Guru Har Gobind was born to Guru Arjan Dev on June 19, 1595 at Wadali, a village near Amritsar. The period of Guru's early life is alluded to in the previous chapter. After the Martyrdom of his father (Guru Arjan), the Guru caused the Adi Granth to be read by Bhai Buddha and the musicians of the temple sang the Guru's hymns. This lasted for ten days. When the final rites were over, Bhai Buddha started the ceremony of Guruship. It should be remembered here that when Guru Arjan's wife went to Bhai Buddha for boon of a son, she had prepared the meals with her own hands, and she took bread with onions. Bhai Buddha while eating had said," The Guru is the owner of the storehouse, but I have received an order to open it. As you have given me food to my heart's content, so shall you have a son to your heart's content. He shall be very handsome and brave, possess spiritual and temporal power, become a mighty hunter, ride on royal steeds, wear two swords, be puissant in battle, and trample on the Mughals. As I crush these onions you have brought to me, so shall your son crush the heads of his enemies,
and be at once a great warrior and exalted Guru. His shall not be the humble seat of a village Guru, but a gorgeous imperial throne." As usual Bhai Buddha placed before the Guru a seli (a woolen cord worn as a necklace or twisted round the head by the former Gurus) and a turban, as appurtenances of his calling. The Guru ordered the seli to be placed in the treasury and reminding him about his prophecy said to Bhai Buddha,"My endeavors shall be to fulfil thy prophecy. My seli shall be a swordbelt, and I shall wear my turban with a royal aigrette. Give me a sword to wear instead of seli." The sword was brought but Bhai Buddha placed it on the wrong side of Guru Har Gobind. The Guru said,"Bring another one, I shall wear two swords." He wore two swords which were emblems of Spiritual and Temporal authority- Piri and Miri- the combination of 'Bhakti and Shakti'.
The martyrdom of Guru Arjan was an unparallel act in the history of mankind. The Guru had all the superpowers. He could have averted the situation in any way he liked, but he went through all that torture to show to the world how in all thick and thin one should cheerfully submit to the sweet Will of God. As a atter of fact, the contents of the Adi Granth were not meant for the Yogis, Sidhas and Sanyasis or the Muslim Suffis only, who sit in seclusion in the caves of the Himalayas and worship the Almighty by denouncing the world. Instead the teachings of the Adi Granth were meant for the family men. Leading the family life, the Gurus gave practical examples as how to live according to Guru's Word.
The cruel and torturous execution of Guru Arjan aroused a very strong wave of angry feelings among the masses. The enlightened, but not passive, sufferings of the Guru instilled a new spirit and life into the people and they resolved to exert and sacrifice themselves for the sake of righteousness. For centuries, countless Hindu men, women and children had fallen under the Muslim sword and this did not soften the stone hearts of their oppressors; but rather they had become more cruel and brutal. Sometimes it might be possible to reform the evil doer by opposing untruth and injustice through non-violent methods. The silent resistance and suffering for righteous cause might sometimes enable the tyrant to see his evil actions and he might be improved. History stands witness that no amount of non- violence can succeed against a tyrant who is hardened and steeped in criminal oppressive ways and who pays no heed to basic values of moral and civilized conduct. Against such men, non-violence is only another name of disgraceful cowardice in their dictionary. Such power drunk men must be faced bravely with a stick bigger than theirs. After the inauguration, some Masands represented to the Guru's mother that the preceding five Gurus never handled arms; if Emperor Jahangir heard about this, he would be angry and where would they (Sikhs) hide? She showed courage to the Masands, however, she remonstrated with the young Guru,"My son, we have no treasure, no state revenue, no landed property and no army. If you walk in the way of your father and grandfather, you will be happy." The Guru recited the following verse:
"The Lord who is the Searcher of all hearts Is my own Guardian."
(Bhairon Mohalla 5, p-1136)
and said,"Have no anxiety and everything shall be according to the Will of God."
