Sarbat Khalsa is a combination of two words: Sarbat (the whole) and
Khalsa (the Sikh Commonwealth/nation). Sarbat Khalsa means the whole
of the Sikh Commonwealth i.e. the Sikh nation. It is collectivity
of the Sikh nation as a whole. It represents the power and the status
of the conscience and will of the Sikh nation.
Sarbat Khalsa term was first used
for the bi-annual gatherings of the Sikhs at Akal Takht Sahib (and
elsewhere too). These gatherings were held on the Hindu festivals:
Divaali (October-November) and Visaakhi (March-April). These days
were chosen because there were no calendars available at that time
and the Hindus used to observe their festivals and it was easy for
the Sikh leaders to convey the date for Sarbat Khalsa gathering
to the Sikhs who had been living in their hideouts in far-off places.
After 1721, Sarbat Khalsa began
two gatherings every year before Akal Takht Sahib. When there was
a security risk or an emergency, these gatherings were held at other
places too. We find reference to such gatherings at Bikaner and
The Sarbat Khalsa gathering used
to discuss the matters of national importance. It included strategy
during war as well as political, social and religious affairs, management
of the Sikh shrines etc.
The Sarbat Khalsa does not mean
a gathering of all Sikhs (thousands or hundreds of thousands of
the Sikhs) on one day at one place. It is neither feasible nor possible
that all the Sikhs of the world should attend a meeting of Sarbat
Khalsa. The Sarbat Khalsa means the representatives of the Sikhs
from all the shades. All the organisations, groups, factions etc.,
who are loyal to Akal Takht Sahib and no other Throne, are members
of the Sarbat Khalsa.
The last gathering of the Sarbat
Khalsa was held in 1805, to discuss the request of Jaswant Rao Holkar.
After this (Maharaja) Ranjit Singh stopped Sarbat Khalsa gatherings.
Ranjit Singh did not want any one to dictate terms to him. Moreover,
his Hindu guides did not want the Sikh Commonwealth to exist. It
is wrong to suggest that Ranjit Singh stopped Sarbat Khalsa gatherings
because he wanted to be secular. The gathering of Sarbat Khalsa
had nothing to do with non-Sikhs. Further, there were non-political
The institution of Sarbat Khalsa
was revived in 1920, when the Sikhs formed S.G.P.C. on November
1920. After 1920 the Sarbat Khalsa was replaced by All Parties Sikh
Conferences. In 1986, Bhindran-Mehta Jatha called gatherings at
Akal Takht Sahib and later claimed them to be the Sarbat Khalsa.
The first of such gatherings was held on January 26, 1986, followed
by a few more. Surjit Barnala too held a function (attended mostly
by non-Sikhs) and called it Sarbat Khalsa. Akali Dal followed the
pattern of Bhindran-Mehta Jatha and held such gatherings. None of
these can be called the Sarbat Khalsa. These were gatherings of
one or more groups. The proper course for this is to invite all
the organisations which are loyal to Akal Takht Sahib. Those individuals,
specially intelligentsia, which belongs to no organisation, should
be the special invitees. There should be impartial treatment of
each and every organisation and individual. The gathering should
be attended, after forgetting one's loyalty to one's faction, outside
the venue of the gathering. The only agenda should be the welfare
of the Sikh nation. Only in that case, will it be the Sarbat Khalsa
in the real sense and its resolutions will be respected as Gurmattas
of the Panth. The Sikh nation shall respect such Gurmattas as Hukamnamas.
The Sikh nation shall have to undertake
a very long journey unless and until the Sikh nation achieves this
atmosphere. May Waheguru bless his Khalsa.
-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.