Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji (Gurmukhi: ਗੁਰੂ ਹਰਿਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਜੀ) was the sixth of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism. He became Guru on 11th June 1606 following in the footsteps of his father Guru Arjan Dev Sahib Ji. While the ceremonial rites were being performed by Baba Buddha Ji, Guru Hargobind Ji asked Baba Buddha to adorn him with a sword rather than the Seli (woolen cord worn on the head) of Nanak which had been used previously by the earlier Gurus.
Guru Hargobind Ji then put on not one but two swords; one on his left side and the other on his right. He declared that the two swords signified “Miri” and “Piri”, “Temporal Power” and “Spiritual Power”. One would to deliver a powerful blow to the oppressor and the other would protect the innocent. He told his followers: “In the Guru’s house spiritual and temporal powers shall be combined”. “My rosary shall be the sword-belt and on my dastar I shall wear a kalgi”. A kalgi an ornament for the dastar, which at the time was worn by mughal and hindu rulers.
Guru Hargobind Ji carried the same light of Guru Nanak Dev Ji; but he added to it the quality of the sword. Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji was also the inventor of the Taus. Guru Ji watched a peacock singing one day, and wished to make a instrument to mimic the same sound as the peacock, so the Taus was invented.
The following is a summary of the main highlights of Guru Ji’s life:
• Introduced martial arts and weapons training and created a standing Military force for the defense of the masses following his father’s martyrdom.
• Carried 2 swords of Miri and Piri.
• Built the Akal Takht in 1608 – which is now one of five Takhts (Seats of Power) of the Sikh Religion.
• Founded the city of Kiratpur in District Rupnagar, (old name Ropar), Punjab
• Was held in the fort of Gwalior for one year, ostensibly to pray for the recovery of the ill Emperor Jahangir (the Guru had willingly gone to the fort). When Jahangir ordered his release, he refused to leave unless 52 imprisoned hindu Rajas were freed as well. Cleverly he earned their freedom by turning the Emperor’s own words against him. To mark this occasion, Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chorr Divas to celebrate his release and return to Amritsar.
• First Guru to engage in warfare, fighting and winning 4 defensive battles with Mughal forces.
• The city Hargobindpur, in Majha region of Punjab, is named after him, which he won over from Mughals after defeating them in a battle.
Arming and martial training
During his captivity, when the Saintly and peaceful Guru Arjan Dev Ji was under the severest torture, he concentrated and relied on God for guidance to save the nascent Sikh Sangat from annihilation. The only solution revealed to him was to guard it through the use of arms. He pondered over the problem again and again and finally concluded that the militarisation of Sikhism had become a necessity.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji sent a Sikh to his young son, the eleven year old Hargobind, nominating him as the Guru of the Sikhs (his devotees), giving him Guru Arjan’s last injunction, “Let him sit fully armed on his throne and maintain an army to the best of his capacity”.
Guru Hargobind Ji excelled in matters of state and his Darbar (Court) was noted for its splendor. The arming and training of some of his devoted followers began, the Guru came to possess seven hundred horses and his Risaldari (Army) grew to three hundred horsemen and sixty gunners in the due course of time. Additionally five hundred men from the ‘Majha area of Punjab’ were recruited as infantry.
Guru Hargobind Ji built a fortress at Amritsar called ‘Lohgarh’ (Fortress of Steel). He had his own flag and war-drum which was beaten twice a day. Those who had worked to have Guru Arjan Dev Ji destroyed now turned their attention and efforts to convincing Jahangir that the fort, the Akal Takht and the growing Risaldari were all intended to allow Guru Hargobind Ji to one day take revenge for his father’s unjust death.
Guru Ji was born on 5th July 1595 to Mata Ganga Ji and Sri Guru Arjan Dev Sahib Ji in village Wadali of district Amritsar. He was merely eleven years old when Guru Arjan Dev Sahib Ji was martyred after being jailed, fined and tortured while under arrest by Jahangir’s orders.
