The so-called Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib

Akal Takht Sahib was revealed by Guru Hargobind Sahib on June 15, 1606. The foundation stone of the building of Akal Takht Sahib was laid down by Guru Hargobind Sahib himself. (Guru Hargobind Sahib did not built or create Akal Takht Sahib, he revealed it. Akal Takht Sahib belonged to Vaheguru and it was the Almighty who could have created Akal Takht Sahib). The rest of the structure was completed by Baba Buddha (the veteran Sikh savant) and Bhai Gurdas (Sikh scholar) only. No mason or any other person was permitted to participate in the construction of the structure. Guru Hargobind Sahib himself was the Custodian of the Takht of Vaheguru. When Guru Hargobind Sahib went to Gwalior, he asked Baba Buddha to perform the services at Darbar Sahib and Bhai Gurdas to take care of Akal Takht Sahib. It was not the appointment of Bhai Gurdas as the Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib. It is ignorance to say that Bhai Gurdas was the Jathedar or the Custodian of Akal Takht Sahib. He was just the caretaker. Guru Hargobind Sahib left Amritsar in 1635. Between 1635 and 1696 (till the death of Harji), Amritsar was under the control of the descendants of Pirthi Chand (elder brother of Guru Arjan Sahib). In April 1699, Guru Gobind Singh Sahib appointed Bhai Mani Singh as Granthi of Darbar Sahib and Akal Takht Sahib. On December 30, 1711, Bahadur Shah, the Moghul emperor "assigned" the Jagir of Guru Ka Chakk (Amritsar) to Ajit Singh Palit (He was adopted as her son by Mata Sundri. Later, she discarded him.). Bahadur Shah wanted to use Ajit Singh Palit against Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, the Sikh General. Ajit Singh returned to Delhi after the death of Bahadur Shah (Februay 27, 1712). After this Baba Kahan Singh of the so-called Tat Khalsa performed services at Akal Takht Sahib. In 1721, Bhai Mani Singh helped solving dispute between Baba Kahan Singh of the so-called Tat Khalsa, who looked after Akal Takht Sahib and Mahant Amar Singh of the so called Bandai Khalsa, who had the control of Jhanda Bunga. Bhai Mani Singh is not referred as so-called Jathedar in any Sikh work. Bhai Rattan Singh Bhangu calls him "pujaran siyon vado pujari" (chief priest among the priests).

After the martyrdom of Bhai Mani Singh (June 24, 1734), there was no one to take care of the shrines at Amritsar during the dark period of the Sikh history. 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 the Jathedars of the army used to call these gatherings. Later, Buddha Dal (the Sikh veterans) took the duty of management of the shrines at Amritsar. In 1800, Akali Phula Singh came to Amritsar and took over the charge of the shrines. As the caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib, he introduced authentic Sikh practices at Takht Sahib and Darbar Sahib. Baba Prem Singh Hoti wrote a book about Akali Phula Singh in 1912. Baba Prem Singh did not use the term Jathedar even once.

On October 12, 1920, when some initiated Sikhs, belonging to so-called low castes, wen to Akal Takht Sahib to offer an Ardas (offerings), the caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib 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 the Jathedar of the Jatha. Bhai Teja Singh was to be the chief of the Jatha and not Akal Takht Sahib.

On October 13, 1920, the Deputy Commissioner called a meeting of the (former) priests and the Sikh leaders. The priests abstained from the meeting. This meeting selected an ad hoc Committee to look after the affairs of Darbar Sahib and Akal Takht Sahib. The Committee comprised Sunder Singh Ramgarhia (the manager of Akal Takht Sahib and Darbar Sahib), Professor Teja Singh, Bawa Harkishan Singh, Bhai Deva Singh, Bhai Bahadur Singh Hakim, Bhai Chanda Singh, Jathedar Kartar Singh Jhabbar, Jathedar Teja Singh Bhucher and Doctor Gurbax Singh. This Committee, later, called a Sarbat Khalsa gathering for November 15-16, 1920. A Hukamnama, signed by Dr. Gurbax Singh, a member of the ad-hoc Committee, was issued. (This Hukamnama was not issued by Jathedar Teja Singh Bhucher, the Jathedar of the Jatha appointed to take care of Akal Takht Sahib on October 12, 1920). Bhai Kahan Singh of Nabha published his encyclopedic work, Mahan Kosh, in 1930. He did not even mention anything such as the Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib.

