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Guru Har Gobind

Guru Har Gobind ji

Artist Bodh Rai's immpression of  Sri Guru Hargobind ji

Guru Har Gobind (Punjabi: ਗੁਰੂ ਹਰਿ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਸਾਹਿਬ) also Sacha Badshah (ਸੱਚਾ ਪਾਦਸ਼ਾਹ True King) (19 June 1595–2 March 1644) was the sixth of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism and became Guru on 25 May 1606 following in the footsteps of his father Guru Arjan Dev. He was the sixth Guru in Sikhism. He was not, perhaps, more than eleven at his father's execution. Before ascension, he nominated Guru Har Rai, his grandson as the next Guru of the Sikhs.

Guru Har Gobind was combined in his personality a saint, sportsman and a soldier. His father Guru Arjan Dev was a true saint but the boy Har Gobind had perceived his father's saintliness suffer and erode at the brutal hands of Mughal tyranny. From the very beginning he was the deadly enemy of Mughals.


Early years

Guru Har Gobind was born in Amritsar, Punjab, India on 19 June 1595. When little more than a child, Guru Har Gobind was convinced that sustaining the Panth sword was as essential as saintliness. He put on two swords: one indicated his spiritual authority and the other his temporal authority.He hence advocated that a Sikh Guru would represent both the Miri and Piri, the Shakti which symbolises power and Bhakti which symbolises meditation and the Tegh (Sword) and Degh (Large iron plate used for making bread in India). He decided to wear at his waist two swords instead of one, to chastise the oppressor and to protect the innocent. He declared that the Guru's house would henceforth combine the spiritual and the mundane powers, his rosary would serve also as his sword-belt and an emblem of regality would crown his turban. He built the Akal Takht, the Throne of the Almighty.

He would sit in a regular court with regalia around. Sikhs were commanded to keep a sword and maintain a horse. He enrolled a large number of armed volunteers and even Pathans were welcome to join him. He asked his followers to offer him horses and weapons, instead of money. The character of Guru Nanak's Sikhism and the humming melodies of his sangats(followers) had with Guru Har Gobind combined with them the dazzling brilliance and the deafening sound of swords.

Personality

The Guru was a brilliant martial artist (Shastarvidya), and avid hunter. He encouraged his people to maintain physical fitness and keep their bodies ready for physical combat. His policy was sometimes at odds with more established members such as Baba Buddha; this was, however, accepted by him and others.

Relations with Jahangir and wars with Mughals

The reasons for Guru Har Gobind 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 at the hands of Jahangir and imprisonment of Har Gobind definitely showed that sterner days were ahead and the policy of mere peaceful organisation no longer sufficed. Guru Arjan had foreseen and Guru Har Gobind 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 sixty matchlock-men secured his safety in person.

Jahangir could not tolerate the armed policy of Har Gobind and consequently imprisoned him, and ultimately released him. The relations between the Guru and Jahangir became friendly and continued to remain so.

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 the 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. Har Gobind 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.

A childhood friend of Har Gobind, Painde Khan,whose mother had been the nurse of the Guru, had become his enemy. The cause given,in some accounts, was a valuable hawk of a follower of the Guru which was taken by Khan and when asked for, was resented by him. Other accounts note Khan's vanity and his pride. This opportunity was used by Mughal officials, who saw Har Gobind as an ever-present danger. Painde Khan was appointed leader of the provincial troops and marched upon the Guru. Har Gobind was attacked, but the warlike apostle slew the friend of his youth with his own hand and proved again a victor.

There is an incident narrated by both Sikh and Muslim native accounts. During one of the battles, Har Gobind was rushed upon angrily by a soldier. He not only warded off the blow but struck and laid dead the soldier at his feet. "Not so, but thus is the sword used"; an observation from which the influence is drawn that "Har Gobind struck not in anger, but deliberately and to give instruction; for the function of the Guru is to teach". Har Gobind had many difficulties of a similar kind, but his Sikhs always rallied around him.

Guru Har Gobind breathed his last, peacefully, at Kiratpur Rupnagar, Punjab on 2 March 1644.

Effects

During the era of Har Gobind, in the Sikhs increased greatly in number, and the fiscal policy of Guru Arjan and the armed system of Guru Har Gobind had already formed the Sikhs into a kind of separate entity within the empire. The Guru was not unconscious of his latent influence but in his private life never forgot his genuine character, and always styled himself Nanak, in deference to the firm belief of his Sikhs, that the soul of their great teacher was alive in each of his successors. Har Gobind had no regard for idol worship. One of his followers cut off the nose of an idol; on complaints from various neighbouring chiefs, he summoned the Sikh to his presence; the culprit denied the act, but added, ironically, that if the idol bore witness against him, he would accept punishment willingly. "O fool" replied the chiefs "how will the idol speak". Replied the Sikh "if he can't save his head, then how will he avail you."

Summary

The following is a summary of the main highlights of Guru Har Gobind's life:

* Transformed the Sikh fraternity by introducing martial arts and weapons for the defence of the masses following his father's martyrdom.
* Militarised the Sikh movement – carried two swords of Miri and Piri.
* Built the Akal Takht in 1608 – which is now one of five Takhts (Seats of Power) of the Sikhs.
* Founded the city of Kiratpur in District Jalandhar, Punjab.
* He was imprisoned in the fort of Gwalior for one year and on release insisted that 52 fellow prisoners be freed as well. To mark this occasion the Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas.
* The first Guru to engage in warfare.
* Fought four battles against the Mughal rulers.
* The strongest and the biggest Guru physically.
* The city Hargobindpur, in Majha region of Punjab, is named after him, which he won over from Mughals after defeating them in a battle.