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PAYING OBEISANCE TO SRI GURU HARGOBIND SAHIB: THE BANDICHHOR (LIBERATOR BENIGN)

June 14, 2022 11:28 PM
Guru Hargobind Singh ji (Painting )
Dr Amrit Kaur

 GURU ON HIS 427th BIRTH ANNIVERSARY (JUNE 15, 2022)

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 praternal 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.

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 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 red hot 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 celerated according to the lunar month and  as such every year his birth anniversary is celebrated on a different date. This year  i.e in 2022 Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib’s 427th Birth Anniversary is being celebrated on  June 15th by the Sikh community all over the world.

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

email: amritkaurchd40@gmail.com

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