Akhand Kirtani Jatha
The Akhand Kirtani Jatha (or AKJ, also known as Bhai Randhir Singh da Jatha or Waheguru Singhs) is a jatha (collective group) of Sikhs. The AKJ are a fundamentalist group within Sikhism, holding an interpretation of the Sikh Rehat Maryada (Sikh Code of Conduct) different from that of the Sikh mainstream. It emerged around 1930, based on the movement initiated by Randhir Singh (d. 1961) in the context of the Indian independence movement in the first half of the 20th century.
Akhand Kirtani Jatha believe that "'all praise must be to the Guru Granth Sahib and God and there is absolutely no need for any respect for a living sant' but are themselves criticised for paying glowing tributes to Bhai Randir Singh 'just like a Sant'".
Randhir Singh (1878–1961) was from Ludhiana who was imprisoned by the British authorities. His followers were known as the Bhai Randhir Singh da Jatha. The Akhand Kirtani Jatha was a group within this movement in the 1970s, headed by Amarjit Kaur, whose husband was killed fighting the Nirankaris in Amritsar in 1978.
No estimates on the number of adherents is known. Outside of Amritsar, Punjab, the AJK have a chapter in Coventry, UK. The AJK participated in a convention in Slough, Berkshire in 1987.
The AJK in turn gave rise to an extremist offshoot known as the Babbar Khalsa who were active in assassinations and religious violence against the Nirankaris during the 1980s. The AKJ appears as a group of the Sikh diaspora involved in the Khalistan movement in the 1980s.
AKJ differs from mainstream Sikhism in their interpretation of one of The Five Ks of Sikhism: instead of accepting the kes or "uncut hair", they interpret the command as referring to keski, a small turban, which they maintain must be worn by Sikhs of both sexes.
In Bhogal's description of beliefs and practices of the AKJ, he noted some of the group's beliefs and said "In such beliefs the group reject the general code of conduct known as the Sikh Rahit Marayada of the S.G.P.C. [...], and produced their own called rahit-bibek (bibek means discrimination, discernment, insight)."
Bhogal also noted that "They also believe in a different Khalsa initiation ceremony, wherein the five beloved ones, or five Gursikhs place their right hand on the neophyte's head and meditatively repeat the mantra 'Vahiguru', revolving around the innitiate for five or so minutes."
The Jatha's devotional singing programmes include all-night Rain sabai and Kirtan Darbars which usually last around 6 hours. The kirtan is usually sung with basic musical tunes as the main emphasis of the kirtans is on the Guru's Word and repeating the Gurmantar (Guru's Mantra) of Waheguru with great fervour when prompted to repeat the Lord's Name in the sacred hymns being sung. Jatha members never eat meat or eggs, and the AKJ argues strongly that eating any form of flesh is forbidden in the AKJ rahit-bibek.
Raagmala is a composition appended to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, appearing after the "Mundaavni" (epilogue or "closing seal"). The Jatha do not accept the Raagmala and do not read it when concluding a scripture-reading.
The AKJ have their own interpretation of the Sikh prohibition against "Kutha meat". They hold that this term means "slaughtered animal" or "killed animal", and thus that eating any meat whatsoever is a transgression. The Sikh Rehat Maryada and Sikh scholars define Kutthaa as meat "slaughtered in the Muslim way" (Halaal meat), and as any "ritually slaughtered" meat (Halal, Kosher, Hindu Bali, others). The Sikh Rahit Maryada doesn't accept the eating of ritually slaughtered meat, and the Akhand Kirtani Jatha rejects the eating of any meat.
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