According to the chronicles, Guru Arjan Sahib Dev Ji and and Mata Ganga Ji did not have a child for a long time, until Mata Ganga Ji sought the blessings of Baba Budha Ji for an offspring. Budha Ji told her that she would give birth – to an extraordinarily chivalrous son. Shortly after that Guru Hargobind Ji was born.
Several efforts were made on the life of young Hargobind even in his infancy. A snake-charmer was bribed to let loose a poisonous snake, but the young Guru to be overpowered the snake.
At the time of his installation as the Guru, Guru Ji asked Baba Budha Ji to discard the earlier tradition of donning him with the Seli of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, preferring instead to be adorned with a sword, but contrary to the prevalent hindu and muslim traditions, where the new ruler was donned with a sword (as a symbol of his role as the ruler of the state) Guru Ji asked to be donned with two swords, explaining that one signified his temporal powers and the other his spiritual power. His purpose was not to mix religion with politics, but to take up the cause of the exploited and defend them against the oppression of the rulers.
Thus, Guru Hargobind Ji clearly separated religion and politics. Religion had always been intermixed with politics in India and as a result the people were subjected to persecution and injustice. Since the tolerant days of Akbar, who had made an effort to fuse the religions of Indias, his son Jahangir had listed to the long neglected muslim Ulema demanded that Islam control the politics of the Mughal Empire. The religion of the ruling classes oppressed the people, using the shield of religion. That is why the politicians have always entangled religion with politics.
The Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji occupies a special place in Sikh history because, after Guru Arjan Dev Sahib Ji’s martyrdom, he gave a new direction to the course of events. Along with his spiritual authority, he exercised temporal authority too by expounding the concept of Miri and Piri (the temporal and the spiritual). In Indian history the advent of Sikhism and the establishment of the Mughal Empire took place at the same time. Guru Nanak Dev Ji was not against Islam, in fact Guru Nanak’s first words pointed to the needlessness of hinduism and the muslim religions being at odds; Their is no Musalmaan, there is no hindu.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji and the four Gurus that followed expounded peace, equality and freedom for all. It was only after Guru Arjan Dev Ji left his heavenly abode that it became all to clear that a defensive military stance might be required to bring this about. Injustice, oppression and exploitation were the order of the day. The scourges of caste divisions, religious discrimination and superstitions was making life into a living hell for the ordinary person. The oppressors and the oppressed were both muslims and hindus. Guru Hargobind Singh Ji used both the powers of worship and of the sword to fight this oppression.
After his installation as the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji issued many edicts. He set up an army, acquired arms and horses, hoisted the Sikh flag and ordered the building of an exceptionally large and thundering drum called the nagara, which was used to gather the sangat for his announcements. In 1663 he assigned the task of building the Akal Takht to two of his most trusted devotees, in front of Harmandir Sahib. On this platform, seated with all the regal adornments of a mughal or hindu ruler, he would listen to the woes and complaints of the people and issue edicts.
Guru Hargobind Ji constructed the Akal Takht (God’s throne) in front of Harmandir in 1606. He sat on a raised platform of twelve feet, attired in princely clothes. The Harmandir Sahib Ji was the seat of his spiritual authority and the Akal Takht was the seat of his temporal (worldly) authority. This marked the beginning of Sikh militarisation. To the symbols of sainthood were added marks of sovereignty, including the umbrella and the Kalgi. Guru Hargobind Ji administered justice like a King and awarded honours and meted punishment, as well. The Akal Takht was the first Takht in the history of the Sikhs. According to Cunningham: “The genial disposition of the martial apostle led him to rejoice in the companionship of a camp, in the dangers of war, and in the excitements of the chase”.
State Within A State
The Sikhs had formed a separate and independent identity that had nothing to do with the government agencies of the day. Thus the Sikh entity came to occupy a sort of separate state within the Mughal Empire.
Guru Hargobind Ji established Congregational prayers adding to religious fervour among his Sikhs, but also strengthened their unity and brotherhood. Mohsin Fani, author of ‘Dabistan’, states that when a Sikh wished for a favour or gift from God, he would come to assembly of Sikhs and request them to pray for him; even the Guru asked the Sikh congregation to pray for him.
