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The Multifarious Faces of Sikhism throughout Sikh History
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Shromani Gurdwara Parbandak Committee (S.G.P.C.) cont'd

The terms ‘Shromani’ and ‘Akali’ are originally Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa Budha Dal designations to denote their status within the cosmos. The ‘Shromani’ position, presently held by the S.G.P.C. at the Akal Takht, was originally held by the Akali Nihangs of the Budha Dal. This high status of the Akali Nihangs of the Budha Dal as being the ‘Panjvah Takht’ (fifth seat of power within the Sikh world) was never disputed by anyone prior to the arrival of the British Raj. The Akali Nihangs of the Budha Dal were considered the Guru-ordained custodians of Sikhism.

96 Crore Singh Sahib Jathedar Akali Nihang Baba Chet Singh

The head of the Akali Nihang Singh Khalsa and the Akal Takht
before 96 Crore Singh Sahib Jathedar Akali Nihang Baba Santa Singh took command

Even to this day, at Sach Khand Hazoor Sahib, one will find the ancient Akali Nihang traditions being practiced. As in the past, even today, the majority of these traditions are also practiced at Patna Sahib in Bihar. With regards to Patna Sahib, L.S.S.O’Malley early last century observed:

‘Patna city was the birthplace of Guru Govind Singh, ----.The temple is one of the 4 great sacred places (takhts or darbars) of the Sikhs, who visit it on pilgrimage. The pilgrims are bound to appear before the Guru Granth Saheb, or Bara Saheb as it is also called, on the first day of entering the town, and after ardas orkara parshad, ie, sweetmeats specially prepared for the purpose. The Mahanth of this temple must be an Akali pardeshi, ie., he must belong to the puritanical sect of Akalis mentioned below, and not be a native of Patna,----.’
‘Bengal District Gazetters’, ‘Patna’, by L.S.S.O’Malley, 1907

Patna Sahib
The birthplace of Akali Nihang Guru Gobind Singh Ji in Bihar

Another British observer had noted earlier:

The temple dedicated to the tenth Guru Govind, at Patna, was rebuilt by Ranjit Sinh about forty years ago. I found it, after some trouble, in a side street, hidden from view and approached by a gateway, over which were the images of the first nine Guru’s, with Nanak in the centre. The shrine is open on the one side. Its guardian had a high-peaked turban encircled by steel rings (cakra), used as weapons. He was evidently an Akali – or ‘worshipper of the timeless God’- a term applied to a particular class of Sikh zealots who believe themselves justified in putting every opponent of their religion to the sword.
‘Religious Thought And Life In India: Part I. Vedism, Brahmanism, And Hinduism’, by Monier Williams, M.A., C.I.E., 1883

Even prominent Tat Khalsa Singh Sabhia-sanctioned writers such as Bhai Khan Singh Nabha acknowledged the fact that after the Sikh Gurus, it was the Akali Nihangs of Budha Dal who took care of Sikh shrines. Bhai Kahn Singh testifies to this truth, and while commenting on the maintenance of Sikh temples (under the term ‘Gurdwara’), he states:

‘In the times of the Sikh Gurus and Budha Dal special care was taken of Sikh temples ----.’
‘Mahan Kosh’, by Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha, 1930

Another noted historian, the Samparda Bhindra-educated Giani Kirpal Singh, who became the S.G.P.C.-elected ‘Jathedar’ of the Akal Takht Jathedar who had once edited Giani Gian Singh’s ‘Panth Prakash’, was also fully aware of the stance of the Budha Dal with regards to Sikh shrines. Even he conceded that it was the Budha Dal that were and still is the rightful heir to the Akal Takht. In a book published after his death in 1993, he stated:

‘At the Akal Takht, Takht Sahib Siri Kesgarh Sahib and Takht Dam Dama Sahib the priests dressed in the Nihang manner. From this it is known that the it was the Budha Dal Jathedar that used to control the organisation of the Takhts. Because it was Budha Dal which looked after all the religious traditions of historical Gurdwaras in the Punjab. Initiating Khalsa and preaching Dharma it did also.’
‘Siri Akal Takht Sahib Ateh Jathedar Sahiban’, by Giani Kirpal Singh, 1999, Pa.57

Akal Takht Sahib
An early photograph of the Akal Takht where the Budha Dal was traditionally based, circa 1880

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