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The Akal Takht (Punjabi: ਅਕਾਲ ਤਖ਼ਤ), meaning throne of the timeless one,[2] is one of five takhts (seats of power) of the Sikhs. It is located in the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) complex in Amritsar, Punjab. The Akal Takht was built by Shri 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 Sikhs. The current Jathedar of Akal Takht appointed by the SGPC is Giani Harpreet Singh, while the Sarbat Khalsa calls for the reinstitution of Jagtar Singh Hawara.[3]

Akal Takht
ਅਕਾਲ ਤਖ਼ਤ
Nishan Sahib.svg
Akal takhat amritsar.jpg
Photograph of Akal Takht
Alternative namesAkal Bunga
General information
StatusFirst Takht of the Sikhs [1]
Architectural styleSikh architecture
AddressAkal Takht, Golden Temple Rd, Atta Mandi, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Panjab
Town or cityAmritsar
Coordinates31°37′14″N 74°52′31″E / 31.620556°N 74.875278°E / 31.620556; 74.875278
Construction started26 January 1986 (re-construction following demolition began)
Completed1995

HistoryEdit

 
Akal Takht illuminated on Guru Nanak Gurpurab, Harmandir Sahib complex, Amritsar.
 
Akal Takht and Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar, Punjab, India.

Originally known as Akal Bunga,[4] the building directly opposite to 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.[2] 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).[5][6]

In the 18th century, Ahmed Shah Abdali and Massa Rangar led a series of attacks on the Akal Takht and Harmandir Sahib.[2] Takht which is on the first floor was rebuilt in brick between 1770–1780, under Sultan-ul-Qaum Jassa Singh Ahluwalia (1718–1783) – the leader of the Sikh Confederacy in Punjab.

Hari Singh Nalwa, a general of Ranjit Singh, the maharaja, decorated the Akhal Takht with gold.[7]

DesignEdit

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 Guru 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.[8]

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 StarEdit

Operation Bluestar was an Indian military operation carried out between 3 and 8 June 1984, ordered by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to remove militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale (the jathedar of the Akal Takht) and his armed followers from the buildings of the Harmandir Sahib complex in Amritsar, Punjab.[9] In July 1983, the Sikh political party Akali Dal's President Harcharan Singh Longowal had invited Bhindranwale to take up residence in Golden Temple Complex and later moved to Akal Takht.[10] Bhindranwale later on made the sacred temple complex an armoury of firearms (procured from Pakistan) and his headquarter,[11] for his armed uprising for Khalistan.[12] In the violent events leading up to the Operation Blue Star since the inception of Akali Dharm Yudh Morcha, the militants had killed 165 Hindus and Nirankaris, even 39 Sikhs opposed to Bhindranwale were killed. The total number of deaths was 410 in violent incidents and riots while 1,180 people were injured.[13]

Unsuccessful negotiations were held with Bhindranwale and his supporters. After which, Indira Gandhi ordered the army to launch the Operation Blue Star.[14] Army units led by Indian Army Lt. Gen Kuldip Singh Brar (a Sikh), surrounded the temple complex on 3 June 1984 with forces that included many "Sikh officers, junior commissioned officers and other ranks".[15] The Indian Army, Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force, and Punjab Police were involved.

The army kept asking the militants to surrender, using the public address system. The militants were asked to allow the pilgrims out of the temple premises, before they start fighting the army. However, nothing happened until 7 PM.[16][16] The army had grossly underestimated the firepower possessed by the militants. Militants had Chinese made Rocket-propelled grenade launchers with armour piercing capabilities received from Pakistan. Tanks and heavy artillery were used to attack the militants who were using anti-tank and machine-gun from the inside of the heavily fortified Akal Takht.

After a 24-hour firefight, the army finally wrested control of the temple complex from the militants. Bhindranwale was killed in the operation, while many of his followers managed to escape. Casualty figures for the Army were 83 dead and 249 injured.[17] According to the official estimate presented by the Indian government, 1592 were apprehended and there were 493 combined militant and civilian casualties.[18] High civilian casualties happened as the militants were using pilgrims trapped inside the temple as human shields.[19] The militants had hoped that the presence of thousands of pilgrims inside the temple premises would have prevented the action by the army.[20] In the operation, the Akal Takht was damaged.[21][22]

The opponents of Indira Gandhi also criticised the operation for excessive use of force. General Brar later stated that the Government had "no other recourse" as there was a "complete breakdown" of the situation, State machinery was under the control of the militants, declaration of Khalistan was imminent and Pakistan would have come into the picture declaring its support for Khalistan.[23]

Re-buildingEdit

 
Interior of Akal Takht

The Indian government began to rebuild the Akal Takht with the initiation by Nihang Baba Santa Singh, the protege of Union minister Buta Singh, a Mazhabi (Dalit) which was unacceptable to the dominant Jat Sikhs of the state.[24] Sikhs called the new structure the Sarkari Takht (the word sarkar in Hindi and Punjabi means "government") to indicate it had 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).[25]

