Guru Hargobind

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Guru Hargobind
ਗੁਰੂ ਹਰਿਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਜੀ
Guru Har Gobind.jpg
Opaque watercolor on paper
Government Museum, Chandigarh
Born 19 June 1595 (1595-06-19)
Guru Ki Wadali, Amritsar, Punjab, India
Died 3 March 1644 (1644-03-04) (aged 48)[1]
Kiratpur Sahib, India
Other names The Sixth Master
Saccha Badshah
Known for
Predecessor Guru Arjan
Successor Guru Har Rai
Religion Sikhism
Spouse(s) Mata Damodari, Mata Nanaki and Mata Maha Devi
Children Baba Gurdita, Baba Suraj Mal, Baba Ani Rai, Baba Atal Rai, Guru Tegh Bahadur, and Bibi Biro
Parent(s) Guru Arjan & Mata Ganga

Guru Hargobind [ɡʊru həɾɡobɪnd], was the sixth of the Sikh gurus. He was eleven years old when he became Guru on 30 May 1606, after the execution of his father, Guru Arjan, by the Mughal emperor Jahangir.[2] He is remembered for initiating a military tradition within Sikhism to resist Islamic persecution and protecting the freedom of religion.[2][3] He had the longest tenure as Guru, lasting 37 years, 9 months and 3 days.

Early years[edit]

Guru Hargobind was born in 1595 in Vadali Guru, a village 7 km west of Amritsar.[1][4] His father, Guru Arjan, the fifth Guru of the Sikh faith, had been arrested, tortured and killed by order of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir.[3][5] On 25 May 1606 Guru Arjan had nominated Hargobind as his successor and, after his execution on 30 May, the succession ceremony took place on 24 June 1606.[2][4] Guru Hargobind had been advised by his father to start a military tradition to protect the Sikh people.[3] and at the time of his ascension, he put on two swords: one indicated his spiritual authority (piri) and the other, his temporal authority (miri).[2][6] He thus founded the military tradition in the Sikh faith.[2][3] Guru Hargobind had three wives: Mata Damodari, Mata Nanaki and Mata Maha Devi.[1][7]

Guru Hargobind excelled in matters of state, and his Darbar (court) was noted for its splendour. 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 the Punjab were recruited as infantry. Guru Hargobind built a fortress at Amritsar called Lohgarh "Fortress of iron". He had his own flag and war-drum which was beaten twice a day.


The Guru was a brilliant martial artist (shastarvidya)[8] and an avid hunter.[9] Guru Hargobind encouraged people to maintain physical fitness and keep their bodies ready for physical combat.

Samarth Ramdas and Guru Hargobind[edit]

Guru Hargobindji and Samarth Ramdas

According to Sikh tradition based on an old Punjabi manuscript Panjah Sakhian, Samarth Ramdas met Guru Hargobind (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 1630`s during Samarth Ramdas's pilgrimage travels in the north and Guru Hargobind`s journey to Nanakmata in the east. It is said that as they came face to face with each other, Guru Hargobind 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 Swami Ramdas.

"Guru Nanak was a Tyagi sadhu - a saint who had renounced the world. You are wearing arms and keeping an army and horses. You allow yourself to be addressed as Sacha Patshah, the True King. What sort of a sadhu are you?" asked the Maratha saint.

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, i.e. self and ego:

"batan faquiri, zahir amiri, shastar garib ki rakhya, jarwan ki bhakhiya, Baba Nanak sansar nahi tyagya, Maya tyagi thi."

