Hukamnama and Gurmatta

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 Sikh 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, Amarjeet 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 Gurmatta. The leaders of all the groups, Misls, battalions of the Sikhs used to gather at Akal Takht Sahib to finalise a particular issue. The decision was reached by way of consensus in accordance with the Sikh ideology. This was called Gurmatta (the counsel of Guru Sahib). This Gurmatta 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 Gurmattas are not Hukamnamas. When a resolve to execute some planning is made, it is called Gurmatta and it applies to the persons who participate in it. But, if this Gurmatta is of national importance then it is released to the Sikh nation. In that case it becomes Hukamnama. Sarbat Khalsa made several Gurmattas in the eighteenth century. Some of the well know Gurmattas are: the issue of acceptance of Jagir (1733), construction of Sikh fort (1747), formation of Dal Khalsa (1748), to recognise 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. (1020), to form Gurdwara Sewak Dal, later named Akali Dal (1920) etc.

There are certain issues which can not be covered by Gurmatta or Hukamnama. These include the basic principles, postulates or doctrines of Sikhism. A Gurmatta, 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.

Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer

For more information about AKAL TAKHT SAHIB, please read: Akal Takht Sahib (English) by Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer, published by National Book Depot Delhi, 1995 edition OR AKAL TAKHT SAHIB (FALSFA TE TWARIKH) in Punjabi, published in 2000 and distributed by Singh Brothers Amritsar.

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