General

The Akal Takht, meaning throne of the timeless one, is one of five takhts (seats of power) of the Sikh religion. It is located in the Harmandir Sahib Golden Temple) complex in Amritsar, Panjab, about 290 miles (470 km) northwest of New Delhi. The Akal Takht was built by Guru Hargobind as a place of justice and consideration of temporal issues; the highest seat of earthly authority of the Khalsa (the collective body of the Sikhs) and the place of the Jathedar, the highest spokesman of the Sikh Nation. The current Jathedar of Akal Takht is Jagtar Singh Hawara.

History

Originally known as Akal Bunga, the building directly opposite the Harmandir Sahib was founded by sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind, as a symbol of political sovereignty and where spiritual and temporal concerns of the Sikh people could be addressed. Along with Baba Buddha and Bhai Gurdas, the sixth Sikh Guru built a 9 foot high concrete slab. When Guru Hargobind revealed the platform on 15 June 1606, he put on two swords: one indicated his spiritual authority (piri) and the other, his temporal authority (miri). In the 18th century, Ahmed Shah Abdali and Massa Rangar led a series of attacks on the Akal Takht and Harmandir Sahib. Hari Singh Nalwa, a general of Ranjit Singh, the maharaja, decorated the Akhal Takht with gold. On 4 June 1984, the Akal Takht was damaged when the Indian Army stormed Harmandir Sahib during Operation Blue Star.

Design

The Akal Takht was built on a site where there existed only a high mound of earth across a wide open space. It was a place where Hargobind played as a child. The original Takht was a simple platform, 3.5 metres (11 ft) high, on which Guru Hargobind would sit in court to receive petitions and administer justice. He was surrounded by insignia of royalty such as the parasol and the flywhisk. Later, there was an open-air semi-circular structure built on marble pillars and a gilded interior section. There were also painted wall panels depicting Europeans. The modern building is a five story structure with marble inlay and a gold-leafed dome. Three of the stories were added by Ranjit Singh in the 1700s. Contemporary restoration work found a layer of paint decorated lime plaster that might have been part of the original structure but later than the time of Harminder.

Operation Blue Star

Between 3 June and 8 June 1984, the Indian army conducted an operation, ordered by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in order to establish control over the Harmandir Sahib Complex in Amritsar, Punjab, and remove Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale the jathedar of the Akal Takht and his followers from the complex buildings. In the process, many other Sikh Gurdwaras were destroyed.

Re-Building

The Indian government began to rebuild the Akal Takht. Sikhs called the new structure the Sarkari Takht (the word sarkar in Hindi and Punjabi means “government”) to indicate it had been built by the government and was not Akal (sacred). The Sikh home minister, Buta Singh, was excommunicated for his role in building the new Takht. He was accepted back into the community after a period of penitence (cleaning the devotees’s utensils and shoes at the Golden Temple). In 1986, the Sikh nation called the ‘Sarbat Khalsa’ (Sikh commonwealth) in which it declared Khalistan as the homeland of the Sikhs and also moved to rebuild Akal Takht that had been repaired by the Indian Government. In 1986, Sikhs at Amritsar decided to demolish the sarkari takht and build a new Akal Takht through the Sikh tradition of Kar Seva and self-service. In 1995, a new, larger Takht was completed.