Guru Hargobind (1595-1644)
Guru Hargobind was the sixth Sikh Guru from 1606 to 1644. At the time he became Guru, after the torture and martyrdom of his father, Guru Arjan, India was cruelly ruled by the Mughal Empire. In response to a culture of war, Guru Hargobind trained the Sikhs to become warriors so that they could defend their rights and the rights of others to live according to their faiths. Sikhs were not against Islam but opposed injustice and exploitation.
Guru Hargobind used both the power of prayer and the sword to fight oppression. He wore two swords, the one on the left was called “Miri” and represented earthly power, worldly leadership and guidance. The sword on the right was called “Piri” and represented spiritual authority and power. This reminds us that we must excel in both realms and be both grounded and in touch with the ethereal realm.
Guru Hargobind’s training included: martial arts (Gatka), fencing, archery, riding and wrestling. He also built the Akal Takhat, in front of the Golden Temple, where he listened to people’s complaints, issued orders and solved disputes.
The Mughal emperor of the time was Emperor Jahangir. He invited Guru Hargobind to go hunting with him. When a tiger was about to pounce on the Emperor, he called out to the Guru for help. Guru Hargobind jumped off his horse, sword and shield in hand, and killed the tiger. After that, the Emperor considered him a friend.
Meanwhile, a man named Chandu continued scheming to undermine the Emperor’s relationship with the Guru and convinced him to imprison the Guru. Conditions in the prison were terrible and there was little food. Among the prisoners were 52 rajas or kings whose territories had been taken over by the Emperor. Guru Hargobind shared his food and prayed with them. When the Emperor began to understand his error, he wanted to free the Guru. Guru Hargobind, the epitome of loyalty, refused to leave until all the rajas were freed as well. Everyone was freed together.
Although Guru Hargobind trained Sikh warriors, he was a man of peace. He felt that nonviolence used out of helplessness or fear is merely cowardice. True nonviolence (ahimsa) comes from a position of strength and requires standing up to defend the defenseless. He did not act out of revenge for the martyrdom of his father, Guru Arjan. He named his gentle grandson, Guru Har Rai, as his successor.
Imaginefeeling the balance between yourself of the Miri and Piri, earthly power and spiritual power. Notice how the two support each other and that you can intuitively move between one and the other, bringing forth the appropriate response to any situation.
of relentless religious persecution, the Sikhs would be called upon to protect the rights of all people to practice their religion freely. The Sikh warriors never started a fight. They never took the property of others. They never used force as a means to enslave people. The Sikh warriors used their strength to defend themselves against unjust attacks, and to defend those who could not defend themselves.
Guru Hargobind created the martial art of the Sikhs – called . He also built the , or the Throne of the Undying One, next to the Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple). The throne was a statement that the Sikh community was sovereign in its spiritual identity, and was self-governing in its social/political identity. This principle came to be known as Miri Piri. It was a direct statement to the ruling Emperor of the time that the Sikhs considered no one to have higher authority in their lives than God and Guru.
Guru Hargobind fought many battles in his life to protect the fundamental human rights of the people living at that time.