Dr Amrit Kaur | May 26, 2023 02:35 AM

Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib (1595-1644) the Sixth Guru (prophet teacher) of the Sikhs was the only son of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the Fifth Guru of the Sikhs and Mata Ganga Ji. He was born on Har Vadi 7, 1652 Bikrimi i.e. June 19, 1595 at Vadali (now called Vadali Guru) about 8 kms from Amritsar.

His childhood was wrought with miseries because his paternal uncle, Prithi Chand, who had not been given the Guruship by Sri Gur Ram Das Ji, grand-father of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib, wanted to take vengeance on his father i.e. Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Thus, Prithi Chand made many attempts to kill the child Hargobind Ji during his infancy. Prithi Chand gave Rs. 200 to a mid-wife named Phatto and sent her to their house after applying poison on her breasts. This woman tried to forcibly feed the child. Her intention was that when the child would get fed from her poisonous breasts, he will instantly die. But this attempt on his life was rebuffed and under fright Phatto revealed her design.

Then Prithi Chand sent a snake charmer to their house with a poisonous snake with the aim of killing him. The snake charmer freed the snake out of the pataari (cage made of bamboo sticks) near the child Hargobind Ji. Just before the snake was ready to bite him he took hold of the snake and killed him by pressing his head. The puzzled and frightened snake charmer narrated the design of Prithi Chand.

The third attempt of Prithi Chand to kill him was through his care-taker named Roopa who mixed poison in curd and tried forcibly to make him eat the curd. Hargobind Ji gave a loud shriek at which the alarmed parents rushed to the spot. When that curd was given to a dog, the dog died instantly. The care-taker accepted his sin and immediately died of a severe pain in his stomach. By the time Hargobind Ji was about 5 years of age, Prithi Chand contacted the uncle of one of his play mates named Nand Ram. Nand Ram was directed to give poisoned sweets to him but this attack on his life was also foiled.

During his childhood, Hargobind Ji was taught the religious texts as well as martial arts including swordsmanship and archery. Bhai Gurdas Ji taught him the religious texts and Baba Buddha ji taught him manly arts of swordsmanship and archery He was barely 11 years of age when on May 30, 1606 his father Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji was martyred under the orders of Emperor Jahangir. It may be added that Emperor Jahangir had become uncomfortable at the ever-increasing following of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji and on the pretext that Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji had helped his rebellious son he ordered his execution. Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji was taken 2 to Lahore where he was asked to court Islam or death. Firm in his faith of not changing his religion and upholding the right of a person to follow the religion of his own choice he refused to get converted to Islam.

He was subjected to various types of physical torture. He was made to sit on a redhot iron sheet with fire burning under it and hot sand was poured on him. Still refusing to change his religion he was put in a large deg (pot) of boiling water. Finally, he was taken to Ravi river. A dip in the river's water was more than the blistered body could bear. Engrossed in meditation, on May 30, 1606 he left for his heavenly abode. Five days before his martyrdom i.e. on May 25, 1606 Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji nominated Hargobind ji as his successor and also sent instructions to him to assume Guruship "fully armed, and have armed men, as many as you can, to accompany you." He also instructed that, 'there were difficult times ahead', 'the evil powers were all set to snatch the basic rights of men’, ‘he had carried on the work of liberation of people in a peaceful manner, but now the times have changed', 'to bear any more tortures at the hands of Mughals will be as fruitless as lying down before a wild, horny animal expecting him to change his animal nature', 'time is coming that good and evil powers will take cudgels against each other', 'so get ready, for it, wear the weapons and motivate the Sikhs to do the same'

On June 15, 1606 Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib constructed Akal Takht now known as Sri Akal Takht Sahib (The Revered Throne of the Timeless One) with his own hands in front of Sri Harimandar Sahib across the marble paved parikarma (circumambulatory terrace around the sarovar). He laid its foundation on June 15, 1606 and completed its construction with the help of Bhai Buddha Ji and Bai Gurdas Ji in one day. As constructed by him, it was only a platform of mud and masonry and on June 24, 1606 his installation as Guru was performed at this place. Complying with the instructions of his father-Guru, for the ceremony of succession he dressed himself like a warrior and sat on this seat i.e. Akal Takht that he had erected, wearing two swords declaring one to be the symbol of spirituality and the other that of his temporal investiture.

