Guru Har Gobind Ji

Guru Har Gobind Sahib Ji - Guru from (1606 – 1644)

Guru HarGobind Ji was the sixth of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism. He became Guru on the 11 of June, 1606, following the footsteps of his father, Guru Arjan Dev Ji. While the ceremonial rites were being performed by Baba Buddha Ji, Guru HarGobind Ji asked Baba Buddha Ji to adorn him with a sword rather than the Seli of Guru Nanak Dev Ji 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 named one "Miri," representing Temporal Power, and the other "Piri," representing Spiritual Power, one to smite the oppressor and the other to protect the innocent. He told his followers: "In the Guru's house, spiritual and mundane powers shall be combined. My rosary shall be the sword-belt and on my turban I shall wear a Kalgi" (The Kalgi was an ornament for the turban which was worn by the Mughal and Hindu rulers of the era).

Guru HarGobind Ji carried the same light of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, and he added to it the luster of the sword. Guru HarGobind Ji was also the inventor of the Taus. When watching a peacock singing one day, the Guru wished to make an instrument to mimic the sound of the peacock, thus creating the Taus.

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 two swords named Miri and Piri.
  • Built the Akal Takht in 1608 - which is now one of five Takhats (Seats of Power) of the Sikh Religion.
  • Founded the city of Kiratpur in the Rupnagar District , (old name Ropar), Punjab
  • Was willingly held in the fort of Gwalior for one year, ostensibly praying for the recovery of the ill Emperor Jahangir. When Jahangir ordered his release, he refused to leave unless 52 imprisoned Hindu Rajas were set free as well. Cleverly, he earned their freedom by turning the Emperor's own words against him. To mark this occasion, the Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chorr Divas in honor of his release and Diwali in honor of his return to Amritsar.
  • First Guru to engage in warfare: fighting and winning 4 defensive battles against Mughal forces.

Arming and Martial Training

The saintly and peaceful Guru Arjan Dev Ji, when experiencing extreme torture during his captivity, concentrated and relied upon God for guidance to save the nascent Sikh Sangat from annihilation. The only solution revealed to him was to guard the Sangat through the use of arms. He pondered over the problem continuously until finally reaching the conclusion that the militarization of Sikhism had become a necessity. Hence, Guru Arjan Dev Ji sent a Sikh disciple to his young son, the eleven year old HarGobind, to nominate him as the Guru of the Sikhs, giving him the 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 the state and his Darbar (Court) was noted for its splendor. The arming and training of some of his devoted followers began, and once the Guru came to possess seven hundred horses, his Risaldari] (Army) grew to three hundred horsemen and sixty gunners. 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 a war-drum which was beaten twice a day. Those who had worked to have Guru Arjan destroyed now turned their attention and efforts to convincing Jahangir that the Lohgarh fort, the Akal Takhat, and the growing Risaldari army were all intended to allow Guru HarGobind Ji to one day take revenge for his father's unjust death.

Akal Takht

Guru HarGobind Ji constructed the Akal Takht (God's throne) in front of Harmandar Sahib in 1606. There, he sat on a raised platform of twelve feet, attired in princely clothes. The Harmandar Sahib 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 militarization. To the symbols of sainthood were added marks of sovereignty, including the umbrella and the Kalgi. Guru HarGobind administered justice like a king, awarding honors and meting out punishment. 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 which was sovereign from the government agencies of the day. Thus, the Sikh entity came to occupy a sort of independent state within the Mughal Empire.

Congregational prayers

Guru HarGobind Ji established congregational prayers which added to the religious fervor among the Sikhs, while also strengthening their unity and brotherhood. Mohsin Fani, the author of 'Dabistan', states that when a Sikh wished for a favor or gift from God, he would come to the 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 towards Guru HarGobind when he assumed leadership of the Sikhs. His uncle, Prithi Mal, who was the brother of Guru Arjan, continued his intrigues against Guru HarGobind. Prithi Mal had, unsuccessfully, tried to kill Guru HarGobind by unleashing a deadly snake upon when he was a child. Prithi Mal continued to complain about the Guru to Emperor Jahangir.

Chandu Shah, who had been the foremost figure in complaining to Jahangir about Guru Arjan Dev Ji, transferred his hostilities towards Guru HarGobind instead.

Shaikh Ahmad Sirhandi was hostile towards the Sikh Gurus and most probably incited the Emperor, too.

Emperor Jahangir was fearful that Guru HarGobind might seek revenge for his father's arrest, torture, and subsequent death.