The Invincible Guru
Several fruitless efforts were made on the life of Guru Hargobind right from his infancy. A snake-charmer was bribed who let loose a poisonous snake. But the Great Guru overpowered the snake.
The Guru issued an order to the Masands that he would be pleased with those who brought offerings of arms and horses instead of money. He laid down the foundation of Akal Takhat (Timeless Throne) in 1606 (the fifth day of light half of month of Har, Sambat 1663) just in front of Hari Mandar, and it was completed in 1609. Akal Takhat was built of solid bricks on a raised platform of about ten feet in height and looked like a throne. The Guru took his seat on it. He built Akal Takhat a few yards in front of Hari Mandar with a view that a Sikh at Akal Takhat should not forget that spiritual elevation was as essential as his social obligations. As a matter of fact, the Guru wanted his followers to be 'saint-soldiers', extremely cultured, highly moral with spiritual height and be ever-ready to measure swords with demonic forces. Bhai Buddha on seeing the Guru in military harness, mildly remonstrated with him. Instead the Guru replied,"In the Guru's house religion and worldly enjoyment shall be combined- the caldron to supply the poor and the needy, and the scimitar to smite the oppressors." (This should be noted by those Sikhs who say that worldly and practical affairs should be kept separate from religion in our Gurdwaras).
Several warriors and wrestlers came to the Guru for service. He enrolled fifty-two heroes as his body-guard and this formed the nucleus of his future army. About five hundred young persons came from all over the Punjab to enlist in his service. He made Bhai Bidhi Chand, Bhai Jetha, Bhai Piara, Bhai Langaha, and Bhai Pirana, each captain of a troop of one hundred horse. People began to wonder how the Guru could continue to maintain such an army. The Guru quoted:
"God provideth every one with his daily food; why, O man, art thou immersed planning;
He putteth their food even before the insects which He created in rocks and stones."
(Gujri Mohalla 5, p-495)
Akal Takhat grew into an institution which symbolized in itself the idea that the use of sword for the protection of righteousness and for self-defence was called for. Here the Guru sitting on his throne, would watch wrestling bouts and military feats of his disciples performed in the open arena opposite to the Akal Takhat. As all intricate cases and disputes were finally decided here by the Guru, the Akal Takhat served the purpose of a Supreme Court for the Sikhs. Besides throne, the Guru adopted all other emblems of royalty- the umbrella, the swords, the crest and the hawk, and thus the Sikhs called him a true king or 'Sacha Padshah'- a king in all appearance but in deeds and in purity as holy and great as previous Gurus. People looked towards Akal Takhat for guidance in their secular affairs. This custom became so significant that the decision once taken at Akal Takhat was followed by the Sikhs enthusiastically and this was the reason that they were always able to overcome every peril. The development of this custom contributed a lot towards the consolidation of the Sikh Movement.
Some writers charge that lure of politics and glamour of arms led the Guru away from the true path of a religious and spiritual leader. Their judgement is altogether unfounded. There was no political motive of Guru Har Gobind and there is nothing else to substantiate this allegation. Secondly his daily routine was to go to Hari Mandar, listen Asa di Var and then give religious instructions to his followers. He took keen interest in propagation of his religion and appointed preachers in the various regions of the country. He himself undertook tours to various places in Punjab to propagate his faith. However the policy of the Guru symbolized in itself the response to the challenge of the time. Bhai Gurdas justifies the Guru's change in the policy under peculiar circumstances:
"Just as one has to tie pail's neck while taking out water, Just as to get 'Mani', snake is to be killed;
Just as to get Kasturi from deer's neck, deer is to be killed;
Just as to get oil, oil seeds are to be crushed;
To get kernel, pomegranate is to be broken;
Similarly to correct senseless people, sword has to be taken up."
