Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji was born at village Guru Ki Wadali (district Amritsar) on Harh Vadi 7th (21 Harh), Samvat 1652 (19th June, 1595). He was extremely handsome and the only son of Guru Arjan Sahib and Mata Ganga Ji. He had one daughter Bibi Viro Ji and five sons: Baba Gurditta Ji, Suraj Mal Ji, Ani Rai Ji, Atal Rai Ji and (Guru) Tegh Bahadur Ji. Out of these, four sons passed away during the life of Guru Sahib and the fifth one, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji become Ninth Nanak in 1664. Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji succeeded Guru Arjan Sahib in 1606, at the age of eleven years. After the martyrdom of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the moment was crucial for the Sikhs. Now for the first time, the Sikhs began to think seriously to counter the high-handedness of the mighty and theist Muslim Empire. Now a change had taken place in the character of Sikh Nation on the force of circumstances. Dialectically speaking, it was the need of the hour. Now the Sikh nation adopts both spiritual and political ways simultaneously. This policy suited well to all the social and economic segments of the Sikhs.
Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji wore two swords, one of Spiritual Power – Piri and the other of Military Power – Miri. Now the Sikh became “Saint-Soldier.” Guru Sahib issued various letters advising the Sikhs to take part in the military training and martial arts. A Chronicler states that Guru Sahib kept seven hundred Cavaliers and sixty artillerymen. There was a band of Pathan mercenaries and Painda Khan Pathan was made its chief. Riding, hunting, wrestling and many others martial sports were introduced. And on the other hand the martial songs like ‘Vars’ were daily sung by the Dhadd-players in the court of Guru Sahib to inspire the Sikhs of heroic deeds. Abdul and Natha Mal were given the task in this respect. The Guru Sahib himself was healthy and strong in body and mind. He himself learnt the use of different weapons, besides riding wrestling and hunting.
In due course of action, Guru Sahib erected a wall around Amritsar city and constructed a small fort named ‘Lohgarh’ on the outskirts of the city. Guru Sahib revealed Sri Akal Takht Sahib also known as Akal Bunga (Timeless Throned) just in front of Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) in 1609. This place became the seat of preaching and praying in due course of time. At this place, Guru Sahib used to gave sermons to the Sikhs and discussions were held on the problems faced by the Sikh nation. In this way the Sikhs were encouraged to settle their own disputes themselves, some martial sports were also performed in the open courtyard before the Akal Takht. This development further consolidated the Sikh nation. The Sikhs call Guru Sahib ‘Sachcha Patshah’ (True Emperor) and the Sikh Nation followed the judgments or decisions taken on Sri Akal Takht Sahib enthusiastically. The emperor Jahangir did not tolerated this new policy of Guru Sahib and subsequently ordered to imprison him in the Gwalior Fort. Though the various reasons are also ascribed for the detention of Guru Sahib but the most suitable one seems to be that the Emperor Jahangir was falsely alarmed (about the military preparations by the Guru Sahib and Sikhs) by the same elements; enemies of the Sikh Nation, who were earlier responsible for the execution of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji. After receiving summons from Emperor Jahangir, Guru Sahib proceeded towards Delhi before making serious consultations about rest, with all the leading Sikh personalities including Mata Ganga Ji, Baba Budha Ji, Bhai Gurdas Ji, Bhai Jetha Ji and Bhai Sahlo Ji. Guru Sahib appeared before the Emperor Jahangir and was received by the latter with due respect. A debate on Sikh religion and Sikh doctrines held between Guru Sahib and Jahangir (having pre-tempered mind against Guru Sahib) but the emperor remained unimpressed and ordered for the imprisonment of Guru Sahib at Gwalior Fort. Guru Sahib was detained in the fort upto three years i.e. from 1609 to 1612. (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.)
Sain Mian Mir and Wazir Khan (Governor of Lahore) approached Emperor Jahangir on behalf of Guru Sahib and secured the releasing orders. When Guru Sahib met Jahangir immediately after his release, he insisted upon Jahangir for the release of other fifty-two Hindu Princes on his personal surety (These Princes were said to be the rebellious ones). The request was obliged and all the prisoners were released in 1612. Then the title of “Bandi Chhor Baba” was given to Guru Sahib and is still remembered by this name. Guru Sahib reached Amritsar on the occasion of Diwali. This was a big occasion for the Sikhs. It is said that Baba Budha Ji littered the earthen lamps throughout the Amritsar city. The Sikhs celebrated this occasion enthusiastically. From this day the Sikh Nation began to celebrate Dewali festival as ” Bandi Chhor Diwas ” also.
