The Sikh Institutions : Miri Piri
During his imprisonment and torture at Lahore, Guru Arjan had been contemplating how to save his nascent religion from destruction. In his most intense meditation God revealed Himself to him. He was told to guard it by means of a physical force. He therefore conveyed to his eleven-year-old son and successor his last message that be should maintain an army as best as he could afford and manage.3
In order to carry out his father’s dying injunction, he wore two swords of Piri and Miri. The sword of Piri was to protect the innocent and the sword of Miri to smite the oppressor. He declared that henceforth in the Guru’s house spiritual and temporal powers would be combined.
Guru Arjan addressed the Sikhs on religious as well as on worldly affairs from Han Mandar. Guru Hargobind decided to separate religious and mundane functions. Hari Mandar was therefore exclusively reserved for religious and spiritual discourses and for recitations from the Adi Granth. To conduct his temporal affairs he constructed in l6O6~ another structure opposite Han Mandar on the edge of the iloly tank at Amritsar and called it Akal Takht or Throne of God the T imeless.
Here the Guru sat as a representative of God like a king in court and administered justice to the Sikhs and conducted other non-religious affairs. Here he accepted offerings from Sikhs directly as well as from masands. From this place he issued orders and circular letters calling for the gifts of arms.2 He narrated stories of heroism, dauntless bravery, discipline and sacrifice. He employed professional bards, the most notable of whom were Abdullah and Natha. They sang ballads of unrivalled heroism, especially of Rajput chivalry. The tales of the valour of Jaimal and Fatta of Chitor being of recent occurrence, were sung with zeal and zest and were on everybody’s tongue. He witnessed duels and wrestling matches from this place. While Hari Mandar was the house of religion, Akal Takht was the place of Sikh politics. The presence of both at different sites indicated that in Sikhism politics had been separated from religion. While the Guru was in Hari Mandar, he was reckoned as a saint, and when on Akal Takht he was looked upon as a king. The Sikhs henceforth stopped filing their cases in the government courts. They considered the tract occupied by the Sikhs as the Sikh kingdom, Amritsar as its capital and Guru Hargobind as Sachcha Padshah in contrast to the Mughal Emperor who was a false king because he ruled by force and fear alone without creating any bond between himself and his general subjects.
Thus Pin and Miri worked hand in hand. It was a combination of spiritual and political sovereignty. Both were vested in the Guru, the perfect man. The aim was to create the Kingdom of God on earth, a Ramrajya or dharmarajya, through rajyogis, the philosopher-kings. Plato said:
"Until kings are philosophers, or philosophers are kings, cities will never cease from ill, no, nor the human race, nor will our ideal polity over come into being."
The Gurus were of the view that social and political freedom was the birth right of every human being. This objective could be achieved only when Gurmukhs or virtuous persons were kings or kings were Gurmukhs. This principle was put into execution by the sixth Guru, Hargobind. It was the beginning of militarism or the transformation of Sikhism. To the symbols of sainthood, rosary and Name was added the paraphernalia of sovereignty including the umbrella and the crest. With meditation and preaching were included wrestling, riding and hunting.
This was also the beginning of a Sikh State like that of the Mughals. All his disciples formed a separate and independent entity, and had nothing to do with the agencies of the Government of the day. Thus the Sikhs came to occupy a kind of a separate state within the Mughal state, the position of which was securely established by the fiscal policy of Guru Amar Das and Guru Arjan and Hargobind’s armed system.
Guru Hargobind began to recruit hardy youths of Majha as his bodyguard in addition to the fifty-two soldiers inherited from his father. In course of time he possessed a stable of seven hundred horses, three hundred horsemen and sixty gunners.1 His infantry consisted of another five hundred brave young men of Maj ha and Malwa. Besides many who were content with two n’eals a day and a new uniform every six months on the occasions of Bajsakhi and Diwali joined the Guru.2 He sanctioned meat diet and encouraged hunting.
The Mughal Government took a serious notice of the young Guru’s activities. The contemporary author, Mohsin Fani, writes:
"He had to contend with difficulties. One of them was that he had adopted the style of a soldier, wore a sword contrary to the practice of his father, kept a retinue and took to hunting. Hazrat Jannat Makani (Jahangir) demanded the balance of the fine which he had imposed on Arjan Mal."8 The Guru was summoned to Delhi and imprisoned in the fort of Gwalior in 1609 AD where be remained for about twelve years.
On his release in 1620 the Guru was invested with supervisory powers to suppress any Hindu disturbance in the state. A Mughal contingent consisting of about 400 horse, 1000 foot and seven guns was placed at his disposal. The Guru increased his personal force also considerably.
With the succession of Shah Jahan, religious bigotry began to strike root in the policy of the government. A conflict soon arose between Guru Hargobind and the government. About half a dozen battles were fought with the Mughal troops. While mentioning a particular incident, Mohsin Fani writes, "Before this and after this many strong forces were sent against him. By God’s grace he escaped unhurt, though whatever he bad was lost."1
Thus the Guru set a noble example before the down-trodden and frustrated Hindus that the passive resistance to the oppressor was useless. Guru Hargobind had a clear conception of the changing circumstances and had realised the necessity of playing an active role in the political life of non-Muslims. He knew that militarily he had little chance of success against almost the unlimited resources of the Mughal Empire, yet he discarded the submissive role which was the common feature of a Hindu’s life individually as well as collectively with few exceptions here and there. His policy of active resistance paved the way for future developments under his grandson, Guru Gobind Singh.
Akal Takht became the pivot of military and political activities of the Sikhs during the Misl period. It was here that the most important decisions were made regarding war and peace. The decisions taken there were respected by the entire Sikh community.2 Akal Takht did not remain the seat for political and military decisions during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, but it remained the focus for central management. Its control was in the hands of Akalis Akal Takht now consists of five storeys. The first storey was constructed by Sikh Sardars in 1774 AD. The remaining four stories were built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The uppermost golden dome (gumbaz) was erected by Sardar Han Singh Nalwa.
The Akal Takht is the most prominent of all the Takhts, the others being Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Anandpur, Takht Sri Patna Sahib, and Takht Sri Hazur Sahib, Nanded.