SIKH POLITY (The Eight Pillars of the Sikh Polity)
The order of Khalsa is, in a way, spiritual democratic republicanism.
The Sikh polity revolves around eight main basic points. These eight
points are the hub of the order of Khalsa. These can be further grouped
as: (a) Sanction : 1. Guru Granth Sahib 2. Khalsa 3. Gurmatta, (b)
Hierarchy: 4. Akal Takht Sahib, 5. Punj Piaray, 6. Sarbat Khalsa,
7. Sikh Panth 8. Sangat.
Guru Granth Sahib is the basic source
and the first sanction of the Sikh polity. The first lessons of
Sikh polity were given by Guru Nanak Sahib himself. He presented
the concept of an ideal state (A.G. pp. 145, 350, 354, 360, 596,
992, 1228 etc.). Besides this five more Gurus also explained the
Sikh polity in the pages of Guru Granth Sahib. The Sikh history
elucidates some of the points of the Sikh polity. The events from
the lives of Guru Sahib unveil some of the basic points of the Sikh
"Khalsa" is the second
source of the Sikh polity. Khalsa is an Arabic/Persian term. during
the medieval period this term was used to define the lands directly
owned and administered by the sovereign himself. There was no middle
agency between the sovereign and the Khalsa (land). When Guru Gobind
Singh Sahib revealed Khalsa of Vaheguru (not Khalsa of Guru Gobind
Singh), on March 30, 1699, he told that Khalsa had been revealed
as per the command of the Almighty; and it was the "army of
the Almighty." Hence; Khalsa is directly associated with the
Almighty. The grant of sovereignty for the Khalsa is sue generis.
No one can have any political or spiritual authority over Khalsa.
It is God-granted sovereignty of transcendental and temporal domains.
The Khalsa, on the other hand, can not subjugate any other Khalsa.
Being a Khalsa (sovereign) means having and granting (the other
Khalsas too) sovereignty. It is, in this sense, a real stateless
Gurmatta is the third source of
Sikh polity. There is no extreme democracy in Sikhism. It is not
the rule of the majority. It is not the will of particular groups
at the cost of the other groups or minorities. It is administration
by consensus. Gurmatta (the Sikh consensus) is no majority decision.
It is "collective judgement". It has to be acceptable
to everyone, thus, bearing no possibility of grudge or grievance.
Total equality, including the equality
of sexes, is the basis of "Khalsa" and Gurmatta. The institution
of Langar (the sacred Sikh kitchen) is a very significant part of
this concept of equality. Everyone is expected to rise above the
inequalities (superiority and inferiority both), implied by one's
caste, family name, status, office and grade etc. before joining
the Langar. This aspect of Sikhs' socio-political philosophy is
very important to Sikh polity.
From an administrative and functional
view point, the Order of Khalsa presupposes a "welfare state";
a truly welfare state. It is neither a Utopian Communist system,
nor it is a phoney Hindu system of a welfare state which is more
of beggary than welfare and is full of disgust for poorer sections
of society. Sikh system is based on the fundamental principles of
Sikhism: Kirat Karna (honest earning), vand chhakaa (sharing with
others), Nam Japna (meditating). The welfare of society on dignity
of labour, pride in honest work and sharing one's earning (Daswandh
i.e. tithe), and not through imposed welfare taxes or forced Communist
collectivisation. In Sikhism, it is all voluntary, done with pride
and dignity. Daswandh is the sacred duty of a Sikh. It has been
practiced by Sikhs for the past five centuries. A Sikh who does
not contribute his Daswandh, is a debtor of the Panth.
The Sikh polity is founded, mainly
on the basis of these fundamental principles. Its hierarchic patterns
can be explained in five main points:- Akal Takht Sahib, Punj Piaray,
Sarbat Khalsa, Sikh Panth and the Sangat.
(A) Akal Takht Sahib (The Throne
of the Almighty):- Akal Takht Sahib is at the top of the hierarchic
order of the Sikh polity. Akal Takht Sahib is the final authority
of the Sikh nation. (Since October 12, 1920, the designation "Jathedar"
has come to be associated with Akal Takht Sahib, where as there
is no such a status within the system of the Sikh polity. There
has never been anything like Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib). The
caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib is not any authority. He is, in fact,
a speaker, a spokesman.
The caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib
is not the Zill-e-Ilahi (shadow of God on earth) as the Mogul kings
of the Indian sub-continent believed themselves to be. He is not
like a Hindu Maharaja, who is a "Divine Incarnation" (as
explained by Krishna in Bhagwad Gita, IV, 8 and by Manu in Manu
Samriti, VII,3). His position may, partly (but cautiously), be compared
to the system of constitutional monarchy of the Great Britain. On
spiritual horizon, he is still different from the Roman Catholic
Pope as Pontiff, because the Sikh polity believes in democracy even
in religious functioning (though it bars treatment of the basic
fundamentals of Sikhism even by the "Sarbat Khalsa").
Moreover, unlike Catholic Pope, the caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib
can not issue any edicts of his own, nor his designation is for
life (it is subject to the will of the Sarbat Khalsa).
The institution of monarchy is still
alien to the Sikh fundamentals. Some writers have made attempts
to mutilate the Sikh polity by saying that the Sikh Gurus did approve
monarchy. They based their analysis on some hymns of Guru Nanak
Sahib: that only a capable should rule (A.G. pp. 596, 992) and that
an essential trait of a king is to receive reverence and homage
(A.G., p. 354). These writers have made literal translation of the
said verses. Guru Nanak Sahib used these terms as contextual and
not conceptual references. In fact, Guru Sahib's usage of the sultan
refers to administrator in general and not the monarch.
