Sikh Ardaas (supplication) starts by meditating on the Ten Gurus and then refers to the teaching of Sri Guru Granth Sahib in which is enshrined the spirit of the Ten Gurus. Sikhs understand that there is only One Guru Jote which now resides in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
Similarly, Sikhs remember the Five Takhts, the Thrones: Akal Takht, Anandpur Sahib, Patna Sahib, Hazur Sahib and Damdama Sahib.
There is much discussion about Sri Akal Takht Sahib and the decision-making processes in the Panth. The Sikh Reht Maryada (SRM) confirms that the most important decisions (Gurmatas) affecting the Panth can only be taken collectively by the Guru Panth. That any Gurdwara disputes should be taken up with Sri Akal Takht Sahib. (SRM Article XXVI b & c).
However, the role of the other Takhts in this decision-making process is less clear. In fact, it is hardly discussed.
We know that the religious practices and traditions of the Takhts are not the same.
Sometimes they even convey conflicting messages about the Sikh way of life through their practices. If the Guru is One then no matter where the Guru sits, his Takht is also One.
That Takht of the Guru is Sri Akal Takht Sahib, albeit, physically, this Takht has 5 locations at Amritsar (the prime location), Anandpur Sahib, Patna Sahib, Hajoor Sahib and Damdama Sahib. This True Takht &ndash Sacha Takht – of the Guru resides in the psyche of every Sikh.
So, in the context of the ongoing discussions which address the sovereignty of Sri Akal Takht Sahib as the One and only Guru Granth-Panth Miri-Piri Institution, the unity of the Five Takhts needs continual stress. All Takhts should be seen to be acting as one voice of the Khalsa Panth.
Outside involvement in Sikh religious affairs started with Gurdwaras Act of 1925 which set up the SGPC. The result is that, through the SGPC as a legal entity – there are allegations of outside interference in the appointments made and the decisions taken at Sri Akal Takht Sahib.
With loss of trust in the Takht office holders, the tendency is to depend increasingly on the courts to settle religious disputes and interpretation of Sikh ideology and tradition. That means that non-Sikhs are now deciding issues to do with Sikh ideology, institutions and identity e.g. with reference to the Kakaars.
The global Sikh community should continue to re-assert independent Panthic control of appointments, practices and procedures at all Takhts. This can only be done by keeping direct link with the Takhts and continually referring issues to Sri Akal Takht Sahib, the supreme miri-piri court of the Khalsa Panth.
Sikhs should not distance themselves from Sri Akal Takht Sahib (including the Takhts) individually or organisationally while seeking full accountability to the Panth from the office holders. That is one way to keep up the pressure for change and to assert Panthic ownership of our great institutions.
A major re-alignment of the decision-making and direction giving processes at the 5 Takhts represented by Sri Akal Takht Sahib is long overdue.
Gurmukh Singh OBE, a retired UK senior civil servant, chairs the Advisory Board of The Sikh Missionary Society UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The article first appeared at The Panjab Times, UK
* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
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