Relations with Mughal rulers

Guru Hargobind ji led the Sikh response against Mughal power after Guru Arjan Dev ji's execution.He resisted the Islamic persecution, fighting four wars against Shah Jahan's armies. His attempts to transform the Sikh community brought him in conflict with the Mughal authority.[7][15]


Because of the oppressions by Mughal Emperors, Guru Hargobind ji from the very start was a dedicated enemy of the Mughal rule. He advised Sikhs to arm and fight the Mughals.[11] He symbolically wore two swords, which represented miri and piri (temporal power and spiritual authority). He built a fort to defend Ramdaspur and created a formal court, Akal Takht.[16]

Jahangir responded by jailing the 17 year old Guru Hargobind at Gwalior Fort in 1612, on the pretext that the fine imposed on Guru Arjun Dev ji had not been paid by the Sikhs and Guru Hargobind Sahib.[17] It is not clear as to how much time he spent as a prisoner. The year of his release appears to have been either 1614 or 1615, when Guru Hargobind was about 16 years old.[17] Persian records, such as Dabistan i Mazahib suggest he was kept in jail for twelve years, including over 1617-1619 in Gwalior, after which he and his camp were kept under Muslim army's surveillance by Jahangir.[4][18]

It is unclear why he was released. Scholars suggest that Jahangir had more or less reverted to tolerant policies of Akbar by about 1611 after he felt secure about his throne, and the Sunnis and Naqshbandhi court officials at the Mughal court had fallen out of his favour. Another theory states that Jahangir discovered the circumstances and felt Guru Hargobind ji was harmless, so he ordered his release.[16][17][19]

According to Surjit Singh Gandhi, 52 Rajas who were imprisoned in the fort as hostages for "millions of rupees" and for opposing the Mughal empire were dismayed as they were losing a spiritual mentor. Guru Hargobind ji said Jehangir to let these Rajas be freed along with him and he stood surety for their loyal behaviour. Jahangir accepted this but ordered the release of only as many as could hold onto the hem of his cloak when he walked out. So Guru Hargobind ji got an especially large cloak made and wore it the day of his release. As Guru Hargobind ji left the fort, the other 52 captive rajas held the hem of this cloak and thus were permitted to came out along with him.[20]

After his release, Guru Hargobind ji more discreetly strengthened the Sikh army and reconsolidated the Sikh community.[17] His relations with Jahangir remained mostly friendly. He accompanied Jahangir to Kashmir and Rajputana and subdued Tara Chand of Nalagarh, who had continued for a long time in open rebellion and all efforts to subdue him had failed.[21][22][23] During Jahangir's reign, Guru Hargobind fought a battle against the Mughals at Rohilla. The battle was in response to the militarisation of the Sikhs. The Mughals who were led by Governor Abdul Khan were defeated by the Sikhs.[24]

Shah Jahan

During the reign of Shah Jahan that started in 1627, relations became bitter again. Shah Jahan was intolerant. He destroyed the Sikh baoli at Lahore. In 1628, Sikhs plundered Baaz(Falcon) of mughals, which triggered the first armed conflict.

Sikh army fought battles with the Mughal armies of Shah Jahan at Amritsar, Kartarpur and elsewhere. Guru Hargobind ji defeated the Mughal troops near Amritsar in the Battle of Amritsar in 1634. The Guru was again attacked by a provincial detachment of Mughals, but the attackers were routed and their leaders slain. Guru Hargobind ji also led his armies against the provincial Muslim governors.[28] The Guru anticipated the return of a larger Mughal force, so retreated into Shivalik Hills to strengthen his defenses and army, with a base in Kiratpur where he continued to stay till his death.[26]

Painde Khan was appointed leader of the provincial troops by Shah Jahan and marched upon the Guru. Guru Hargobind ji was attacked, but he won this battle as well. Guru Hargobind also fought the Battle of Kartarpur.

Shah Jahan attempted political means to undermine the Sikh tradition, by dividing and influencing the succession. The Mughal ruler gave land grants to Dhir Mal, living in Kartarpur, and attempted to encourage Sikhs to recognise Dhir Mal as the rightful successor to Guru Hargobind ji. Dhir Mal issued statements in favour of the Mughal state, and critical of his grandfather. Guru Hargobind ji died at Kiratpur Rupnagar, Punjab, on 19 March 1644, but before his death he rejected Dhir Mal and nominated Guru Har Rai ji instead to succeed him as the Guru.

Samarth Ramdas and Guru Hargobind Ji

According to Sikh tradition based on an old Punjabi manuscript Panjah Sakhian, Samarth Ramdas met Guru Hargobind ji (1595-1644) at Srinagar in the Garhval hills. The meeting, corroborated in a Marathi source, Ramdas Swami's Bakhar, by Hanumant Swami, written in 1793, probably took place in the early 1630s during Samarth Ramdas's pilgrimage travels in the north and Guru Hargobind ji's journey to Nanakmata in the east. It is said that as they came face to face with each other, Guru Hargobind ji had just returned from a hunting excursion. He was fully armed and rode a horse. "I had heard that you occupied the Gaddi of Guru Nanak", said the Maratha saint Ramdas, and asked what sort of sadhu was he. Guru Hargobind replied, "Internally a hermit, and externally a prince. Arms mean protection to the poor and destruction of the tyrant. Baba Nanak had not renounced the world but had renounced Maya".

Battles and skirmishes

  • Battle of Rohilla
  • Battle of Amritsar
  • Battle of Kartarpur