leaders have been replicating occult dogmas that the Brahmins fostered to exact blind faith devotion from the Hindu religious flock during the primeval and medieval times. In the past, since illiteracy and lack of spiritual awareness were more prevalent among the masses, it was lot easier for the sanctimonious sly priests to foster blind faith devotion, prejudices, taboos and superstitions. There were fewer learned and rational minded people those who rejected the dogmatic rigmarole of heaven/hell, sin/penitence, human/animal sacrifices, and ritual charity/feasts to the self-serving holy men.

According to Sikh history Baba Khem Singh, who was head Granthi of Akal Bunga proclaimed himself the eleventh Sikh Guru in 1883/5 A.D. One of the architects of Singh Sabha movement Prof. Gurmukh Singh, who denounced Baba Khem Singhís nefarious anti-Sikh act was excommunicated on trumped up charges and hounded by Baba Khem Singh and his cohorts including Sodi/Bedi guru pretenders, Mahants and Pujaries of Sikh Centers. The same clique drove Gyani Ditt Singh to destitution and early grave because he supported his companion, Prof. Gurmukh Singh. It took a century for the Sikh leadership to annul that so-called Hukamnama and rehabilitate Prof. Gurmukh Singh to his rightful place i.e. in the vanguard of true Sikh stalwarts. However there is lot more literacy and spiritual awareness among the contemporary International Sikh community now than Baba Khem Singh Bedi era.

Newly Coined Name, Appellation, Term

The Akal Takht, its Jathedar and his Hokumnamas are newly coined awe inspiring (un-)holy) name, appellations and term and added to Sikh socio-religious vocabulary recently. In 1608/9 A.D. Guru Hargobind Sahib had a platform (Tharda) built in the Harmandir premises. The Guru Sahib used to seat himself, and tend to Sikhsí temporal affairs, address mundane issues and mediate worldly disputes. The historical accounts mention that Guru Sahib used to conducted sports and martial arts training and competitions at this location as well. This platform was precursor to a building that came to be known as Akal Bunga and remained as such till 1920 A.D.

Akal Takht Jathedar, a misnomer

Till November/December 1920 AD, when the SPGC and Akali Dal came into existence, the temporal center of the Sikhs was known as Akal Bunga and its functionaries were known as ministers, Pujaris or granthis, and used to work under the directions of the Head Granthi, Mahant or Sarbrah of the Harimandar complex. The latter being manager of the primal Sikh shrine played an important role in the spiritual and temporal affairs of the Sikh community. For nearly two centuries the Mahants and Pujaries who were mostly from the Hindu fraternities assumed authoritarian roles, introduced Hindu mythology, idolatry, dogmatic rituals and socio-religious customs, into Sikh religious practice and social life that are still prevalent in the Sikh community.

During the British Raj the Government used to appoint a Sarbrah who was responsible to the Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar and performed the role of the manager of the complex according to latterís biddings. At the time the Mahants and Pujaries of Harmandir Sahib and Akal Bunga refused to recite Ardas (prayer) for Kardah Pershad (communion sacrament) offered by the Sikhs considered Achhute or untouchables who met at Jallianwala Bagh on October 12, 1920. A procession lead by Sikh stalwarts including Prof. Teja Singh, Prof. Bawa Harkishan Singh, marched from Jallianwala Baag to the Harimandir complex where they were joined by S. Teja Singh Bhucher and Kartar Singh Jhabber. At first the Harmandir Sahib Pujaries refused congregationís appeal to recite Sikh Ardaas (Sikh litany) to consecrate Kardah pershaad and distribute amongst the congregation. However when confronted by the congregation, they relented and recited the Ardaas, but Akal Bunga Pujaries didnít relent and fled from the back door.

Considering Akal Bunga deserted the congregation organized an ad hoc caretaker Jatha to protect Akal Bunga from vandalism until the old Pujaries returned or new permanent caretakers were appointed. Teja Singh Bhucher was named Jathedar of this interim Jatha. The Sarbrah (S. Sunder Singh Ramgahia) was approached to persuade the old Pujaries to return but they refused. Since the Pujaries refused to return Teja Singh Bhucher stayed on for quite a while. The history is not very explicit as to when the Akal Bunga came to be called Sri Akal Takht but its head caretaker came to be known as the Jathedar ever since. Hired and fired by the S. G. P. C. that came into existence on 15 November 1920, the so-called Jathedar had a low profile till nineteen sixties when Sant Fateh Singh and Master Tara Singh referred to a five member committee headed by Akal Takht Jathedar to arbitrate leadership dispute.

In 1972 A.D. Gurcharan Singh Tohra assumed the S. G. P. Committeeís stewardship that lasted quarter of a century. Under the aegis of Tohra and his cohorts the so-called Akal Takht Jathedar has been elevated to an ostentatious place in the Sikh leadership echelon. On Sept. 26, 1979 when Jathedars Tohra and Talwandi referred the leadership quarrel to an ad hoc committee headed by the Akal Takht Jathedar his position was further raised a few notches. Ever since, although technically still hired and fired by the S. G. P. C. every Akal Takht Jathedar has been jockeying to be the unsanctioned Supreme Sikh spiritual and temporal Authority. To facilitate the pursuit of their self-seeking goal they have been projecting and promoting the Akal Takht as an awe-inspiring seat spiritual and/or temporal authority. Their ulterior motive is to have the Akal Takht declared as the seat of supreme Sikh temporal and spiritual authority and its Jathedar installed as the Sikh Pope who would be in quasi-legitimate position to condemn as heretic or blasphemous and ostracize any Sikh who dared to criticize the would be Sikh Pope.

However there are some fundamental roadblocks on the way to their ultimate goal. The Sikhism is an egalitarian and lay religion in which Guru (Granth Sahib) is the sole intermediary between a Sikh and the God. No one can annul the spiritual relationship between a Sikh, his Guru and God. There is no place for a priest much less a Pope in Sikhism, however there is an eminent place for the learned preachers. And Sikhism does not condone cultism nor does it glorify holy shrines or pilgrimages to such places. In fact Sikhism discourages sanctimonious pilgrimages, futile dogmatic rituals and ostentatious religious rites that spawn false sense of piety and egotism.

Hukam-nama

The word Hokum that literally means decree, edict or command, suits the autocrats, theocrats, despots or totalitarian dictators only; not the true Gurus, Saints, Apostles or religious teachers and preachers. In the vocabulary of Sikh scriptures word Hokum is used only in context to the omni-potent Godís Will. The Guru Sahibs never used word Guruís Hokum, only Guruís edification or Word.

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