The title Akal Takhat comprises two words: Akal meaning Timeless God and Takhat denoting a throne, thus 'the throne of the Timeless God'. The Akal Takhat is a multi-story structure. It was originally built by the sixth guru, Hargobind, in 1609 and faces the Golden Temple. Its establishment signifies the turning point in the history of the Sikh movement.
After the martyrdom of the fifth guru, Arjun Dev, in 1606, his son, Hargobind, took over the leadership. At his investiture, he wore two swords symbolising the doctrine of miri(temporal authority) and piri(spiritual authority). Under his leadership the Sikh movement accepted the challenge of the Mughal authorities and innovated a radical strategy of defending their faith. It is recorded how he sat on a raised platform in the Akal Takhat and issued hukamnamas (orders of the day) to the Sikhs to bring horses and arms as daswandh(a tenth of one's earnings).
The Akal Takhat was reserved for discussing the social and political concerns of the Sikh community while the Golden Temple(Sri Darbar Sahib) represented the spiritual authority. During the eighteenth century, leaders of the Sikh misls(armies) used to meet at te Akal Takhat for formulating joint strategy against the Mughal forces.
These meetings were particularily known as Sarbat Khalsa. They met in the presence of Adi Granth and the resolutions approved at the meetings were called gurmatas(guru's intention) which were binding on everyone present in the meetings. The Akal Takhat played a key role in the development of political consciousness among the Sikhs which, in 1799, resulted in the establishment of a sovereign Sikh state in the Punjab.
Five historic gurdwaras are designated as takhats(seat of authority) including the Akal Takhat which is the supreme Takhat of Sikh faith. The hukamnamas issued from Akal Takhat are regarded as having the authority of the Guru. During the period of the British rule most socio-relegious compigns, such as the Gurdwara Reform Movement, were launched from the Akal Takhat.
In 1984, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwaley, the charismatic militant leader, launched his compaign for the establishment of Khalistan from the Akal Takhat. The Indian Army attacked the Akal Takhat to dislodge Bhindrawaley and his followers; this action resulted in a considerable loss of life among both Sikhs and soldiers, and the virtual destruction of the Akal Takhat. The attack on the Akal Takhat generated profound feelings of resentment within the Sikh world. As a result, Indira Gandhi, theprime minister of India, was murdered by two of her Sikh bodyguards.