These words of Guru Hargobind found a ready response in the heart of Samartha Swami Ramdas who, as quoted in Pothi Panjak Sakhian, spontaneously said, "this appealeth to my mind - Yeh hamare man bhavti hai" [10] [11]

Relations with Jahangir and wars with Mughals[edit]

Guru Hargobind is released from Gwalior Fort by Jahangir's order

The reasons for Guru Hargobind to arm his followers were many. Both externally and internally, the situation was changing. The Guru had to adjust his policy to the demands of the new environment. Sikhism had developed its organisation mostly during the tolerant days of Akbar. Akbar had never interfered with the development of Sikhism. He had even helped the Gurus in various ways. But the execution of Guru Arjan at the hands of Jahangir and imprisonment of Guru Hargobind definitely showed that sterner days were ahead. The policy of mere peaceful organisation no longer sufficed. Both Guru Arjan and Guru Hargobind had foreseen that protecting the Sikh community without the aid of arms was no longer possible.[6] The death of his father at the hands of Jahangir prompted him to emphasize the military dimension of the Sikh community. 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.[12]

These aggressive moves prompted Jahangir to jail Hargobind at Gwalior Fort. It is not clear as to how much time he spent as a prisoner. The year of his release appears to have been either 1611 or 1612. By that time, Jahangir had more or less reverted to tolerant policies of Akbar and the conservatives at the Mughal court had fallen out of his favor. After finding Hargobind innocent and harmless, he ordered his release.[12][13][14] According to Sikh tradition, 52 Rajas who were imprisoned in the fort as hostages for opposing the Mughal empire were dismayed as they were losing a spiritual mentor. Guru Hargobind requested the Rajas to be freed along with him as well and stood surety for their loyal behavior. Jahangir ordered their release as well. Hargobind got a special gown stitched which had 52 hems. As Hargobind left the fort, the captive kings caught the hems of the cloak and came out along with him.[15] During Jahangir's reign, he 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.[16]

After his release, his relations with Jahangir remained mostly friendly and he held a position in the administration during his rule. 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.[17][18][19]

War with Shah Jahan[edit]

During the reign of Shah Jahan, relations became bitter again. Shah Jahan was intolerant. He destroyed the Sikh baoli at Lahore. [20] The quarrels between Mughal officials and the Sikhs originally started over hawks or horses, but subsequently led to risings on a large scale and were responsible for the deaths of thousands of persons on both sides.[6] Battles were fought at Amritsar, Kartarpur and elsewhere. Guru Hargobind 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.[21] Guru Hargobind grasped a sword and marched with his soldiers among the troops of the empire, or boldly led them to oppose and overcome the provincial Muslim governors or personal enemies.[22]

A childhood friend of Guru Hargobind, 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 Guru Hargobind as an ever-present danger. Painde Khan was appointed leader of the provincial troops and marched upon the Guru. Guru Hargobind was attacked, but the warlike apostle slew the friend of his youth, with his own hand, and proved again a victor.[21] Guru Hargobind also fought the Battle of Kartarpur. He died at Kiratpur Rupnagar, Punjab, on 19 March 1644.


During the era of Guru Hargobind, 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.[23]

Guru Hargobind had no regard for idol worship. One of his followers cut off the nose of an idol; on complaints from various neighboring 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?"[23]


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.
  • 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.
  • The city Hargobindpur, in Majha region of Punjab, is named after him, which he won over from Mughals after defeating them in a battle.

Battles and skirmishes[edit]

  1. Battle of Rohilla
  2. Battle of Amritsar (1634)
  3. Battle of Kartarpur
  4. Battle of Kiratpur
  5. Battle of Gurusar
  6. Battle of Hargobindpur


