420.The Man in Blue – Guru Hargobind

Guru Hargobind was born in Guru Ki Wadali near Chheharta Sahib, to the west of Amritsar. He became the successor to Guru Arjan in 1606. In reaction to Guru Arjan’s martyrdom he started wearing two swords, and he erected a mount opposite Harmandr Sahib which he called the Akál Takhat, the throne of the Timeless One. He also used two Nishan Sahib’s.

All this was to symbolise that there was no separation between the worldly and the spiritual realm. In the eyes of the Mughal authorities he was challenging them and was behaving as if he was an independent nobleman.

Of course all Gurus, from Guru Nanak onwards, lived their life under one authority only, the authority of God.

According to the book ‘The Mughal Empire’ by John F Richards ‘[Guru] Hargobind adopted a new quasi-regal style. He wore two swords, held court, hunted with his retainers and built a fort at Amritsar as if he was a raja or a prince. Jahangir, apprised of this, moved to squash the young Sikh leader’s pretensions by arresting and imprisoning him in the state prison at Gwalior fort for two years (1609-1611)’.

It is a pity that the writer does not provide any reference to his source. Is the imprisonment of Guru Hargobind and his release, together with other political prisoners, mentioned in any Mughal source, or in any other document outside our own tradition ?

The SGPC website says : ‘There are divergent views regarding the detention period of Guru Sahib in the Gwalior Fort prison, but the most acceptable one seems to be three years from 1609 to 1612’.

We also have the puzzle about the connection between Guru’s release and Divali. Those desperate for an excuse to attach a Sikh meaning to Divali, claim that either Guru was set free on Divali or arrived back in Amritsar on Divali. As we do not even know the years of Guru’s imprisonment I do not think that claims about either date are very believable.

The battles of Guru with the Mughals are not mentioned in the book either, but I think I read in J D Cunningham’s ‘A History of the Sikhs’ that Teg Bahadur as a young man was described by Mughal sources as a dacoit, which points to his involvement in armed struggles with the Mughals.

Richards finishes his two paragraphs on Guru Hargobind with a mention of Guru’s move to the Himalayan foothills, where he lived like the ‘hilly rajas’ sheltered from too much interference by the Mughals. There was no further persecution of the Guru during Jahangir’s reign. There is no mention of the time Guru spent in the Kartarpur which is just west of Jalandhar.