Guru Hargobind Ji:The Sixth Guru of the Sikhs
Prof. Puran Singh
Arjun Dev was cruelly tortured to death, to the sore affliction of the soul of the whole people. The devotion they bore to their Master was deep and selfless. While they helplessly witnessed his cruet death, a curse arose from among them both against the Moghal Empire and against themselves. Now that He had been tortured, of what use was life? Their prospect was annihilation: acceptance of which meant the eventual disappearance from this earth of the type of spiritual humanity created by the Master; resistance to which meant sorrow, suffering, hunger and death, for themselves and their children – but, so great was the love of the people for their true king, that all these ills must be endured So great was now their indignation that they felt everything they held dear – religion, song, home, love of child and wife – must be sacrificed, and their love for the Guru redeemed. For the first time in the centuries; long enslavement of the Indians by the hordes of barbarous invaders from the near West, there was’ resistance. Guru Har Gobind, driven by curse and prayer of the people, unsheathed his shining sword, and declared a holy war against the unrighteous empire of India. The fire that had come leaping from outside into the camp of peace must be quenched.
Ignorance of the preceding event has led many to believe that Guru Har Gobind waged a war of hatred against the Empire, thus compromising his ideals of spiritual Humanity, which were of a life at peace with all creation. It is commonly forgotten that the Guru’s heroism that appeared in his character, at this juncture was not a heroism that kills and murders, but the heroism that dies with a glad heart. It is akin to the heroism of the Sati-woman who dresses herself in the most passionate colors when her husband and lover is dead. It certainly seems incongruous that her self-adornment at that moment should be one of joy and not of mourning; yet those beautiful colors are nothing but the symbol of that flame of devotion which will lead her presently to leap into fire that consumes the body. A similar pure resolution came to the whole Sikh people and to their leader after the cruel death of Guru Arjun Dev. Theirs was the distinction of military uniform, the wearing of two swords, the riding on a charger, the defiance of mighty powers; but how few they were, and was it not all the pathetic preparation of a Sati? This is the spirit of the Guru’s declaration of war; the rest is mere dusty detail. Here out of the roots of life rises a new Bushido, a pure passion for death in love.
As of old, Bhai Budha, the hoary-headed saint, placed before Har Gobind the Sail or Ribbon of Renunciation that Nanak wore and gave to Angad, who gave it to Amardas, who gave it to Ramdas, who gave it to Arjun Dev. Har Gobind said to Bhai Budha, "No, give me two swords to wear instead." He saluted the Sail and put it by. The Master ordered all his men to wear swords, to keep horses, and to make arms: determining to take his disciples through blood and fire, since they wished it. When the command went forth, the disciples were already prepared. and they began bringing offering of arms – arrows and swords and shield and bows to the Guru. The Sikh people were thence forward dyed in passionate colors like the Sati-woman, and the whole Sikh world courted death in a spirit similar to the spirit of Yamato of Japan; that is, not proposing to themselves any clear purpose, sacred or otherwise; but merely for the love that would not suffer them to live in captivity and submission.
Alarmed by the new pomp of Har Gobind’s court, a few of the worldly-wise proffered counsel both to Mother Ganga and to old Sikhs like Bhai Budha, that the Master should be persuaded not to adopt a dangerous militancy. Mother G;3nga replied, "He is on the throne of Guru Nanak. His ancestors are with him. My son and his Master can do no wrong. All counselors of peace, again sought the presence of the Guru to tell him that these warlike preparations would draw the wrath of the whole empire on their heads, and thus annihilate the Sikh nation. In reply, Guru Har Gobind merely looked at Bhai Budha, who bowed down, saying, "thou canst never err. All is right that thou doest." The Guru’s mere glance intensified Bhai Budha’s reverence, rejuvenated his faith, and rekindled the passion of his youth. Bhai Budha, left behind when Guru Har Gobind went from Amritsar, knew no rest; he breathed prayers to the empty air, conjured up the form of the Guru in imagination, and in Han Mandir at his feet, singing love songs.
News of those doings soon reached the Emperor Jehangir. Chandu, the arch-enemy of the Sacred House, was still busy. There was not a good deal of evidence for a charge against Har Gobind, of rebellion. The refusal by Arjun Dev to pay the fine imposed on him, was remembered. Guru Har Gobind was at last summoned by the Emperor to Delhi. He came, and saw, and conquered Delhi by dint of his natural majesty. He began living at Delhi as the Emperor’s guest. Whenever Jehangir went out into camp, there was a separate tent and camping ground for the Guru.