Now the attitude of Jahangir and his empire towards Guru Sahib changed considerably and remained favorable and friendly till the death of Jahangir. It was the outcome of the noble interceding by the religious, secular and political personalities like Sain Mian Mir Ji, Nizam-ud-Din and the Governor of Lahore, Wazir Khan. Shortly after the release of Guru Sahib, the angry Sikhs overtook Chandu Shah (the main brain behind the execution of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji). They preceded him through the streets of Lahore. Chandu, like a mad dog, was pelted with stones, filth, and abuses thus put to death. A chronicle further states that “Death came to him as a relief and his body was thrown into the river Ravi.”
Shortly after the release from the Gwalior Fort and having cordial relations with the state, Guru sahib started to re-consolidate the Sikh Nation. He modified the concept of Charanamrit, (system of initiating people into the fold of Sikhism, which was being exploited by the selfish and corrupt Masands according to their own interests, when Guru Sahib was in Gwalior prison). He tried his best to dissuade Meharban (son of Prithi Chand) from harbouring hostile designs against Sikhs and Sikhism.
Guru Sahib undertook Dharam Parchar tours to spread Sikhism. He started from Amritsar and covered thousand miles in India. In Punjab he visited Kartarpur and made it as headquarter of Sikh Nation in Doaba. He also visited several adjoining villages like Bara Pir, Mukerian and laid the foundation stone of Sri Hargobindpur town (the original name of this town was Gobindpura) near the river Beas in 1621. Guru Sahib also covered the ‘Malwa’ region of Punjab where the cult of Hindu Goddess and “Sakhi Sarwar” was fascination the lowly and downtrodden simple living people. Guru Sahib admitted the people of the villages: Darauli, Mehraj, Damru, Dabwali, Sidhwan, Sidhar, Lopo, Zeera, Katra and Gillan in the Sikhism. In other words the entire Malwa region embraced Sikhism and went a long way in integrating the Sikh Nation. This was a major achievement by Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji visited an old Sikh religious parching centre Nanakmatta (Gorakh Matta) in the present Pilibhit district of U.P. Guru Nanak Sahib established it. It is said that some Hindu Yogis ousted Almast Ji, (a pious Sikh preacher, deputed by Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji to spread Sikhism) from the gurdwara and desecrated the place by cutting the holy and historical Peepal tree, under which earlier Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji held discussions with the different sects of Jogis. Guru Sahib reached Nanakmatta along with some saint-soldiers. Seeing Guru Sahib on the scene, the Yogis fled away and never came back or interfered in the religious affairs of Almast Ji. Guru Sahib returned Amritsar via Darauli. Guru Sahib also held a detailed discussion on the spiritual and religious with a marathe Saint Ram Das Samrath, on the spiritual and religious issues in a very cordial atmosphere at Srinagar (Garhwal).
Guru Sahib visited Kashmir in 1620. Some chronicles state that Guru Sahib went there at the invitation of emperor Jahangir, because his personal physician’s advice for a natural climate and atmospheric change. It is also stated that Jahangir and his party paid a visit to Goindwal Sahib and reached Amritsar via Taran Taran. The emperor offered financial assistance for the construction of Sri Akal Takht Sahib, but Guru Sahib declined the offer politely.
On the other hand some Sikh source term the visit to Kashmir as a part of Guru Sahib’s preaching campaign. Guru Hargobind Sahib patronized one Sewa Das for preaching Sikhism. He and his mother Bhag Bhari served Guru Sahib with much zeal and devotion. Guru Sahib held a short meeting with his many devoted Sikhs and a preacher Kattu Shah (a converted Mohammedan). Guru Sahib visited Sialkot, Wazirabad, Mirpur, Bhimbar Tehran, Baramula, Uri and Muzaffarabad. He appointed Bhai Garhia Ji to preach the Sikh religion. The large number of Kashmiris, both Hindus and Muslims embraced Sikhism due to the devoted and committed preaching by Guru Sahib. He married Bibi Marwahi Ji (Mata Mahadevi Ji), the daughter of a devoted Sikh couple Daya Ram Ji and Bhagan Ji at village Mandiali.
Guru Sahib spent the last decade of his life (from 1635 to 1644) at Kiratpur Sahib, which is situated in the hill state of Hadur (Nalagarh), founded by Baba Gurditta Ji (Guru’s son). It is said that Raja Tara Chand donated land for this purpose. Guru Sahib devoted his much time in reorganizing the Sikh Nation and updating the preaching centres by establishing a new system called Dhunas. Baba Gurditta Ji was made the incharge of religious affairs and he further appointed four head preachers area vice: Almast Ji, Phaul Ji, Gonda Ji and Baba Hansa Ji. Guru Sahib made reconciliation with Udasi sect headed by Baba Sri Chand Ji. Guru Sahib’s religious tours and preaching made the Sikhism more popular in different parts of India. On the other hand Guru Sahib did not abandoned the mission of militarizing the Sikhs. Now for the first time in the Indian history since the invasion of Muslims, the Sikh Nation, under the supreme command of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji, prepared for the armed resistance. The tyranny and injustice of the Muslim theocratic state was opposed. This was only an imperative measure of defense. Guru Sahib converted the peaceful sect into a warlike community, ready to defend their interests with the swords and it was the need of the hour.
