Sarbat Khalsa

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 Mukatsar.

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 issues too.

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.

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