We treasure a beautiful story of a Sikh of Agra who was a humble grass-cutter. The tents of the two kings being pitched side by side in the fields, the poor Sikh approached Jehangir’s tent with an offering of two copper pice out of his wages, and desired to know where was "The True King". "Whom do you wish to see?" said Jehangir, "I want to see the True King", said the grass-cutter. "I am the king", said Jehangir. The grass-cutter placed his offerings before him, bowed down to him, and rose and said, "0 True King! save me thy slave from this sea of darkness, and take me into thy refuge of light that is All Knowledge". On this the Emperor told him that he was not the king sought, and that the savior’s tent was pitched yonder. The grass-cutter hastily took back his offering and went running to the Guru.
The queen, Nur Jehan, took a deep interest in the Guru and had many interviews with him. Also, with the poor frequenting the place, he was in much repute as a comforter. During these days, Jehangir fell ill; and, following the barbarous advice of his Hindu ministers, he invited his astrologers to tell him of his evil stars that brought illness on him. These astrologers were heavily bribed by Chandu, who was always seeking to detach the Emperor from Har Gobind. The astrologers accordingly prophesized that a holy man of God should go to the Fort of Gwalior and pray for his recovery from there. Chandu then advised the Emperor that Har Gobind was the holiest of men and should be sent to Gwalior. Jehangir requested Har Gobind to go, and though he saw through the plot of his enemies, he left for Gwalior immediately. While Har Gobind was a Gwalior, great was the distress of his Sikhs at Delhi and at Amritsar, who suspected foul play on the part of Chandu. In fact, Chandu did write to Han Das, the Commander of Gwalior fort, urging him to poison the Guru or kill him in any way – and promising a large reward. Han Das, was by that time devoted to the Master. So he laid all these letters before him who smiled and said nothing. The Guru met many other Rajahs who were prisoners in this fort, and made them happy.
When Jehangir at length recovered, he thought of Har Gobind’ again. Undoubtedly Nur Jehan, who evinced a disciple-like devotion to the Master, had something to do with his recall from Gwalior. However, the Guru would not go unless the Emperor agreed to set all the prisoners at the fort at liberty. The Emperor at last gave way; and on the personal security of the Guru, all the prisoners were released. The Guru was hailed at Gwalior as "Bandi Chhor" – the great deliverer who cuts fetters off the prisoners’ feet and sets them free. There remains, in the historic fort at Gwalior, a shrine of the Bandi Chhor Pir, worshipped by Hindus and Mussalman alike, where they have lit a lamp in memory of the event, and where a Mohammedan Faqir sits in hallowed memory of some great one of whom he knows only the name – Bandi Chhor. In the Punjab, in the daily prayers of the Sikhs, Har Gobind is saluted as Bandi Chhor. Surely he carried this name from Gwalior to Amritsar.
In Kashmir there lived a poor old Sikh woman name Bhag Bhari. She was a great Saint and lived in complete dedication to the Guru. In the year when Har Gobind was busy fighting near Amritsar with the forces of Shah Jehan in a small skirmish, when Shah Jehan was only an heir apparent, this old women, in her perfect Dhyanam, made a shirt of coarse cloth with yarn spun by her own hands. She stitched it herself, singing all the while the songs of the Beloved, and deluging the cloth with Dhyanam of love, as it trickled from her eyes in tears of ecstasy. "0 God! Will my Beloved come and wear it! Will he honor his slave? O, how can he come this way? My Beloved come to me now! These eyes are now to close forever. May they once more behold Thy face!" Nameless feelings of love rose and sank in her veins. The garment was ready for the Master. He left the fight, and rode his charger with haste to Kashmir, knocked at her door, and said: "Give me my shirt; good lady!" With tears in his eyes he donned the shirt of coarse cloth, as she had wept all those days for a glimpse of him.
This response of Har Gobind to his disciples’ inmost prayers and Dhyanam was continuous and unfailing. We read of his answer to the Dhyanam of a Mussalman lady, the daughter of Qazi of Muzang – a suburb of Lahore, which was at that time the provincial capital of the Punjab. A woman of great spiritual power, while a girl, had become versed in mystic lore as it was preached in that neighborhood by a leader of the Sikh-Moslem school, Mian Mir. Through Mian Mir, many followers of Har Gobind had already paid their homage to him. Wazir Khan, the influential Minister at the court of Emperor Jehangir, was one of the devotees of the Guru. The case of this great Mussalman lady was beset with exceptional difficulties. Her devotion for the Guru knew no bounds; even Mian Mir could not suppress her divine flame, but was forced to help her to find the Guru. By temperament she was the heroic soul, absolutely sincere and unworldly. No amount of prudential advice to conceal her spark of life by burying it deep in her bosom could prevail with her: she would live at his feet or die. She would express her Sikh opinions with the utmost frankness; openly she condemned the hypocrisy of the Mussalman; she praised the Master, and sang of his beauty and his saving love. Finally, she was condemned to death. But her inner gaze was fixed on her Master, and she knew he would come. Har Gobind made a daring response to seek her at night, took her from a window of the Qazi’s house, with his own hands, and (like an intrepid lover) carried her off to Amritsar.