  1. ^ a b c Fauja Singh. "HARGOBIND GURU (1595-1644)". Encyclopaedia of Sikhism. Punjabi University Punjabi. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e HS Syan (2013), Sikh Militancy in the Seventeenth Century, IB Tauris, ISBN 978-1780762500, pages 48-55
  3. ^ a b c d Pashaura Singh (2005), Understanding the Martyrdom of Guru Arjan, Journal of Philosophical Society, 12(1), pp. 29-62
  4. ^ a b HS Singha (2009), Sikh Studies, Book 7, Hemkunt Press, ISBN 978-8170102458, pages 18-19
  5. ^ Louis E. Fenech, Martyrdom in the Sikh Tradition, Oxford University Press, pages 118-121
  6. ^ a b c V. D. Mahajan (1970). Muslim Rule In India. S. Chand, New Delhi, p.223. 
  7. ^ Fenech and McLeod (2014), Historical Dictionary of Sikhism, 3rd Edition, Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 978-1442236004, page 145
  8. ^
  9. ^ Grewal, J.S. Sikh History from Persian Sources: Translations of Major Texts ISBN 978-8185229171 "Many person became his disciples. Nanak believed in the Oneness of God and in the way that it is asserted in Muhammadan theology. He also believed in transmigration of souls. Holding wine and pork to be unlawful, he had [himself] abandoned eating meat. He decreed avoidance of causing harm to animals. It was after his time that meat-eating spread amongst his followers. Guru Arjan Dev, who was one of his lineal successors, found this to be evil. He prohibited people from eating meat, saying, 'This is not in accordance with Nanak's wishes'. Later, Guru Hargobind, son of Guru Arjan, ate meat and took to hunting. Most of their [the Guru's] followers adopted his practice.
  10. ^ Dr.Ganda Singh (1979). Guru Hargobind and Samarth Ram Das :Punjab Past and Present 13(1). pp. 240–242. 
  11. ^ Sikhiwiki (2015). Guru Hargobind and Samarth Ramdas Meeting. 
  12. ^ a b Phyllis G. Jestice (2004). Holy People of the World: A Cross-cultural Encyclopedia, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. pp. 345, 346. ISBN 9781576073551. 
  13. ^ Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair (2013). Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed. A & C Black. p. 48. ISBN 9781441117083. 
  14. ^ Raj Pal Singh (2004). The Sikhs : Their Journey Of Five Hundred Years. Pentagon Press. pp. 22, 23. ISBN 9788186505465. 
  15. ^ Surjit Singh Gandhi (2007). History of Sikh Gurus Retold: 1606-1708 C.E. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 52. ISBN 9788126908585. 
  16. ^ Jaques, Tony. Dictionary of Battles and Sieges. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 860. ISBN 978-0-313-33536-5. Retrieved 31 July 2010. 
  17. ^ Jasbir Singh Sarna (2014). The Sikh Shrines in Jammu & Kashmir. p. 28. ISBN 9788186741306. 
  18. ^ Surjit Singh Gandhi (2007). History of Sikh Gurus Retold: 1606-1708 C.E. Atlatic Publishers & Distributors. p. 506. ISBN 9788126908592. 
  19. ^ Joseph Davey Cunningham, H.L.O. Garrett (2012). "A History of the Sikhs from the Origin of the Nation to the Battles of the Sutlej". Asian Educational Services. p. 57. ISBN 9788120609501. 
  20. ^ Sikhism Origin and Development By Dalbir Singh Dhillon, p121 "In the year A. D. 1632, Shah Jahan revived his religious policy and issued ... of his policy, the Gurdwara and a Baoli at Lahore was destroyed and a mosque was erected over its place"
  21. ^ a b Cunningham, Joseph Davey. A History Of The Sikhs (1853 ed.). London: John Murray. p. 55. 
  22. ^ Cunningham, Joseph Davey. A History Of The Sikhs (1853 ed.). London: John Murray. p. 53. 
  23. ^ a b Cunningham, Joseph Davey. A History Of The Sikhs (1853 ed.). London: John Murray. p. 57. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer (2005), Sikh Twareekh Vich Akal Takht Sahib Da Role, Sikh University Press.
  • Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer (2011), Akal Takht Sahib (Concept & Role), Sikh University Press.
  • Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer (2008), Sikh Twareekh (5 volumes), Sikh University Press.
  • Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgeer (2012), SIKH HISTORY in 10 volumes, Sikh University Press.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Guru Arjan
Sikh Guru
25 May 1606 - 3 March 1644
Succeeded by
Guru Har Rai