The building on this platform was constructed later during his time. Since its construction on June 24, 1606, Sri Akal Takht Sahib has remained the highest seat of religious authority of Sikhs and it has been the convention that only this institution has the authority to try and excommunicate a Sikh for any religious offence. 3 After assuming Guruship Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib issued Hukamnamas to Sikhs to bring offerings of arms and horses. He maintained a band of fifty-two armed Sikhs. Several other Sikhs were also given horses and weapons. He would get up three hours before day break and concentrate on the divine. After that he would dress up and silently read the hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Scripture. Emperor Jahangir frightened by his splendid style passed orders that he be imprisoned in the Fort of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. After levelling the charge of not having paid the fine levied on his father, he was imprisoned in the said fort. When he was leaving for Gwalior Baba Buddha Ji said that, "when you are gone the Sikhs will become very said. You please tell us some method by which we can have your darshan (holy glimpse)”. Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib told Baba Buddha Ji that every evening after the recitation of Raharasi Sahib, the main evening prayer of the Sikhs, the Sikh Sangat should go around the holy precincts in the clock-wise direction singing hymns and at the end should assemble in front of Sri Darbar Sahib and recite ardas (prayer). During ardas the Sikhs who are firm in faith will have my darshan. Thus after, Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib left for Gwalior the tradition of Chaunki Sahib i.e. after recitation of Raharasi Sahib going around the holy precincts singing hymns and at the end riciting ardas in front of Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar was started. This tradition of Chaunki Sahib is still prevalent not only in Sri Darbar Sahib but in all other Gurdwaras also.

During his detention in Gwalior the Sikhs in the form of jathas visited Gwalior to have his darshan and on being disallowed to enter the fort they paid obeisance to him outside the walls of the fort and returned. When the time came for his release he put the condition that all other prisoners in the jail be released along with him. Thus he freed fifty-two prisoners and came to be called Bandichhor (Liberator Benign) Guru. On his arrival in Amritsar, the whole city was illuminated and since then this day is celebrated in the form of Diwali wherein all Sikhs illuminate their houses. From this time onwards Jahangir had a reconciliatory attitude towards him. Jahangir also handed over to him Chandu Shah who was partly responsible for inflicting physical torture and then executing his father Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji. To avenge the execution of their Guru, the Sikhs killed Chandu Shah.

Although Emperor Jahangir seemed to have a reconciliatory attitude, a few clashes took place between the Sikhs and Mughals during this time. The first two clashes with the Mughals that he had to face were near Ruhela now known as Sri Hargobindpur in district 4 Gurdaspur of Punjab on September 28, 1621 and October 4, 1621 where he later built a dharamsal as well as a mosque for the Muslims. The third clash with Mughals was the battle of Amritsar which took place on April 14, 1634 at the site where now stands Khalsa College, Amritsar. On December 16, 1634 another battle with Mughals took place at Lahira near Mehraj now in Bathinda district of Punjab.

During 26-27 April, 1635 still another armed clash with Mughals took place at Kartarpur in district Jallandhar of Punjab. In all these clashes he emerged as a brave person. After these battles he retired to Kiratpur Sahib in Ropar district of Punjab. He spent the last nine years of his life at this place. This site had been given to him as a gift by Raja Kalyan Chand of Kahlur, one of the hilly area chieftains who had been freed by him from Gwalior Jail.

This period of his life he spent in spreading the message of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. He sent Sikh warriors as preachers to far off places in India. In addition to extensive tours of Punjab he visited Pehowa in Kurukshetra district of Haryana; Nanakmata, Srinagar (in Garhval) and Haridwar in Uttrakhand. He also visited Srinagar, Baramula, Singhpura (in district Baramula), Punchh and Uri, 55 kms southwest of Baramula on the old route to the valley via Rawalpindi and Murri in Jammu and Kashmir In the sacred memory of his visits, shrines have been constructed at each of these places. He had six children-five sons Gurditta Ji, Ani Rai Ji, Suraj Mall Ji, Atal Rai Ji and Tegh Bahadur Ji and one daughter Bibi Viro Ji. Two of his sons Baba Gurditta Ji and Atal Rai Ji died during his lifetime. Before he left for his heavenly abode on March 3, 1644 at Kiratpur Sahib he passed on the Guruship to Har Rai Sahib, the son of Baba Gurditta Ji. His cremation took place at a nearby spot on the bank of River Sutlej where now is situated Gurdwara Patalpuri Sahib. Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib synthesised the heroic and the spiritual powers within him and acted according to the then existing demands of the Sikh society. Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib will always be remembered as a brave warrior as well as for his benignancy.

The birth anniversaries of Sikh Gurus are celebrated according to the lunar month and as such every year his birth anniversary is celebrated on a different date.

This year i.e in 2023 Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib’s 428 th Birth Anniversary is being celebrated on June 5 by the Sikh community all over the world.

Dr. Amrit Kaur (Retd. Professor) Punjabi University Patiala Punjab

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