A few years later, Bhindranwale's successor from Damdami Taksal, Baba Thakar Singh, ceremonially commenced the demolition of the Akal Takht. The demolition was carried since it had been rebuilt by Tankhaiya Sikhs like Santa and Buta and hence was considered impure.[24]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Nabha, Kahan Singh (13 April 1930). Gur Shabad Ratanakar Mahankosh (1 ed.). Languages Department of Punjab, Patiala. p. ਅਕਾਲਬੁੰਗਾ. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Fahlbusch E. (ed.) "The encyclopedia of Christianity." Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8028-2417-2
  3. ^ "Giani Harpreet Singh is acting jathedar of Akal Takht". The Times of India. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  4. ^ "Akal Bunga". The Sikh Encyclopedia. Gateway to Sikhism Foundation. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  5. ^ Singh, Dr Kuldip. Akal Takht Ate Khalsa Panth. Chandigarh. p. 2.
  6. ^ Dilgeer, Harjinder Singh (1980). The Akal Takht. Jalandhar: Sikh University Press.
  7. ^ Sohan Lal Suri. 19th century. Umdat-ut-tawarikh, Daftar III, Part 2, trans. V.S. Suri, (1961) 2002, Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev University, f. 260
  8. ^ G.S., Randhir (1990). Sikh shrines in India. New Delhi: The Director of Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. pp. 13–14.
  9. ^ Swami, Praveen (16 January 2014). "RAW chief consulted MI6 in build-up to Operation Bluestar". The Hindu. Chennai, India.
  10. ^ Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs, Volume II: 1839-2004, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 337.
  11. ^ "Sikh Leader in Punjab Accord Assassinated" Check |url= value (help). LA Times. Times Wire Services. 21 August 1985.
  12. ^ Operation Bluestar, 5 June 1984 Archived 8 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Mark Tully, Satish Jacob (1985), "deaths+in+violent" Amritsar; Mrs. Gandhi's Last Battle (e-book ed.), London, p. 147, Ch. 11
  14. ^ Wolpert, Stanley A., ed. (2009). "India". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  15. ^ Scott Gates; Kaushik Roy (17 February 2016). Unconventional Warfare in South Asia: Shadow Warriors and Counterinsurgency. Routledge. pp. 167–. ISBN 978-1-317-00541-4.
  16. ^ a b Amberish K Diwanji (4 June 2004). "'There is a limit to how much a country can take'". The Rediff Interview/Lieutenant General Kuldip Singh Brar (retired). Rediff.com.
  17. ^ "Army reveals startling facts on Bluestar". Tribune India. 30 May 1984.
  18. ^ White Paper on the Punjab Agitation, Shiromani Akali Dal and Government of India, 1984, p. 169, retrieved 15 July 2018
  19. ^ Kiss, Peter A. (2014), Winning Wars amongst the People: Case Studies in Asymmetric Conflict (Illustrated ed.), Potomac Books, p. 100, ISBN 9781612347004
  20. ^ Karim, Afsir (1991). Counter Terrorism, the Pakistan Factor. Lancer Publishers. p. 33. ISBN 9788170621270. Archived from the original on 15 July 2018. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  21. ^ "Akāl Takht" Britannica website. Accessed 5 January 2013.
  22. ^ "Around Harmandir Sahib" Archived 6 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee Accessed 5 January 2013
  23. ^ "Pakistan would have recognised Khalistan". Rediff.com. 3 June 2004.
  24. ^ a b "Bhindranwale's rise from a small-time priest was meteoric". India Today. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  25. ^ "Buta" Rediff.com, March 19, 1998

SourcesEdit

  • Harjinder Singh Dilgeer The Akal Takht, Sikh University Press, 1980.
  • Harjinder Singh Dilgeer Sikh Twareekh Vich Akal Takht Sahib Da Role, Sikh University Press 2005.
  • Harjinder Singh Dilgeer Akal Takht Sahib, concept and role, Sikh University Press 2005.
  • Harjinder Singh Dilgeer Sikh Twareekh, Sikh University Press 2008.
  • Mohinder Singh Josh Akal Takht Tay is da Jathedar 2005.
  • Darshi A. R. The Gallant Defender
  • Singh P. The Golden Temple. South Asia Books 1989. ISBN 978-962-7375-01-2.
  • Singh K. (ed.) New insights into Sikh art. Marg Publications. 2003. ISBN 978-81-85026-60-2.
  • Nomination of Sri Harimandir Sahib for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List Vol.1 Nomination Dossier, India 2003.
  • Macauliffe, M. A. The Sikh religion: Its gurus sacred writings and authors Low Price Publications, 1903. ISBN 978-81-7536-132-4.

External linksEdit