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|The Akal Takht
ਅਕਾਲ ਤਖ਼ਤ ਸਾਹਿਬ
The Akal Takht
|Architectural style||Sikh architecture|
|Town or city||Amritsar|
The Akal Takht (Punjabi: ਅਕਾਲ ਤਖ਼ਤ; meaning The Throne of the Timeless One) is one of the five Takhts of the Sikh religion. It is located in the Harmandir Sahib complex in Amritsar, Punjab, about 250 miles northwest of New Delhi. While the Harmandir Sahib, or Golden Temple, represents Sikh spiritual guidance, the Akal Takht symbolizes the dispensing of justice and temporal activity. It is the highest seat of temporal authority of the Khalsa and the seat of the Sikh religion's earthly authority.
The Akal Takht was built by the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind, as a symbol for political sovereignty of Sikhs. It was established as a place from where the spiritual and temporal concerns of the Sikh people could be acted upon. It stood as a symbol of political and military resistance against the tyranny and cruelty of the 17th- and 18th-century rulers. In the 18th century, Ahmed Shah Abdali and Massa Rangar led a series of attacks on the Akal Takht and Harmandir Sahib. On June 4, 1984, the Akal Takht was badly damaged when the Indian Army stormed Sri Darbar Sahib during Operation Blue Star. The Jathedar of the Akal Takht is the highest spokesperson of the Sikh religion. Khande-Bate-Dee-Pahul, or the initiation with the sword, initiated by Guru Gobind Singh, continues to be routinely performed at the Akal Takht. Hari Singh Nalwa, a General under Maharaja Ranjit Singh the leader of the Sikh Kingdom, wished to make the Akal Takht resplendent with gold and had donated a part of his wealth for this purpose.
It is the most supreme of all the Takhts. The four other takhts are
On the original plot of land of the Akal Takht, there existed only a high mound of earth across a wide open space where Guru Hargobind used to play as a child. The original Takht is said to have been a simple platform, 3.5 metres high, on which the Guru would sit like a king at court, surrounded by insignia of royalty such as the parasol and the flywhisk, and perform kingly tasks of receiving petitions and administering justice. Today’s Akal Takht is a large 5-storey modern structure (3 storeys were added by Maharaja Ranjit Singh) with marble inlays and a gold-leafed dome that does not convey the design of Guru Hargobind’s simple Takht or plinth. However, recent restoration work has uncovered a layer of lime plaster, with painted decoration, that may have been part of the original Takht. That plinth was higher than the plinth of the Harmandir yet the absence of a superstructure kept the original Akal Takhat at a level lower than the shrine.
The elaboration of the structure on marble pillars, as a semi-circular platform with an open view to the courtyard, is reminiscent of an air-house and must have grown from the original use to which the Durbar hall was put.
The gilding of the ceiling with ornamentation like that in the interior of the Hari Mandir Sahib is perhaps dated later than in the holy of holies. The wall paintings belong to a later period, as there are panels showing Europeans.
The total effect of the Akal Takht and the open courtyard, in front of the Darshani Deori and the view of the Amritsar beyond, is of a unique and noble structure.
1984: Damage to Akal Takht during Operation Blue Star
The Akal Takht was badly damaged during the assault on the Golden Temple by the Indian army in June 1984. On June 6, 1984 the Indian Army stormed the Golden Temple complex, even bringing its tanks into the Parikrama during the Operation Blue Star. Operation Blue Star was an Indian military operation, ordered by Indira Gandhi, to stop and suppress Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who had allegedly amassed weapons inside the temple complex.
In 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged some of the failures and apologized to the Sikh community.
"I have no hesitation in apologizing not only to the Sikh community but to the whole nation, because what took place in 1984 is a negation of the concept of nationhood enshrined in our Constitution, The past is behind us. We cannot change it, but we can write the future. We must have the will power to write a better future for all of us."
Re-building of the Akal Takht
At first the Akal Takht was rebuilt by contractors of the Indian Government. A few Sikhs were then excommunicated from Sikhism, for Sikhs saw this as siding with the Indian Government. The rebuilt Akal Takht became known as the 'Sarkari Takht' - Sarkari meaning one of the Government and not one of Akal (meaning Immortal and related to Sikh religion).
Buta Singh who was appointed home minister in the Rajiv Gandhi Cabinet was excommunicated from the Sikh Panth for his role in rebuilding a 'sarkari' Akal Takht after Operation Blue Star. He finally had to undergo the 'punishment' of cleaning the devotees's utensils and shoes at the Golden Temple for being taken back into the faith.
Sarbat Khalsa 1986
In 1986 the Sikhs at a Sarbat Khalsa meeting of around 500,000 Sikhs in Amritsar decided to tear down the rebuilt Akal Takht or 'Sarkari Takht'. They then began work on rebuilding the Akal Takht through the Sikh tradition of Kar Seva and Self Service.
The current Akal Takht is the one which was built in 1986 by the Sikhs and took around 9 years to complete. The design is much bigger than the original Akal Takht and so are the rooms within the building to accommodate the bigger flow of pilgrims.
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