(Bhai Gurdas, Var-34, pauri 13)
Guru Har Gobind appears to have been the first Guru Who systematically turned his attention to the chase. His daily routine at Amritsar was:- He rose before day-break, bathed, dressed in full armor, and then went to Hari Mandar to worship. There he heard Japji and Asa di Var being recited. He then preached to his Sikhs. After the concluding prayer, breakfast was served indiscriminately to the Guru's troops and followers as they sat in rows for the purpose. He would rest for some time and then would go to the chase, accompanied by an army of forest beaters, hounds, tamed leopards and hawks of every variety. Late in the afternoon he sat on his throne and give audience to his visitors and followers. Minstrels sang the Guru's hymns and at twilight the 'Sodar' was read. At the conclusion of the service musical instruments of many sorts were played. At the end all adjourned for their evening repast. A sacred concert was afterwards held in which hymns were sung. Next followed the minstrel Abdulla's martial songs to inspire the Sikhs with love of heroic deeds and dispel feelings unworthy of warriors. The Sohila was then read after which the Guru retired to his private apartment.
BANDI CHHOR- THE GREAT DELIVERER:
Bandi Chhod Satguru
Guru Hargobind ordained Sikhs to arm themselves to resist injustice and tyranny. This annoyed Emperor Jehangir who ordered incarceration of the Guru in the Gwalior Fort. Soon realising his mistake, the Emperor ordered his release but the Guru refused to accept the offer till 52 innocent 'Rajas' were also freed. Instructions were issued that whosoever holds the Guru's dress will be freed. Guru Ji wore a special apron with 52 strings attached to it. Each Raja held one string and walked into freedom.
Chandu was fearful that the Guru might avenge his father. His daughter was still unmarried and he wrote to the Guru for her alliance which was again refused. He, therefore, once again represented to Emperor Jahangir against the Guru. Upon this Jahangir summoned the Guru to Delhi through Wazir Khan. After careful consideration the Guru agreed to go to Delhi and assigned the secular duties of the Hari Mandar to Bhai Buddha and its spiritual duties to Bhai Gurdas. He instructed,"The Har Mandar is specially devoted to God's service, wherefore it should ever be respected. It should never be defiled with any impurity of the human body. No gambling, wine-drinking, light behavior with women, or slander, should be allowed therein. No one should steal, utter a falsehood, smoke tobacco, or contrive litigation in its precincts. Sikhs, holy men, guests, strangers, the poor and the friendless should ever receive hospitality from Sikhs. My people should ever be humble, repeat God's Name, promote their faith, meditate on Guru's words, and keep all his commandments." The Guru then went to Delhi. Through the good offices of Wazir Khan, the Emperor received the Guru with great apparent respect. Seeing him very young and already installed as Guru, the Emperor had a good deal of spiritual discussion in order to test his knowledge of divinity.
The Emperor having heard that the Guru loved the chase requested him to accompany him one day on a hunting excursion. In the forest a tiger rushed towards the Emperor. Elephants and horses took fright, bullets and arrows were discharged towards the tiger but in vain. The Emperor was completely paralysed with fear and called upon the Guru to save him who alighted from his horse, and taking his sword and shield ran between the tiger and the Emperor. As the tiger sprang, he dealt him a blow with his sword and the tiger fell lifeless on the ground. The Emperor thanked his God that he was saved by the Guru through his heroic endeavor.
It was time for the Emperor to visit Agra and he invited the Guru to accompany him. He, after repeated invitations, consented to go. When they both arrived in Agra, the Guru was received with great rejoicing by the people. Seeing increasing friendship between the Emperor and the Guru, Chandu said to himself,"The Guru will take revenge on me whenever he finds an opportunity. I shall only be safe if by some means I succeed in having broken this friendship or having him imprisoned, and thus I should apply all efforts to that end."
