Asserting its supremacy in religious matters, the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikhism, directed Revenue Minister and senior Akali leader, Bikram Singh Majithia to undergo 'tankha' (religious punishment) for religious misconduct involving distortion of 'gurbani' during an election rally of BJP candidate, Arun Jaitley in Amritsar recently.
The 'tankha' involves performing 'sewa' at the 'langars' of all the five Takhts-----the Akal Takht, Takht Keshgarh Sahib at Anandpur Sahib, Takht Damdama Sahib at Talwandi Sabo, Takht Patna Sahib at Patna and Takht Hazoor Sahib at Nanded in Maharashtra. It will also involve listening to 'gurbani' (prayers) at the five Takhts and performing 'Akhand Paath' (continuous recitation of 'gurbani') at the Akal Takht.
Barring the Akal Takht, at the other four Takhts, Majithia will spend a day each performing the 'tankha'. An hour will be spent doing 'sewa' in the community kitchens and another hour will be spent listening to 'gurbani'.
Thereafter, he will come to the Golden Temple and will start ‘Akhand Paath’ at the Akal Takht. As 'bhog' of the 'Akhand Paath' takes three days, during this period he will again perform 'sewa' at the Guru Ram Dass 'langar' of the shrine for an hour each day and will also listen to 'gurbani' for another hour on each of the three days.
He will stand exonerated after he makes an offering of Rs 501 in the 'golak' at the Akal Takht and also offers Rs 101 'karah prasad'. Thereafter, 'ardas' will be performed at the end of the 'bhog' for atonement of the offense that was committed.
Majithia appears before Takht
For hearing the verdict against him, Majithia stood with folded hands below the Akal Takht, while the remaining ' sangat' present remained squatted on the 'parikrama' of the shrine. Attired in white 'kurta pyjama' the minister sported a flowing beard which he normally keeps tied. This was as per tradition, as a Sikh presenting himself before he Akal Takht cannot keep his beard tied.
Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Gurbachan Singh in the presence of the other 'High Priests', read out the 'tankha' over the public address system while standing on the balcony of the Takht. All through his address, the Jathedar referred to the minister as 'Bikram Singh', as surnames and castes are avoided at the Takht.
Reading out the offense against the minister, the Jathedar said that he had distorted a verse of Guru Gobind Singh from 'gurbani'. He did not refer to the verse, 'de ha shiva varr mohe---' and the distortion, 'Nischay kar Jaitley ki jeet karo'.
The Jathedar maintained that the Takht had received a number of complaints from Sikhs in this respect. He also referred to the minister's apology letter and his request that he will be ready to undergo whatever 'tankha' is awarded to him by the Takht.
After announcing the 'tankha', the Jathedar made it clear that as the Akal Takht was supreme, its decision was equally binding on all the other four Takhts. This clearly implies that the decision of Takht Hazoor Sahib of declaring Majitha a 'tankhiya' (guilty of religious misconduct) no longer stands.
Clarifying on the quantum of punishment awarded, Giani Gurbachan Singh said, “The minimum period he has to spend at a task is an hour. However, he is free to continue 'sewa' for two hours or even more if he chooses.”
The Jathedar also made it clear that they had not specified the period for completion of the 'tankha'. “This is because he will have to cover a lot of distance between the Takhts.”
Meeting of clergy
Prior to announcing the 'tankha', the Sikh clergy held a closed door meeting to discuss the apology tendered by the minister. Besides Giani Gurbachan Singh, the other priests who were present included Takht Damdama Sahib Jathedar, Giani Balwant Singh Nandgarh, Takht Keshgarh sahib Jathedar, Giani Mal Singh, besides Giani Jagtar Singh, additional head granthi of Harmandir Sahib and Giani Gurmukh Singh, a granthi at the shrine.
The five deliberated for two hours among themselves and then summoned Majithia, who was waiting outside the Akal Takht Secretariat. This meeting lasted for another two hours before the Jathedars alongwith the minister emerged and headed for the Akal Takht. During the meetings a couple of SGPC members, including Rajinder Singh Mehta also met the clergy.
The minister on his part came to the shrine ahead of the meeting of the clergy. He listened to prayers in the Golden Temple complex and also performed 'sewa' at the 'langar'.
The cops in civil clothes remained present inside and outside the shrine. Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), HS Brar was also there dressed in a white 'kurta pyjama'.
Majithia accepts verdict
Accepting the verdict with folded hands, Majithia told media persons, “I will commence the 'sewa' as soon as possible. I have realized my mistake and have appeared at the Akal Takht as a humble Sikh.
I accept the 'tankha' awarded to me and will perform it as a devoted Sikh as I have the highest regard for the Akal Takht, which is out supreme institution. No one is above the Takht.”