Come what may, let the kings be against him, and let the worldly-wise renounce the Master. Let it be ridicule, public shame or even death – the Master must rescue his disciple, Kaulan her holy Sikh name. The Guru provided her with a separate house; and, while she lived, he extended to her his hospitality and kept her secure, under circumstance of great peril and difficulty, from the injury that comes to such as her from religious fanatics. Every morning the Master would go from the Golden Temple to Kaulan to nourish her soul with the Darshanam for which she pined day and night. The Master was a pilgrim every morning to the temple of her love.
Sam Das, a devout Sikh, built a new house in his village near Ferozepur; and would not occupy it unless the Master came and graced the room prepared for him. "Why not write to the Guru to come to us?" said his wife, who was sister to the holy consort of the Guru. "Oh, he knows all, what is the use of writing to him, when he hears the prayers of our heart?" said Sam Das. Thereupon Har Gobind at Amritsar felt the divine pulling of the love and Dhyanam of his disciples, and went to him.
On this very journey, the master went right up to Pili Bhit on the borders of Nepal in response to the love of a Sikh saint, Almost – the "God-intoxicated" man.
The Sikhs left behind at Amritsar felt very keenly the pangs of separation from the Master. Headed by Bhai Budha, they commenced a divine service of Dhyanam. Every evening they would light torches and go in procession round the shrine, feeling the Master to be with them. On his return, he told Bhai Budha how this devotion had attracted the Guru to the Golden Temple every evening. He blessed them; saying that the night choir organized by Bhai Budha would abide forever at Han Mandir, and that he should always be with it. The Sikhs still lead this choir round the Temple in his hallowed memory.
Through the kind offices of Nur Jehan, Mian Mir, Wazir Khan and others, Jehangir was induced to cause no injury to Guru Har Gobind or his Sikhs, in spite of the efforts of Chandu’s party. But these had begun to inflame the mind of the heir-apparent Shah Jehan against the Guru, especially after that open skirmish with the hunt party of Shah Jehan near Amritsar. Jehangir died suddenly in Kashmir, and Shah Jehan became Emperor of India. Shah Jehan might fight with the Guru, as the Guru had already openly challenged him. The various engagements between the Imperial forces and the disciples of the Guru cover the whole lifetime of Har Gobind. The Sikhs always fought with a superhuman courage, and the Emperor’s armies were worsted in all these affrays. The Guru finally left Amritsar and went to Kartarpur, and, after giving battle there, retired to the sub-montane parts of the North-eastern Punjab, where his son had already founded the town called Kiratpur. It is near this Kiratpur that Guru Tegh Bahadur later on purchased a site for his residence which he called Anandpur; it provided a solitary retreat from all outside disturbances.
Engaged in warfare with the Emperor of India, and liable always to be attacked unawares, Guru Har Gobind was never at a lost, never in haste, never afraid of results. The date of the wedding of his daughter, Bibi Viro, coincided with the first battle of Amritsar between the Guru and the Emperor. While the rest of the Guru’s family escaped in time, his daughter Viro inadvertently remained on the upper floor of the house, which by nightfall was besieged by the Emperor’s troops. Bibi Viro stayed alone undaunted in the house and kept silent. When she saw a rescue party of the Sikhs coming. she refused to accompany them till they showed her father’s rosary. She was then safely conveyed to the place where the rest of the family had taken refuge. While this turmoil was on, the Guru ordered that the wedding of his daughter should be duly celebrated that very night in a village at a distance of about seven miles from Amritsar which was accordingly done amid great rejoicings. Only at the bride’s departure was the customary pathetic note struck, in the father’s farewell message to his daughter. A daughter’s marriage, with us in the Punjab, is full of rare pathos -surrounded as we have always been by danger and political turmoil. And Guru’s message to his daughter is full of the tenderest feelings of a father towards his daughter.
Thus he was, almost simultaneously, celebrating his daughter’s marriage and busied with the grim business of fighting a hard battle and running to the reuse of his wounded disciples. Of this very time, it is related that two of his disciples were lying in blood and that he went to them, wiped their faces, gave them
water to drink, and caressed them, crying like a father, "0 my Mohan! 0 my Gopal’. Tell me what can I do for you?" They replied, "0 Master! the proof that God is, is that you are here. It was our prayer to see you with our eyes now closing forever." God bless you my friends," said he, "You have crossed the ocean of illusion."
Still yonder at Kartarpur, on the river Bias, where she had been removed for safety, Kaulan lay ill. Her burning soul of love could not stay on earth in separation from her Master. Separated from him, she fell dangerously ill. Har Gobind found time to pay her a visit and, as he sat by the bedside of this his heroic disciple, she passed away. Singing, into the soft music of her closing eyes, the prayer of thankfulness, she fell asleep in the very arms of God.
