6. Akaal Takhat
The martyrdom of Guru Arjan was an unparallel act in the history of mankind. The Guru had all the superpowers. He could have averted the situation in any way he liked, but he went through all that torture to show to the world how in all thick and thin one should cheerfully submit to the sweet Will of God. As a atter of fact, the contents of the Adi Granth were not meant for the Yogis, Sidhas and Sanyasis or the Muslim Suffis only, who sit in seclusion in the caves of the Himalayas and worship the Almighty by denouncing the world. Instead the teachings of the Adi Granth were meant for the family men. Leading the family life, the Gurus gave practical examples as how to live according to Guru's Word. The cruel and torturous execution of Guru Arjan aroused a very strong wave of angry feelings among the masses. The enlightened, but not passive, sufferings of the Guru instilled a new spirit and life into the people and they resolved to exert and sacrifice themselves for the sake of righteousness. For centuries, countless Hindu men, women and children had fallen under the Muslim sword and this did not soften the stone hearts of their oppressors; but rather they had become more cruel and brutal. Sometimes it might be possible to reform the evil doer by opposing untruth and injustice through non-violent methods. The silent resistance and suffering for righteous cause might sometimes enable the tyrant to see his evil actions and he might be improved. History stands witness that no amount of non- violence can succeed against a tyrant who is hardened and steeped in criminal oppressive ways and who pays no heed to basic values of moral and civilized conduct. Against such men, non-violence is only another name of disgraceful cowardice in their dictionary. Such power drunk men must be faced bravely with a stick bigger than theirs. After the inauguration, some Masands represented to the Guru's mother that the preceding five Gurus never handled arms; if Emperor Jahangir heard about this, he would be angry and where would they (Sikhs) hide? She showed courage to the Masands, however, she remonstrated with the young Guru,"My son, we have no treasure, no state revenue, no landed property and no army. If you walk in the way of your father and grandfather, you will be happy." The Guru recited the following verse:
"The Lord who is the Searcher of all hearts Is my own Guardian."
(Bhairon Mohalla 5, Page 1136)
and said,"Have no anxiety and everything shall be according to the Will of God."
The Guru issued an order to the Masands that he would be pleased with those who brought offerings of arms and horses instead of money. He laid down the foundation of Akal Takhat (Timeless Throne) in 1606 (the fifth day of light half of month of Har, Sambat 1663) just in front of Hari Mandar, and it was completed in 1609. Akal Takhat was built of solid bricks on a raised platform of about ten feet in height and looked like a throne. The Guru took his seat on it. He built Akal Takhat a few yards in front of Hari Mandar with a view that a Sikh at Akal Takhat should not forget that spiritual elevation was as essential as his social obligations. As a matter of fact, the Guru wanted his followers to be 'saint-soldiers', extremely cultured, highly moral with spiritual height and be ever-ready to measure swords with demonic forces. Bhai Buddha on seeing the Guru in military harness, mildly remonstrated with him. Instead the Guru replied,"In the Guru's house religion and worldly enjoyment shall be combined- the caldron to supply the poor and the needy, and the scimitar to smite the oppressors." (This should be noted by those Sikhs who say that worldly and practical affairs should be kept separate from religion in our Gurdwaras). Several warriors and wrestlers came to the Guru for service. He enrolled fifty-two heroes as his body-guard and this formed the nucleus of his future army. About five hundred young persons came from all over the Punjab to enlist in his service. He made Bhai Bidhi Chand, Bhai Jetha, Bhai Piara, Bhai Langaha, and Bhai Pirana, each captain of a troop of one hundred horse. People began to wonder how the Guru could continue to maintain such an army. The Guru quoted:
"God provideth every one with his daily food; why, O man, art thou immersed planning; He putteth their food even before the insects which He created in rocks and stones." (Gujri Mohalla 5, Pageó 495)
Akal Takhat grew into an institution which symbolized in itself the idea that the use of sword for the protection of righteousness and for self-defence was called for. Here the Guru sitting on his throne, would watch wrestling bouts and military feats of his disciples performed in the open arena opposite to the Akal Takhat. As all intricate cases and disputes were finally decided here by the Guru, the Akal Takhat served the purpose of a Supreme Court for the Sikhs. Besides throne, the Guru adopted all other emblems of royalty- the umbrella, the swords, the crest and the hawk, and thus the Sikhs called him a true king or 'Sacha Padshah'- a king in all appearance but in deeds and in purity as holy and great as previous Gurus. People looked towards Akal Takhat for guidance in their secular affairs. This custom became so significant that the decision once taken at Akal Takhat was followed by the Sikhs enthusiastically and this was the reason that they were always able to overcome every peril. The development of this custom contributed a lot towards the consolidation of the Sikh Movement. Some writers charge that lure of politics and glamour of arms led the Guru away from the true path of a religious and spiritual leader. Their judgement is altogether unfounded. There was no political motive of Guru Har Gobind and there is nothing else to substantiate this allegation. Secondly his daily routine was to go to Hari Mandar, listen Asa di Var and then give religious instructions to his followers. He took keen interest in propagation of his religion and appointed preachers in the various regions of the country. He himself undertook tours to various places in Punjab to propagate his faith. However the policy of the Guru symbolized in itself the response to the challenge of the time. Bhai Gurdas justifies the Guru's change in the policy under peculiar circumstances:
"Just as one has to tie pail's neck while taking out water, Just as to get 'Mani', snake is to be killed; Just as to get Kasturi from deer's neck, deer is to be killed; Just as to get oil, oil seeds are to be crushed; To get kernel, pomegranate is to be broken; Similarly to correct senseless people, sword has to be taken up." (Bhai Gurdas, Var: 34, pauri 13)
Guru Har Gobind appears to have been the first Guru Who systematically turned his attention to the chase. His daily routine at Amritsar was:- He rose before day-break, bathed, dressed in full armor, and then went to Hari Mandar to worship. There he heard Japji and Asa di Var being recited. He then preached to his Sikhs. After the concluding prayer, breakfast was served indiscriminately to the Guru's troops and followers as they sat in rows for the purpose. He would rest for some time and then would go to the chase, accompanied by an army of forest beaters, hounds, tamed leopards and hawks of every variety. Late in the afternoon he sat on his throne and give audience to his visitors and followers. Minstrels sang the Guru's hymns and at twilight the 'Sodar' was read. At the conclusion of the service musical instruments of many sorts were played. At the end all adjourned for their evening repast. A sacred concert was afterwards held in which hymns were sung. Next followed the minstrel Abdulla's martial songs to inspire the Sikhs with love of heroic deeds and dispel feelings unworthy of warriors. The Sohila was then read after which the Guru retired to his private apartment.