The Emperor fell ill and he sent for his astrologer to check upon his stars and find the remedy. Chandu took advantage of the situation and bribed the astrologer heavily to sever connection between the Guru and theEmperor. The astrologer accordingly suggested that a holy man of God should go to the Fort of Gwalior and
pray for the Emperor's recovery there. Chandu on the other hand advised the Emperor that Guru HarGobind was the holiest of men and thus played double role. Jahangir requested the Guru to go to Gwalior, the latter accepted it without hesitation as another mission awaited him there.
There was joy in the Fort when it was known that the Guru was coming. There were fifty-two Indianprinces (Rajas) imprisoned in the Gwalior Fort who were spending their days in lamentation and misery. They believed that they would be released by the Guru's intercession. Hari Das, the governor of the Fort, was happy too, since he had been longing to have 'darshan' (holy sight). He went forth to receive the Guru and prostrated before the Master. The Guru met the princes, comforted them and gave them peace, making them happy even in adversity.
Chandu wrote couple of letters to the governor of the Fort, urging him to poison the Guru and put an end to him. Hari Das, however, put all letters before the Guru as he received them; since he had become his devotee. The Guru recited the following Sabad at that time:
"The slanderer shall crumble down
Like a wall of Kallar; hear, ye brethren, thus shall be known.
The slanderer is glad when he seeth a fault; on seeing anything good he is filled with grief.
He meditateth evil all day long, but it befalleth not; the evil-minded man dieth meditating evil.
The slanderer forgetteth God, and when death approacheth, quarrelleth with God's saint.
The Lord Himself preserveth Nanak, what can wretched man do?"
(Bilawal Mohalla 5, p-823)
Jahangir recovered from illness. The Guru was still in the Gwalior Fort. When the Emperor heard Wazir Khan's pleading on behalf of the Guru (some say, also the pleading of Mian Mir), he ordered that the Guru should be presented to him. On hearing this the imprisoned Rajas were very much distressed. The Master would not leave the Fort unless all the Rajas were also released. The Emperor conceded to his wish and released all the fifty-two princes. From this the Guru is still remembered in Gwalior as Bandi Chhor- the Great Deliverer, the holy man who freed the prisoners. There still stands a shrine 'Bandi Chhor' in the historic Fort of Gwalior.
Mian Mir brought home to the Emperor the innocence of Guru Arjan and how under his cruel orders, the great divine Master had been tortured to death. The Emperor, however, washed his hands clean of this sin and held Chandu entirely responsible for this crime, who was then arrested by the Emperor's order and taken to Lahore to be executed there. He was paraded through the streets of Lahore, people threw filth on him, and cursed him. A grain-parcher struck him on the head with an iron ladle and Chandu died. When the Emperor heard Chandu's death, he remarked that he richly deserved this fate. The Guru, however, prayed that as Chandu had suffered torment for his sins in this life, God would pardon him hereafter.
Sujan, a Masand from Kabul who had amassed great wealth from tithes and offerings, heard that Guru Har Gobind had great love for the horses. He looked far and near and ultimately found a horse of rare beauty and speed which he purchased for a lakh of rupees to make an offering to the Guru. When Sujan was crossing the river Indus, the eye of an officer fell on the horse which was of a rare strain and beauty and he ultimately took away the horse saying that the animal should go to the Emperor. Sujan told the Guru how he was robbed of the horse. The Guru recommended patience and predicted that nobody but himself (Guru) would ride that horse.
When the Emperor desired to mount, the horse shook its head which was considered a bad omen. After sometimes the horse fell ill and would neither eat nor drink. All known medicines were tried but in vain. When the horse was on the verge of death, the head Qazi (Rustam Khan) suggested that if the holy Quran was read for him, he might recover. Upon this the horse was presented to the Qazi.
When the Qazi was leading the horse home, the animal neighed as it passed through the Guru's tent (Guru was at Lahore at that time). Through negotiations with the Qazi, the horse was purchased for ten thousand rupees. The Guru patted on the neck of the horse and it started recovering its strength.