After the death of emperor Jahangir the policy matter of the new young emperor Shah Jahan changed considerably. The emperor took the notice of new converts to Sikhism from the Muslims. He ordered to destroy all the temples and Gurdwaras, which were under construction. The sacred Baoli of Guru Arjan Sahib in Dabbi Babar, Lahore (now in Pakistan) was desecrated and converted into a mosque. (Later Maharaja RanJit Singh re-excavated and re-established this Baoli. Again it was destroyed in 1947, by the unruly and fanatic Muslims mob). On the other hand the influence of Naqashbandis (a radical and fundamentalist order of the Muslim clergy). In 1629 Mukhlis Khan was made the Governor to Lahore. He and Qazi Rustam Khan were best friends. According to some historical accounts Kaulan(Mata), a Hindu lady , as it is also signified to by the name Kaulan, was forcibly abducted by the Qazi Rustam Khan in her childhood and was made a maid servant . She was treated like a slave .At the young age; she came under the influence of the teachings of Sain Mian Mir Ji. She also began to take part in the religious sittings of Guru Sahib and became an ardent and pious follower of Guru Sahib.
On noticing this attitude of Kaulan Ji, Qazi became harsher towards her .How a Qazi, an extreme fanatic personality; tolerate her deep and devotional interest in Sikh religion? Because of Qazi’s harsh treatment she sought the help of Mian Mir Ji, who deputed his disciple Abdullah (Abdul Yar Khan) to escort Kaulan Ji safely to Amritsar, Where she was treated kindly by Guru Sahib and provided her a safe and separate lodging near a pond, (later it was converted into a tank by Guru Sahib and named it Kaulsar, after the name of Kaulan Ji). She was a pious disciple of Guru Sahib and an ardent follower of Sikhism. She began to arrange religious congregations on Sikhism and Gurbani, at her residence. Within a short span of time she became much popular among the Sikh masses. Thus she won the sympathy of the Sikhs who began to address her as Mata Kaulan Ji. She breathed her last on 4th July 1629 at Kartarpur (Jalandhar) while serving for the Sikh Nation.
When Shah Jahan succeeded the throne after the death of his father Jahangir, Qazi Rustam Khan lodged a complaint with the new emperor, who was incensed earlier by the fanatic Muslims and Hindus against the Sikh Nation and Guru Sahib. He obliged the complaint and revised his policy matter; earlier adopted by his father Jahangir towards Guru Sahib.The possible conflict out of charged circumstances was inevitable. Guru Sahib fought five battles during the regime of emperor Shah Jahan, and all were won. A small conflict of Rohilla near Sri Hargobindpur was fought in 1621. It was the first armed clash between the Faujdar of Jalandhar and Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji.
Near the site of new town Hargobindpur, Bhagwan Das, a Khatri ‘Kirar’ contemplated his right of ownership on the land and with the help of some hired ruffians forcibly tried to dislodge the Sikhs, who were engaged in developing the new township. In the ensuing small clash Bhagwan Das and his most hired ruffians were killed. After this incident, Rattan Chand (son of Bhagwan Das) and Karam Chand (son of Chandu Mal) incensed the Faujdar of Jalandhar against Guru Sahib. Abdulla Khan the Faujdar of Jalandhar dispatched ten thousand soldiers. They were intercepted by the mighty and devoted Sikh Saint-Soldiers at Rohilla Ghat on the bank of the river Beas. The Mughal army met a crushing defeat by the hands of, but there was an immense loss of lives and material on the both sides. Besides Rattan Chand and Karam Chand, the Faujdar of Jalandhar, Abdullah Khan his two sons and five commanders were killed. Guru Sahib sacrificed Saint Soldiers like Madhura Bhat Ji (son of Baba Bhikha Ji), Bhai Nanu Ji, Bhai Saktu Ji, Bhai Jattu Ji, Bhai Pirana Ji, Bhai Paras Ram Ji, Bhai Jagannath Ji and Bhai Kalyana Ji. The second and the most serious conflict between Guru Sahib and the Mughal forces were fought in April 1634. It started with the lifting of a royal hawk of the imperial army of Shah Jahan by the Sikhs, who incidentally were also hunting in the same territory around Gumtala Village near Amritsar. This led to a small violent conflict between the two parties. Guru Hargobind Sahib was not directly involved in his clash.