People Hostile Towards Young Guru
There were many people who were hostile to Guru Hargobind Ji when he assumed leadership of Sikhs. His uncle, Prithi Mal, who was brother of Guru Arjan Dev Ji continued his intrigues against Guru Hargobind Ji. Prithi Mal had unsuccessfully tried to kill Guru Hargobind Ji, when the guru was a child, by unleashing a deadly snake upon him. Prithi Mal continued to complain against him to Emperor Jahangir.
Chandu Shah who had been foremost in complaining to Jahangir against Guru Arjan Dev Sahib Ji transferred his hostilities toward Guru Hargobind Ji.
Shaikh Ahmad Sirhandi too was hostile towards the Sikh Gurus and incited the Emperor.
Jahangir was fearful that Guru Hargobind Ji might seek revenge for his father’s arrest, torture and death.
Guru Hargobind Ji sent his Sikhs to far away places such as Bengal and Bihar to preach Sikhism. Guru Hargobind Ji allowed Udasis to preach Sikhism but did not admit them to Sikhism. Bhai Gurdas mentions (in his var) the names of Nawal and Nihala, two sabharwal khatris, who established their business in Bihar. A lot of local people adopted Sikhism under their influence. In his private life Guru Hargobind Ji never abandoned the true character of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, whose successor he was and whose teachings he spread to the world.
Relations With The Emperor
Alarmed by the rapid growth of the Sikhs under the guidance of Guru Hargobind Ji, those who wished ill-upon the growing Sikh community, joined hands with the rulers of Lahore and traveled to Delhi to voice their complains against Guru Hargobind to the power brokers in the Mughal court and to Jahangir himself. They told Jahangir that Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji was gathering an army and amassing arms, with the intension of avenging his father’s death. They advised him to suppress Guru Ji and the growing Sikh community immediately, but rather than sending an army to attack or arrest him, Jahangir summoned the Guru to Delhi to assess his character and aims, but rather than the hoped for confrontation and arrest of the Guru (that his ill-wishers had hoped for) a surprising thing happened when both the Emperor and his powerful wife were taken by Guru Ji’s charm, grace and Godliness. A friendship and mutual respect soon followed, Guru Hargobind Ji, would even hunt with the Emperor on his grand Shikars. On one remarkable occasion the young Guru saved the life of the Emperor, who he could have easily hated for the death of his father, by jumping between a Lion and the Mughal ruler.
Seeing their scheme to harm Guru Ji going awry and growing fearful of his developing friendship with the Emperor, Chandu Shah used an illness of Jahangir to have the court astrologers predict that only a Holy man praying at a shrine at Gwalior Fort, for a lengthy time, would lead to the Emperor’s recovery. Moved equally by his personal jealousy as well as by superstition and the predictions of his court astrologers, Jahangir ordered the Guru to be imprisoned at the Gwalior fort (other versions have the Guru volunteering to undertake the task).
Though his Sikhs were worried that he would meet the same fate as his father the Guru himself was never worried over his release. The famous muslim Pir Hazrat Mian Mir was among those who reminded Jahangir, who had long since gotten over his illness and seemingly forgotten about the Guru’s confinement in the Fort, to release the Guru. The Guru’s immediate release was ordered, but Guru Ji refused to leave the fort unless the fifty-two Prince who had long languished under confinement, at the fort, were released as well.
Jahangir cleverly agreed that the Guru could take as many of the prince to freedom, as could hold onto the Guru’s clothing. Guru Ji had his darzi (tailor) prepare a coat with 52 ribands or tails and left the fort with the fifty-two rulers trailing behind him, each holding onto a piece of the Guru’s coat. That is why Guru Ji is referred to as the Liberator (Bandi-chor) in history. Bandi Chhorh Diwas is celebrated in honor of the day.
