546. Akal Takht & it’s Jathedar

In 1606 Guru Hargobind and Baba Buddha built a platform which was 12 feet in height in defiance of a decree Mughal Emperor Jahangir that no one but his own royal personage be allowed to sit on a dais over three feet in height.

Guru Hargobind called it the Akál Takht, the Throne of the Deathless One (God). Inside Harmandr Sahib the Ádi Granth, the first version of Guru Granth Sahib, was installed as the Shabad Guru, the Teacher of the Word (of God).

There was no building, there was no institution with its own Maryada, nor was there any suggestion that whoever was in charge of this Takht was the ruler of the Sikh panth.

When Guru Hargobind lived in Kartarpur (Jalandhar) and Kiratpur, and during the the Guruship of Guru Har Rai, Guru Har Kishan, Guru Teg Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh the Harmandr Sahib complex was in charge of non-mainstream Sikhs. These ‘sikhs’ never thought that because they were in charge of the Akál Takht they could issue Hukamnamas that had to be followed by the panth.

The Akál Takht as a concept went with the Guru Sahib to Kartarpur, Kiratpur and Anandpur.

Guru Gobind Singh ordained that after his passing away the Sikhs would be ruled by the Guru Panth (Sikh community) under the guidance of the Guru Granth. He did not say that any power was vested in Jathedars or in any building.

The missal system, established after the death of Banda Singh Bahadur consisted of 11 fighting missals (guerrilla groups) and one group of veterans, the Buddha Dal. Their Jathedar played a role in the functioning of the Sarbat Khalsa, which was the meeting of all the missals.

Decisions were made by the Sarbat Khalsa while striving for unanimity. A decision taken in this manner was called a Gurmatta. The Jathedar of the Buddha Dal would then make this Gurmatta official by announcing it from the Ákal Takht.

This is comparable with procedures that exist in many countries where decisions made by parliament are made official by the signature of a head of state.

I am not suggesting that during the missals period Sikhs were always sensible, and only fought for the values laid down by the Guru Sahib, selflessly serving the wider interest of all peoples of their areas of influence.

But If we want to practice Guru Gobind Singh’s Guru Granth/Guru Panth we should copy elements of the arrangements that existed in the missal time. Gurdwaras and Sikh organisations would be the missals, and sarbat khalsas could meet discussing Sikh issues on the level of countries, continents and world-wide.

What we don’t want is Jathedars without jatha who instead of serving the the panth serve corrupt political masters.

495.The Man in Blue – Follow only our eternal Guru II

In Man in Blue column 494 I wrote about Guru Granth – Guru Panth, explaining  my view on other ‘granths’, and on for instance the Bible or Al Quran. In this column I will write about the Guru Granth as our leader.

On the 20th of November I was in London’s Shepherds Bush (Khalsa Jatha) Gurdwara where a Sikh Channel reporter was asking people’s views on the leadership of the panth.

The Tenth Guru told us that the Guru Granth is our eternal Guru and that the Guru Panth (those on Guru’s path) is to act under the Guru Granth’s guidance.

Jathedars without jathas are not the Guru Panth, 5 amritdhari Sikhs are not the Guru Panth and the general house of the SGPC is also not the Guru Panth.

The only time that Guru Granth – Guru Panth was practiced was during the misl period in the 18th century. The Sarbat Khalsa of those days was not perfect, but it was closer to Guru’s teachings than the present rule by the Badal Dal.

The meeting of the Sarbat Khalsa was mainly a meeting of the misl leaders. They were not Jathedars without jathas as we have today, and the misl members could try to influence their leaders or switch to another Misl if they were not happy with the leadership.

In the Sarbat Khalsa the decisions were not taken by a simple majority, serious efforts were made to get the misls as near as possible to consensus. When an agreement was reached it was called Gurmatta and it became a Hukamnama when it was proclaimed from the Akal Takhat by the Jathedar of the Budha Dal.

If we were to apply this to the UK we should have regional open forums where Sikh individuals and representatives of organisations and Gurdwaras come together to discuss Panthic issues. Decisions should be made through trying to find consensus. If there are serious conflicts, the opposing groups should constitute mutually agreed Panj Piaré to mediate between them.

The regional forums would send delegates to an UK forum, and the UK forum would send delegates to a global forum that could meet anywhere where it is free from political interference. This rules out India as it is now.

In countries with fewer Sikhs you could have just one national forum, or you could have for instance a Scandinavian or a Benelux forum. These forums acting under the guidance of the Guru Granth can only ‘rule’ those that accept their authority.

Guru Nanak wrote: ‘Truth is high, and higher still is truthful living’. People taking part in these forums should follow the Guru’s teachings of truthfulness, compassion and humility. Me, me, me should not be on the agenda.