Akal Takht, situated in the precincts of the Darbar Sahib at Amritsar, is the abode of the timeless one, the eternal divine. Akal Takht, throne of the Akal, is the primary seat of Sikh religious and political authority. “Akal” means “without kal” or beyond time, everlasting and “timeless”. The word “Takht” means throne or the seat of authority, hence Akal Takht is the throne of the Supreme Being. Akal Takht is one of the five Takhts, the other four Takhts are associated with Guru Gobind Singh and are situated at Patna, Anandpur, Damdama and Nanded. The Akal Takht at Amritsar, founded by Guru Hargobind, is the oldest of all the Takhts and occupies a special place in Sikh history and religion.
The word “Akal” is used by the Sikh gurus to refer to the formless divine reality, that is, Akal Purakh, pervading everywhere and in every being. The Supreme Being is also Akal Murat — timeless image — as expressed by Guru Nanak in Mul-mantra. He is the only “time” and yet “timeless”; he is the creator as well as the creation. Guru Gobind Singh, in Akal Ustat, praises the Akal and exclaims, “Hail, O Akal, hail, O Kirpal!” Akal Takht symbolises the supremacy of the cosmic reality. The original structure was built by Guru Hargobind as a seat of temporal authority, along with the spiritual authority represented by Harmandir Sahib. Akal Takht and Golden Temple signifies Guru Hargobind’s concept of miri-piri (spiritual-temporal) in a true sense.
According to the historical sources, the Guru had laid the foundation and Bhai Buddha and Bhai Gurdas completed the work. The Guru, referred to as sachcha patshah (true king), used to manage secular affairs and issued hukamnamas to Sikh sangat from the Akal Takht. Hence, the throne is the sachcha takht — true throne. The Akal Takht is a majestic building. The main floor of the building is artistically decorated and also displays some weapons used by the gurus and prominent Sikhs. The takht is the supreme authority and all other takhts and the Sikh community are bound to accept its decisions. It is regarded as the decision of the sarbat khalsa and decrees issued by the Akal Takht are universally applicable to all Sikhs.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh was accorded religious punishment by the head of the Akal Takht, which the maharaja, in the capacity of a Sikh, had accepted graciously. Important religious matters like size of the kirpan, addition of lines in ardas and honouring persons are also taken here. On January 25, 1952, Akal Takht, after the Partition, enjoined upon the entire Khalsa to add lines related to the gurdwaras, now in Pakistan, with the words, “O timeless Lord, the benevolent one, ever the succourer of thy Panth, we pray grant the Khalsaji the privilege of unhindered access to and control and maintenance of Sri Nankana Sahib and other holy shrines and sites from which the Panth has been parted.” The seat of supreme authority for the Sikh community is the Akal Takht.