Hukamnama

What does Hukamnama mean

Made from two Persian words ‘Hukm’, meaning command or order, and ‘Namah’, meaning statement, Hukamnama historically refers to the letters sent by the Sikh Gurus to their Sikhs or Sangats (congregation) in different parts of the country during the period of the Ten Gurus. All Hukamnamas were originally written in Punjabi, in Gurmukhi characters.

It now refers to the ‘Shabd’ (Hymn) that is read after the ‘Ardas’ prayer, in the presence of the Sikh holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. A hymn from a randomly selected left-hand side page from the Guru Granth Sahib is recited on a daily basis in the mornings. This is seen as the order of God for that particular day. The Hukamnama is distributed and then read aloud in Gurdwaras throughout the world.

Currently, the word also applies to edicts issued from time to time from the five ‘Takhats’ or seats of high religious authorities for the Sikhs. The full name of these edicts is ‘Takhat deh Hukamnama’ (The Order of the Takhat).

From the earliest of days

The Hukamnama also includes letters addressed to Sikhs by historical personages. Some of the letters of the later Gurus to Sangats or prominent Sikhs have in recent years have also been traced and published.

Those of Guru Hargobind as also most of Guru Tegh Bahadur’s are believed to have been written in their own hand.

At the time of Guru Gobind Singh, the text was written by a scribe while the Guru put down on the top of the letter an authentication mark.

There is a near uniformity in the format of the Hukamnamas. The earlier ones bore no date while from 1691 onwards, they were usually dated and also, at times, numbered.

The scribes began the text with the words, ‘Sri Guru ji ki agia hai’ (It is the order of the revered Guru, or the revered Guru desires), preceded by – ‘Ik Onkar Guru Sati, later Ik Onkar Satguru’ (Remember One God, the True Guru).

Its place in history

Apart from their importance to the Sikhs as the sacred remembrances of the Gurus, the Hukamnamas are invaluable historical documents. Names of persons and places to which they are addressed provide clues spread of Sikhism geographically.

In addition to blessings from the Gurus, these letters contain instructions for the followers to cultivate love and prayer as well as indications with regard to the offerings they might bring. The demands ranged from cash contribution in the form of gold or hundis (bills of exchange) to pet birds, garments, weapons, cannons and war elephants. Sometimes these demands are written in abbreviated forms.