Secondly, some writers believe that
(Maharaja) Ranjit Singh's rule was the culmination of the Sikh polity.
In fact, the reality is the otherwise. Ranjit Singh's rule was a
personal kingdom and it was clearly in disregard of the clear injunctions
of Guru Sahib. Ranjit Singh's pattern (as a king) was rather Hindu
polity and not the Sikh polity. It was the desire of a strong man,
(Maharaja) Ranjit Singh, who imposed it (the Hindu polity) upon
an unwilling nation to revert it to the pale Hinduism.
(B) Punj Piaray (the Five Beloved
Ones):- Punj Piaray come next in the hierarchy of the Sikh polity.
Punj Piaray is the Sikh pattern of collegial leadership. This leadership
means that all the national matters are accomplished by all the
members directly and all these members are subject to the same set
of rules. Whereas the Sikh religious order maintains the leadership
of "Five" and this number can not be decreased or increased;
the political domain can have any number of the members of the collegial
This collegial leadership of Punj
Piaray is totally different from the (late) Soviet Presidium because
Punj Piaray are fully accountable to the Sarbat Khalsa. Whenever
they lose the faith of Sarbat Khalsa, they lose the authority immediately.
Their actions,then, are rejected ipso facto.
The Sikh hierarchic order considers
the caretakers of all the Khalsa Thrones as the members of this
collegial leadership. It includes the caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib,
who, as a tradition, presides over the proceedings of this collegial
leadership by virtue of its Sewa (service) of the Throne of the
Almighty. However, all the members are subject to the same rules
and limitations. They can never assume the role of a "fascist"
or a dictatorial authority.
(C) Sarbat Khalsa (the Sikh Commonwealth):-
The third pillar of the Sikh polity is "Sarbat Khalsa."
Its underlying principle is federal republicanism. It is complete
egalitarian democracy. Sarbat Khalsa is the "Parliament of
the Sikh nation". It is not a congregation of all the Sikh
masses (as it has been proclaimed by some sections of the Sikhs
since 1986). A congregation of all the Sikhs is not feasible. The
Sarbat Khalsa is representative assembly of the whole of the Sikh
nation. This Congress includes the representatives from all the
sections of the Sikh Commonwealth. Some writers have confused Sarbat
Khalsa with the Sikh congregations of the eighteenth century. These
congregations were not the Sarbat Khalsa gatherings but these coincided
with the meetings of the Sarbat Khalsa. Malcolm had written, in
1812, that the Sarbat Khalsa meetings were "an assembly of
the chiefs and the representatives of the Sikh nation." (Malcolm:
The Sketch of the Sikhs, p. 96). In the assembly of the Sarbat Khalsa
every one has an equal say. Everyone is free to express one's opinions.
The final resolve is reached through Gurmatta (the Sikh consensus).
Once Gurmatta is made, the entire Sikh nation is required to obey
The Sikh commonwealth, the Sarbat
Khalsa, is the collective leadership of the Sikh nation. It has
collective responsibility and it is collectively answerable to the
Sikh Panth (the Sikh nation). Any anti-national act attributed to
any one of the members of this assembly, can lead to impeachment
by Akal Takht Sahib, through Punj Piaray or by Sarbat Khalsa itself.
Even Sangat may, at any time or any where, make a Gurmatta against
any one of the members of the Sarbat Khalsa or the Punj Piaray,
and recommend it to Akal Takht Sahib for consideration. The final
sanction lies with the Sarbat Khalsa. The verdict is released by
the caretaker of Akal Takht Sahib, in the name of Punj Piaray, on
the behalf of the Sarbat Khalsa, through a "Hukamnama"
(proclamation) to the Sikh nation. While appeals may be made by
anyone, no member of the Sikh nation can defy this Hukamnama, the
final injunction, once it has been issued by Akal Takht Sahib.
Sarbat Khalsa is not a standing
committee or a permanent college. Its members must enjoy the complete
trust of the section they represent.
(D) The Sikh Panth:- The next important
pillar of the Sikh polity is the Sikh Panth as a whole. The Sarbat
Khalsa is selected by the Sikh Panth, from amongst its functionaries,
leaders, generals, intellectuals etc. The members of the Sarbat
Khalsa continue till they have the approval of the Sikh Panth. Once
in every year (Akal Takht Revelation Day June 15 or Revelation of
Khalsa Day March 30 or any other date), the members of the Sarbat
Khalsa should be elected or re-confirmed.
(E) Sangat (congregation):- Sangat
or (local) congregation, constitutes a powerful pillar of the Order
of Khalsa. It is practically impossible to gather the Sikh nation
at one place at any time. The Sangat of different places (villages,
towns, wards) performs this role. Sangat may choose even national
subjects for its agenda but their resolve shall be considered as
recommendation and the final resolve shall be made by the Sarbat
Khalsa. If necessary, the care-taker of Akal Takht Sahib may call
a special "referendum consensus" of the Sikh nation on
a particular national issue.
The Sangat shall choose a Khalsa
Panchayat from amongst them. In the case of an emergency, this Panchayat
can take emergency decisions, subject to ratification by Sangat.
These emergency decisions should, in no way, contradict the national
This is the hierarchy of the Sikh
polity which makes the Order of Khalsa as the most democratic, republican
and judicious political system in the society. It is on this account
that the Order of Khalsa is called "spiritual democratic republicanism."
-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.