Four High Seats of Sikh Authority

(The Four Takhats)

A very informative and highly researched article by Sirdar Kapur Singh ICS about the Five Takhats of Sikhs. Article courtesy 'Sikh Review' Dec.1971
THERE are and legitimately remain only four High Seats of Sikh Authority, the 'Takhts' and a recent innovation of fifth takht set up by ignorant heresiarchs and new con-trollers of the official Board of Management of the Sikh historical shrines (S.G.P.C.) is al-together repugnant to and unwarranted by the true Sikh doctrine or the metaphysical postulates and mythological traditions of India.
Sirdar Kapur Singh ICS

Takht is a Persian word signifying 'the imperial throne,' a concept of total and all-pervasive focus of worldly temporal power such as was supposed to inhere in the shahinshah, the emperor, of the Achaemenian throne. Ex-hypothesis there cannot be more than one takht in the empire and indeed, in the entire world, for, a true and logically whole empire must tend to acquire a total ecumenical sway and the doctrine of co-existence of more than one takht, which is a true Takht, is a self-stultification. But since the Sikh doctrine of Double Sovereignty, miri- piri envisages a sway over the minds and souls of mankind, the entire world and does not contemplate a coercive bondage of the bodies of men, it validates and promulgates a plurality of takhts, coexistent, coeval and complementary.

These takhts, thrones of Double Sovereignty spring from a Hindu tradition of religious dominion, which are grounded in metaphysical postulates of ancient acceptance.

Dominion of religion in the world of phenomena is bound up with the concept of 'space' and the Hindu 'space' is a flat four-directional extension innocent of Einsteinium curvature of depth impregnated into it by the progression of 'Time'. This Hindu 'pure space' is con-ceptual samkaIapbhu, detached from the progression of 'time'. This 'space' is four-directional, east, west, north, south. It is this 'space' in which is encompassed the entire phenomenal world, samsar, the reality that is appearances and the religion as it impinges upon the minds of men-while it is permanently there in the souls of all men-flourishes in relation to his 'space'. The spread and sway of religion in this world, therefore, must be comprehended and described as four directional.

Again, 'numbers' occupy a prominent place in Hindu occultism and the concept of 'num-bers' permeates a great deal many branches of Hindu speculation. Infinities are of particular fascination, circumscribed in cyclic concepts of Time and cosmic ages of the universe. The branch of knowledge, Numerology, ganati is conceived as a branch of Ontology, and the numeral '1', as the first signature and word in the Sikh scripture is grounded in this modality of Hindu metaphysical thought.

According to this Hindu Numerology, while the symbol 'zero', sunya, being the absence of all, comprises all things, the number, 'one' is the number of Divinity, of the fundamental symbol, lingam, of the Sun, signifying bright-ness, light, unity, wisdom. Number 'four' in this system of thought is the perfect number, as it represents all the four directions of the space. Satpath-brahman tells us that, 'as the cow requires four feet, so the yama, sacrifice must have four Vedas and four officiants' Commenting on the description of the 'mind-stuff' in the Upanisads as, caturpada, Samkara, explains, "like the four feet of a cow."

These concepts about the nature of the 'space' and numerological significations are then linked-up with the spread and sway of religion in the world in the Hindu tradition and history, and that explains why whenever a Hindu sect or denomination of religion has laid claim to ecumenical status, it has set up or recognized four chief or primary places of its reverential foci. In the Guru Granth, it is to this mode of understanding of the matter that a reference exists to the ornnipotent omnipresence of God: catur disa kino balu apna (Dhanasri; V) and it is according to this mode of thought that in the ancient Vedic tradition four raj tirath, royal centres of holiness, were recognized, such as Pushkarraj, Prayagraj, Katasraj etc. to each of which one of the cardinal directions E, W, N or S was assigned. Likewise in Brahmanism, caturdham, four residences of the gods, Prayag (E), Dwarkavati (W), Badrinath, (N) and Ramesvaram (S) are recognized. Samkaracarya established catur-math four abbeys, to represent his true inter-pretation of Vedas, Vedanta, such as Jagan-math (E), Dwarkamath (W) Badrimath (N) and Sringerimath (S). Of Vaishnavite Hinduism, there are recognized caturpuri, the four holy towns, beloved of the God, Jagannath Pun, Dwarkapuri and so on. Gautam, the Buddha before his mahaparinirvan, the great demise, specified four places, that of his birth, his enlightenment, his first sermon and his demise as the places worthy of homage for the Buddhists, Lumbanivan, Gaya, Sarnath and Kusinar representing four directions of the Hindu 'space' and hence signifying ecumenical claim.

Again, there are recognized two categories of holy places in our Hindu tradition, sthapat, established or appointed and svayambhu, ever-there, self-existent. A centre of holiness may be set up or created by historical accident, association or appropriate ceremonies, or it may be there since the beginning of creation but may be discovered through a sign, or authoritative pointing out. There are temples of Vishnu and Siva of hoary antiquity that were so discovered through a royal dream or yogic flash and then magnificent buildings and idols were set up there and there are temples that were definitely 'established' at a contingent point of time

It is in this context that the significance and validity of char takht, the Four Seats of Sikh authority, must be appreciated. These takhts do not originate and are not validated by historical occurrences, though they may be accidentally associated with the birth or sojourn of a Sikh Guru or it may be the case, that as Akal Takht, it was 'built-up' and signified by a Sikh Guru. These takhts essentially are and remain svyambhn, ever there and no body or no contingent occurrence has created them.

There cannot be more than Four Takhts because '4' is a perfect number, ecumenical in signification and grounded in the ancient metaphysical postulates of our race, while number, '5' is not a perfect number, and it is not a significator of 'space' or territory while a takht must be such a significator. '5' reduces much diversity to meaningful measure, and hence signifies men and things, Pancajana, pancatattava, pancagavya etc. and 'panj-takht' is a wholly unwarranted concept.

Nor does the word, "takht" inscribed on some seal used by the keepers of a historical Sikh shrine, such as occurs in the seal preserved at-Damdama Sahib in Punjab, can make the place a takht a 'seat of Sikh authority' of the category to which the traditional four Takhts belong. In this seal the word, "takht" occurs in its dictionary meaning, in the sense that a royal personage, technically a Sikh Guru, rested, sat or held audience here. Indeed, the inscription on this particular seal itself makes the matter quite clear when it says that it is the seal pertaining to "takht, jagah Guru Gobind Singh ji," that is, 'the throne-locus of the place where Guru Gobind Singh stayed'. On the basis of such a citation to declare the holy Sikh shrine Damdama Sahib as the fifth seat of High Sikh authority is the height of absurdity. Bhai Kahan Singh also in his Mahankosh, 'the Encyclopaedia of Sikh Literature', gives precisely these as the true meanings of the word "takht" as it occurs in Sikh writings. Kiratpur, there is a historical Sikh shrine known as Takht Sahib but it has never be deemed or claimed as one of the High Seats of Sikh Authority.

Damdameh Sahib, now in the Bhatinda District of Punjab is a holy and historical shrine of great historical importance sanctity, but it is not the fifth takht, in meanirig of a 'Sikh seat of authority,' and there is no human authority, now or ever, who can create new takhts valid in and accept. to the Sikh doctrine.