What are the Seats of Authority (Takhats) in Sikhism?
‘Takhat’ which literally means a throne or seat of authority is a result of historical growth of Sikhism. There are five Takhats. The first and the most important one was established by Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji in 1609. It is called ‘Akaal Takhat’ (the Throne of the Timeless God) and is situated just opposite the gate of Harmandar Sahib – The Golden Temple, Amritsar. “Sri” and “Sahib” are added to the name to convey great respect and grandeur.
1. Sri Akaal Takhat Sahib
The Guru established Sri Akaal Takhat Sahib because he thought that secular political matters should not be considered in the Golden Temple, which is meant purely for worship of God. Here the Guru held his court and decided matters of military strategy and political policy. Later on, the Sikh commonwealth (Sarbat Khalsa) took decisions here on matters of peace and war and settled disputes between the various Sikh groups. The Sarangi singers sung the ballads of the Sikh Gurus and warriors at this place and robes of honour (siropas) were awarded to persons who rendered distinguished services of the community of men in general.
2. Takhat Sri Patna Sahib
The second seat of authority is called “Takhat Sri Patna Sahib”. Guru Tagh Bahadur Sahib Ji lived with his family here in 1665. Here was born Guru Gobind Singh Ji (then known as “Sri Gobind Rai”). The building which was partly damaged by the great earthquake of 1934 has been rebuilt. Here are preserved the relics of Guru Gobind Singh Ji including his cradle, weapons and Proclamations.
3. Takhat Sri Kesgarh Sahib
The third seat of authority is called “Takhat Sri Kesgarh Sahib”. The township of Anandpur was founded by the Ninth Guru in 1665 but the Takhat therein owes its importance to the creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1699. The Shrine contains the historic double-edged-sword-khanda with which the Guru stirred the Amrit (baptism-water). It has also a number of weapons of the Tenth Guru. During the annual Holi festival (celebrated across India by Hindus), mock-battles between groups of Sikhs are held here. This is called the Holla Mahalla festival by the Sikhs.
4. Takhat Sri Hazur Sahib
The fourth seat of authority is “Takhat Sri Hazur Sahib”. It is the place where Guru Gobind Singh Ji passed away in 1708 and is situated at Nander in Maharashtra State. Maharaja Ranjit Singh renovated the Gurdwara and provided a gold-plated dome and several costly decorations. The takhat puts on display of weapons of Guru Gobind Singh Ji and other relics on Sikh festivals. Some manuscript copies of the Dasam Granth can be seen here.
5. Takhat Damdama Sahib
The fifth seat of authority is called “Takhat Damdama Sahib”. This place owes its importance to the literary work of Guru Gobind Singh Ji done during his stay in 1706. Here the Tenth Guru prepared the authentic and complete edition of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, to which he gave perpetual succession at the time of his death. The Guru held his court at Damdama Sahib for over nine months and imparted training in arts of war and peace to his followers.
The five Takhats have authority in their respective jurisdictions, and recommend punishments for specific religious offences called ‘Tankhaa’. The daily routine of prayers etc. follows an old tradition. Only the best Sikhs are selected as heads (Jathedars) of these five Takhats by the Panth through consultation with Panthic representatives from all groups, bodies and institutions. Sri Akaal Takhat Sahib is considered the highest throne out of the five and therefore the decisions of Sri Akaal Takhat Sahib takes precedence over all Panthic decisions.