On the original plot of land of the Akal Takhat, there only existed a high mound of earth across a wide open space, where Guru Hargobind Sahib ji as a child used to play. The Gurus original Takhat is said to have been a simple platform, 3.5 metres high, on which the Guru would sit like a king at court, surrounded by insignia of royalty such as the parasol and the flywhisk, and perform kingly tasks of receiving petitions and administrating justice. Today’s Akal Takhat is a large 5-storey modern structure (3 storeys were added by Maharaja Ranjit Singh) with inlaid marble and a gold-leafed dome. However, recent restoration work has uncovered a layer of lime plaster, with painted decoration, that may have been part of the original Takhat. That plinth was higher than the plinth of the Harimandir; yet the absence of a superstructure kept the original Akal Takhat at a level lower than the shrine.
The elaboration of the structure on marble pillars, as a semi-circular platform with an open view to the courtyard, reminiscent of an air-house, must have grown from the use to which the Durbar hall was put.
The gilding of the ceiling with ornamentations like those in the interior of the Harmandir Sahib is perhaps later than in the holy of holies. The wall paintings apparently belong to a later period, as there are panels showing Europeans.
The total effect of the Akal Takhat and the open courtyard, in front of the Darshani Deori and the viewa of the Amritsar beyond, is of a unique and noble structure .
The Akal Takht was badly damaged during the assault on the Golden Temple by the Indian army in June 1984. On June 6, 1984 the Indian Army stormed the Golden Temple complex, even bringing its tanks into the Parikrama during the Operation Blue Star. Operation Blue Star was an Indian military operation, ordered by Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India, to stop and suppress its minority “Sikhs”.
The military action led to an uproar amongst Sikhs worldwide and the increased tension following the action led to assaults on members of the Sikh community within India. Many Sikh soldiers in the Indian army mutinied, many Sikhs resigned from armed and civil administrative office and many returned awards and honours they had received from the Indian government. The use of artillery in the congested inner city of Amritsar proved deadly to many Sikh civilians. The media blackout throughout the Punjab resulted in widespread doubt regarding the official stories and aided the promotion of hearsay and rumour. The operation is criticised on four main grounds, the choice of time of attack by Government, heavy casualty, loss of property, and allegation of human rights violations by Army personnel. Untold numbers of Sikhs, hundreds of thousands of innocent pilgrims and city residents were killed in the operation. Many Sikh artifacts dating Gurus time and Sikh Reference Library were burned in the destruction which ensued and many innocent lives were lost.
Re-building of the Akal Takht
At first the Akal Takht was rebuilt by contractors of the Indian Government. A few Sikhs were then excommunicated from Sikhism, for what Sikhs saw as siding with the Indian Government. The rebuilt Akal Takht became known as the ‘Sarkari Takht’ – Sarkari meaning one of the Government and not one of Akal (meaning Immortal one or God).
Buta Singh who was appointed home minister in the Rajiv Gandhi Cabinet was excommunicated from the Sikh Panth for his role in rebuilding a ‘sarkari’ Akal Takht after Operation Blue Star. He finally had to undergo the ‘punishment’ of cleaning the devotees’s utensils and shoes at the Golden Temple for being taken back into the faith.
Sarbat Khalsa 1986
In 1986 the Sikhs at a Sarbat Khalsa meeting of around 500,000 Sikhs in Amritsar decided to tear down the rebuilt Akal Takht or ‘Sarkari Takht’. They then began work on rebuilding the Akal Takht through the Sikh tradition of Kar Seva and Self Service.
The current Akal Takht is the one which was built in 1986 by the Sikhs and took around 9 years to complete. The design is much bigger than the original Akal Takht and so are the rooms within the building to accommodate the bigger flow of pilgrims.
Sarbat Khalsa 1986 by Sikh community also declared an edict from the Akal Takht to establish the sovereign Sikh State of Khalistan.