There was yet another great soul waiting for him at his village, Ramdas, near Amritsar: Bhai Budha, who was preparing to leave this earth. Har Gobind hastened to his side. Bhai Budha’s whole soul leapt with joy on beholding the Master before beginning his last journey. The Guru said, "Bhai Budha, thou hast seen the last five Masters and lived with them and thy realization is great. Please give me some instructions." The Bhai replied, "Thou art the sun and I am only a fire-fly. Thou hast, out of Thy infinite mercy, come to see me and to help me swim across the Sea of Illusion. Touch me, touch me with thy hand, and bless me, 0 Master mine! Thou knowest all. Thou art the spiritual and temporal Protector of the holy. Thou art God, we all know; but how thou playest the part of a holy man into these days, only God knows. Sustain me, and let me pass Death’s door without suffering. Sustain my son Bhana, too, when I am gone and keep him at thy feet, Help me O Lord! O Savior of Thy disciples!" "Thou hast already entered the Realms of Immortals," said the Master, as he placed his hand on the forehead of his old disciple; and Bhai Budha passed away.
Where Har Gobind could not go, he made response in Dhyanam; and, in act, this response was continuous and unbroken amid all struggles of the outer life. Manohardas, a great saint, the great-grandson of Amardas, died at Goindwal. The Master plunged into deep prayer for him. As he came out of his Samadhi he said; Mano-Har – stealer of the heart! Triumph! Triumph for him! Great saint of God!"
Har Gobind sent an invitation to Anand Rai (King of Joy) the son of Manohar of Goindwal. Anand Rai came; and Har Gobind put his shoulder under the palanquin on which Anand Rai was raging, and bore him little distance. Anand Rai alighted and bowed down saying, "Why doest thou treat me with so great a kindness? I am naught but the dust of thy holy feet. What if the bamboo grass grow very high? It can never equal the fragrance of the sandal-tree."
"Without service of His saints, man is a barren rock", said the Master. In the service of His saints, he is God."
Har Gobind, though hunted by the imperial hordes and continually liable to sudden dangers from them, was always calm and collected. When Painde Khan, once the trusted general of Har Gobind, whom the latter had brought up from boyhood as his pet cavalier, turned against him, went over to the side of Shah Jehan, and reappeared as leader of a hostile army, the Guru rose early as usual, and sang Japji and Anand songs. As he was chanting hymns and praying, his Sikh generals came in hot haste to inform him of the approach of the Moghal forces. The Guru said: Be calm. There is nothing to be afraid of. All comes as our Creator wills." Once Painde Khan engaged in a pitched duel with Hargobind. The ungrateful Painde uttered profane words to the Master, who replied, "Painde Khan, why use such words when the sword is in thy hand, and I give thee full leave to strike first?" Painde Khan, bending low, aimed a sword-blow at the Master, who avoided it. Again Painde Khan struck with similar result. Har Gobind was trying to play with his old and beloved servant, and, if possible, to awaken in him his original sense of fealty. But Painde Khan grew more and more angry and desperate; his attack became deadly and Har Gobind dealt a blow under which he fell. From this blow he regained his old sense of discipleship; and, as he lay dying the Master took him in his arms, thereby readmitting him to grace. The death of Painde Khan is one of the most pathetic scenes in the life of Har Gobind. As he sat shading Painde Khan’s face from the sun with his shield, he addressed him lovingly:
"O Painde Khan, thou art dying." The fully-awakened Painde Khan replied, "O Master, from thy sword has already flowed into my mouth the Elixir of Immortality. Master, thy sword-cut is my Kalma now!"
Har Rai, his grandson, always wore a heavy gown and once as he was passing through Har Gobind’s garden, the folds of his flowing gown struck a flower; which fell down, torn from its branch. The Master saw this and said to Har Rai, ‘My son! Always go about with due care, lest you disturb the slumber of union of some blessed ones, and tear them away from God as thou hast torn this flower from its branch." Har Rai thenceforward, all his life, gathered the folds of his gown in his hand wherever he went.
Har Gobind found in Har Rai the spirit of Nanak: this time in a more subtle and mystic form, and it was at Kiratpur that the Master gave his throne to him and left for his heavenly abode,
It is written by the Dhyanee disciples who were present at the time of the departure of Har Gobind Sahib from the earth that the face of heaven flushed rose-red and that they heard the soft singing of a million angels in the inner firmament in one spiritual concourse of joy.
"The Master, before giving up his body, said: "Mourn not; rejoice in hat I am returning to my Home. He who obeys my word is ever dear to me, and in the Guru’s word is his beatitude. Fill yourselves, O disciples! with the song of His Name and live immersed in its ever-increasing inebriation divine."