Even after 1920 or 1925 or even after 1947, the caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib, (though the term Jathedar was being used by the management of the S.G.P.C. and the other officials) was not known to be any specific entity. When, in on November 29, 1961, the Punj Piaray gave their verdict from Akal Takht Sahib against Master Tara Singh, Fateh Singh etc., the so-called Jathedar was not known as some thing extraordinary. When, on October 2, 1962, Fateh Singh group wrested the control of the S.G.P.C. from Master Tara Singh, Jathedar Achhar Singh, the caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib resigned his position to protest against the mismanagement of the affairs of Darbar Sahib and the other shrines, no body bothered for the so called Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib. There was none to bother for the caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib. No body bothered when Sadhu Singh Bhaura, who had been defeated in the S.G.P.C. elections was appointed as so called Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib. 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 Akali Dal, that the so called Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib came to be known as some "extra special" entity. Since then the caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib has been considered as an officer, who is a sort of object of fear (like a Mafia boss or a monster) for every Sikh. It is the promotion of fascism. (Some scholars smell the same in the Catholic Pope). It is utterly in contradiction to the Sikh ideology.

Akal Takht Sahib is the Throne of the Almighty. It is supreme-most seat of the Sikh nation and all those who owe their allegiance to this Throne. Akal Takht Sahib is not an ordinary shrine. It is not an organisation. A Jathedar means the chief or the president or the leader of a Jatha (band) or an organisation. Hence the term Jathedar is a misnomer. There can be a "caretaker" of Akal Takht Sahib or there can be a Jathedar of Sarbat Khalsa (the Sikh Commonwealth). He must represent the whole of the Sikh nation. He must have the confidence of the whole of the Sikh nation. It implies that he should be selected through the consensus of the whole of the Sikh nation. The proper course to select the Jathedar of the Sarbat Khalsa or the "caretaker" of Akal Takht Sahib, is to convene a Sarbat Khalsa. It should be a gathering of the representatives of all the Sikh organisation and the Sikh intellectuals (who consider themselves as the subjects of, and owe their loyalty solely to, Akal Takht Sahib). The S.G.P.C. represent the Sikh nation with regard to the management of the Sikh shrines and on this issue it is supreme. None can challenge S.G.P.C.'s jurisdiction in case of management of the Sikh shrines. But, the SGPC is not the Sarbat Khalsa for the purpose of the selection of the "Jathedar of the Sarbat Khalsa" or for the appointment/seection of the "caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib." This Sewadar must be selected by way of Gurmatta of the Sarbat Khalsa. The caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib can be named as Mukh Sewadar (chief attendant or Caretaker) or Sarbrah (manager) or Nigran (custodian) or Safir (ambassador) or Bulara (spokesman). I will suggest the term Mukh Sewadar in Punjabi and "caretaker" in English.

The caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib is not a monarch, nor is he like the President (as in the USA), nor is he 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 or his will. He can issue the Gurmattas of the Sarbat Khalsa as the Hukamnamas of Akal Takht Sahib. In case of the issues of the petitions of the persons excommunicated from the Sikh Panth, the cases of punishment must be considered by the Sarbat Khalsa. There can be a "standing committee", which should consist of the representatives of the organisations, which are loyal to Akal Takht Sahib as well as some Sikh intellectuals (to be co-opted by these representatives). The members of this "standing committee" shall continue to be members of this Committee till they have the confidence of their organisation as well as the Sikh nation. Even these members shall not be consider themselves as some authority. They are the Sewadars of the Sikh nation. For the local issues, the petitions may be decided by Punj Piaray.

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.

© Copyright Dilgeer 2002 All Rights Reserved