This incident enraged the emperor, Shah Jahan. He deputed Mukhlis Khan with, 7,000 soldiers “to teach the lesson” to Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji. The mini fortress of Lohgarh was attacked. The Sikhs though small in number, gave a stiff resistance. Guru Sahib and the whole family had to hurriedly move to Chabal, to solemnize the marriage of Bibi Veero Ji (the daughter of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji). The attackers had an upper hand over the Sikhs on the first day of the battle. They looted and plundered all the property and holy residence of Guru Sahib. On the next morning the Sikhs, after consolidating their position, retaliated and made a vigorous attack on the sleeping Mughal forces. Mukhlis Khan, the commander and most of his leading lieutenants were killed. Guru Sahib also suffered a heavy loss of life and property. This was the first armed clash between the Mughals and the Sikhs.
After this battle, Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji retired to the semi desert wastelands of Bhatinda. (While leaving Amritsar for the Malwa region, Guru Sahib took Guru Granth Sahib with him but after meeting a halt for sometimes at Daroli he sent Guru Granth Sahib to Kartarpur along with the family). Soon after this, a tussle between Guru Sahib and Subedar of Lahore began over the two horses, which were forcibly snatched and taken into custody by the Mughal officials from the two devotees of Guru Sahib, at Lahore. This incident was informed to Guru Sahib. Bhai Bidhi Chand a daring disciple recovered the horses one by one from the royal stable. This dare devil act was considered an open thereat to the authority of the Mughal Empire. The imperial forces (22000 troops) were dispatched towards the Lakhi Jungle under the command of Qamar Beg and Lalla Beg. Guru Hargobind Sahib had only three to four thousand warriors. The Sikh forces under the command of Rai Jodh and Kirt Bhatt camped near a water reservoir. The interception took place near Mehraj and Lahira villages. According to some chronicle (on 16th December 1634) the Sikhs waged a guerilla attack on Mughal forces at night, which resulted heavy causalities in the Mughal camp. The Sikhs routed and defeated the enemy. Guru Sahib lost 1200 Saint Soldiers including Kirt Bhatt Ji and Bhai Jetha Ji. On the other side Sameer Beg and his two sons Shams Beg and Qasim Beg were also killed. The Mughal forces fled to Lahore leaving behind the dead and wounded. The Sikhs did not intercept the fleecing enemy. Guru Sahib built a tank called Gurusar commemorating the victory. Near a village Nathane Guru Sahib faced another encounter with the Mughal forces but remained victorious.
After these successful encounters Guru Sahib retired at Kartarpur (Jalandhar) along with his warriors. Painda Khan Pathan a commander in Guru’s army and childhood friend, deserted him later and joined the Mughal camp after some altercation with the Sikhs and Guru Sahib on some petty issues. He and Kala Khan (brother of slain Mukhlis Khan), along with imperial army made an attack on Guru Sahib at Kartarpur on 26th April 1635. The Sikhs having a nominal strength of 5000, fought with rare courage and velour. Teg Bahadar Ji (Guru), Baba Gurditta Ji and Bhai Bidhi Chand Ji showed great feasts of bravery. Painda Khan and Kala Khan were killed. Several Sikh Saint Soldiers were also martyred.
After the battle of Kartarpur, Guru Sahib moved onwards Kiratpur Sahib, which was under the rule of Raja Tara Chand (a hill state chief). Again Guru Sahib’s entourage was suddenly ambushed by a contingent of royal forces under the command of Ahmed Khan in the village Palahi near Phagwara town on 29th April 1635. It caused considerable loss on the Guru’s soldiers. Bhai Dasa Ji and Bhai Sohela Ji (sons of Ballu Bhat, and grandsons of Mula Bhat) sacrificed their lives. Guru Sahib crossed the Sutlej River and reached Kiratpur Sahib where he established another spiritual and preaching center of the Sikh Nation. Here, Guru Sahib spent ten years of his life and breathed his last on Chet Sudhi 5th (6th Chet Samvat 1701) 28th February 1644 (some chronicle record the date as 3rd March, 1644). It is said that when Guru’s body was placed on fire, and as the flames rose high, a large number of Sikhs tried to burn themselves on the funeral pier. Har Rai Sahib (Guru) dissuaded them, but earlier two had jumped into the pier and were consumed by the fire. Before his death Guru Sahib nominated his grandson Har Rai Sahib (The second son of Baba Gurditta Ji) as his successor (Seventh Nanak).