ਵਡਾ ਤੇਰਾ ਦਰਬਾਰੁ ਸਚਾ ਤੁਧੁ ਤਖਤੁ ॥
ਸਿਿਰ ਸਾਹਾ ਪਾਤਿਸਾਹੁ ਨਿਹਚਲੁ ਚਉਰੁ ਛਤੁ ॥ (ਮ5, 964)
Grand is Your court, true Your throne,
Sovereign, even above the kings, unmovable is (Your) flywhisk and canopy (royal insignia). (M5, 964)
Big and elevated above other worldly thrones the platform stood — occupied by Guru Harigobind Sahib, the bearer of two swords of Miri-Piri (Political-Spiritual), who laid the foundation of Akal Takht Sahib (Timeless Throne Sovereign) on June 15, 1606 (5 Har 1663). The community has now come to celebrate the day on July 2 every year, which is when Baba Buddha ji and Bhai Gurdas ji completed the construction of the platform located in the Darbar Sahib precinct facing Sri Harimandar Sahib.
Originally named Akal Bunga, the simple platform was raised higher (approx. 11.5 feet) than the throne of the contemporary Mughal emperor Jahangir, defying the royal edict of not building a seating structure higher than the emperor’s throne. It was a clear message to the world that the Guru, as a keeper of the Divine will, was the true Sovereign. And it was this sovereignty that the Guru bestowed on Sikhs who came from the most downtrodden and persecuted groups in the extremely rigid and ruthless hierarchical superstructure of the caste society.
Guru Harigobind Sahib, the bearer of Divine authority, used to sit at the Akal Takht and administer justice as the Sacca Patshah (Eternal Sovereign), a term that came to be associated with the Gurus in the Sikh tradition, as opposed to the worldly claim of sovereignty by the existing ruling dynasties of the time. The Guru used to hold a court at the Akal Takht, where he hosted emissaries and dignitaries, as well as organized divans (Royal-Court) with dhadis (bards) singing ballads. The Guru is said to have issued his first hukamnama (edict) from the Akal Takht to the Sikh sangat(community), asking to bring arms and horses as offerings.
Later in history, the Akal Takht Sahib became the primary seat of Sikh religious authority and the center of Sikh political activity. Consequentially, it also became the central hosting point of the institution of Sarbat Khalsa (Sikh Collective Assembly) as well as all major social and political programs, campaigns, and agitations.
Over the four centuries of turbulent Sikh history, Akal Takht Sahib has stood as the uncompromising mark of Sikh sovereignty, independence, and defiance, which is why those in power that do not wish to see Sikhs as a political force have continually made efforts to destroy it physically or institutionally, curtail its powers and workings, and sabotage the Panthak (Sikh collective) decision-making processes. Both past and present political tussles to control Akal Takht Sahib need to be seen in this light.
The edifice of Akal Takht Sahib is a reminder to all Sikhs that the principle of Miri-Piri makes sovereignty a central element of a dignified spiritual existence. It is not a marriage of two disparate facets of life, but a unified principle that only exists as a whole, where both facets are inseparably intertwined with each other.
Political sovereignty is our birthright, as is the right of direct unfettered access to the Divine. Slavery of any kind has never been acceptable to the Guru-inspired Sikhs. Under the excuse of modern secular models, we must not let anyone tell us that the right to sovereignty and self-rule does not conform to our spiritual ethos. On the contrary, in Miri-Piri, the Guru has taught us that to a spiritually awakened individual slavery, whether political, spiritual, or social, is anathema. In the house of Guru Nanak Sahib, liberty is the absolute measure of our spiritual ethos.
With Guru’s Sabad on our lips and Divine love reverberating in our hearts, we have defended the Darbar Sahib complex till the last drop of our blood, every time. In the spirit of liberty, we have chosen death over slavery, for our spirituality is unforgivingly political, and our politics is extremely spiritual. Akal Takht Sahib facing Sri Harimandar Sahib is a testimony to that.