When Guru Ji reached Amritsar his Sikhs lit lamps to welcome him. His arrival also coincided with the traditional Indian festival of Diwali. Since then the festival of Diwali (lighting of lamps) is celebrated as Bandi-Chor diwas by Sikhs.
From Amritsar he went to Lahore where Kaulan, adopted hindu daughter of Kazi Rustam Khan and a follower of Saint Mian Mir came into contact with the Guru due to her dire plight. Guruji asked her to move to Amritsar, where she led a pious life. On Guru Ji’s command, Baba Budha Ji had Gurdwara Kaulsar built in Kaulan’s memory in 1681 of Bikrami calendar. On the invitation of Sikhs of central India he also traveled there where he had Gurdwara Nanak Matta completed. Later he visited Kashmir and secured many followers there. From Jammu and Kashmir, he returned to Punjab via Gujrat.
Wars with Mughals
The reasons for Guru Hargobind Ji to arm his followers were many. Both externally and internally, the situation was changing, and the policy of the Guru had to be adjusted to a new environment. The organisational development of Sikhism had mostly taken place during the tolerant days of Akbar, who had never interfered with it; he had, on the contrary, even helped the Gurus in various ways. But the execution of Guru Arjan Dev Ji at the hands of Jahangir and imprisonment of Guru Hargobind Ji definitely showed that sterner days were ahead, and the policy of mere peaceful organisation no longer sufficed. Guru Arjan Dev Ji had foreseen and Guru Hargobind Ji also clearly saw that it would no longer be possible to protect the Sikh community without the aid of arms. He had a stable of eight hundred horses; three hundred mounted followers were constantly in attendance upon him, and a guard of fifty-six matchlock-men secured his safety in person.
Jahangir could not tolerate the armed policy of Guru Hargobind Ji and consequently imprisoned him. The main reason for leaving him after years was that there were a lot of reports from across the length and width of the country that people were against the throne due to the popularity of the Guru, as well as the unjustified martyrdom of the fifth Guru. A lot of people were following Sikhism, and there was a possibility of a coup if the Guru was not relieved at the earliest. As it is, there were 52 hindu kings in the Gwalior prison at that moment, the policies of Jahangir against the local majority people were oppressive in nature. Therefore, the situation compelled him to order release of Guru Hargobind Ji and save the throne.
During the reign of Shah Jahan, relations became bitter again, for Shah Jahan was intolerant. He destroyed the Sikh baoli at Lahore. The quarrels which originally started over hawks or horses between Mughal officials and the Sikhs subsequently led to risings on a large scale and were responsible for the deaths of thousands of persons on both sides. Battles were fought at Amritsar, Kartarpur and elsewhere. He defeated the Imperial troops near Amritsar. The Guru was again attacked by a provincial detachment, but the attackers were routed and their leaders slain. Guru Hargobind Ji grasped a sword and marched with his devoted soldiers among the troops of the empire, or boldly led them to oppose and overcome the provincial governors or personal enemies.
Forward 1628 Battle of Amritsar – The first battle of Guru Hargobind Ji and the forces of the Mughal army. Shah Jahan worried over the growing influence of the Sikhs and angered by the loss of a valued Hawk seeks to teach Guru Hargobind Ji a lesson.
Forward 1629 Battle Of Hargobindpur – Guru Hargobind Ji and the creation of a town over Ruhela, Revenge by muslims over death of Bhagvan Das.
Forward 1631 Battle Of Gurusar – Guru Hargobind’s horses were snatched by the Mughals and recovered by Gursikh, Bhai Bidhi Chand.
Forward 1634 Battle Of Kartarpur – Guru Hargobind Ji and muslim Pathan Painde Khan turned traitor.
Forward 1634 Battle Of Kiratpur – Guru Hargobind and the final skirmish fought between the rulers of Ropar.
Joti Jot (Merging with God) and Successor
In 1701 Bikrami Guru Ji called his followers and passed on the mantle to his grandson Sri Guru Har Rai Sahib Ji in their presence. The very same evening he left his heavenly abode. It was the third day of March in year 1644.
Source: DISCOVER SIKHISM