Its dictionary meaning is, a worshipper of Akal i.e. the Timeless God. Originally, the Akalis were the death-squads of the Sikhs, who spearheaded the task of toppling down the ‘Mughals and Pathans’ political hegemony in the North West of India, according to the programme given to Banda Singh Bahadur by Guru Gobind Singh in the year 1708 A. D. Eversince, these Akalis have been in the vanguard of the Sikh struggle against tyranny and foreign rule and during the Sikh Raj in the Punjab, the Akalis were the custodians of the Seat of Spiritual Sikh Authority, the Akal Takht at Amritsar. These Akalis, the most famous of whom was General Phula Singh, rendered most conspicuous service in establishing Sikh Power up to the Khyber Pass, but they never recognised the political jurisdiction of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the King and always upheld the banner of the supremacy of the mystic Sikh Panth, in all matters, spiritual or political. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was diplomatic enough, not to challenge this legitimate claim of the Akalis, and on one occasion submissively accepted corporal punishment awarded to him at the Akal Takht, Amritsar for a sex-scandal involving breach of the discipline of the Khalsa.
In the year 1922 and afterwards, those who came forward to organize themselves into bands of volunteers to rescue the Sikhs’ Holy shrines from the management of the hereditary priests, who were backed by the British Government, labeled themselves as Akalis and when these well-endowed historical holy shrines passed under the statutory management of elected Sikh representatives, these Akalis captured the management bodies and ever since have maintained their position as the managers of the Sikh Gurdwaras as well as the true spokesmen of Sikh political ideas and aspirations. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee holds sway over the important Sikh Gurdwaras, while the Shiromani Akali Dal which is merely another side of the medal reigns supreme as the political spokesman of the Sikhs.
In current political parlance an Akali is one who holds the view that the management of the Sikh religious institutions must remain outside the control and influence of the Government in power whether in Punjab or at Delhi and who demands that in the North of India there should be a region where the Sikh voice is accorded a special political importance and who further acclaim that politics must not be wholly divorced from the postulates of religion.
Whatever the external dissensions and the fratricidal conflicts amongst these Akali organizations, these three aims and objectives remain as unchanging foundations of the Akali politics and mode of thought.