Guru Hargobind was the sixth Sikh Guru, following in the footsteps of his father Guru Arjan Dev Ji. He was not more than eleven-years-old at the time of his father’s execution, when he was installed as Guru. From his prison cell, Guru Arjan Dev Ji sent a message to Hargobind to cultivate and maintain an army. This was an exceptional proposition due to the fact that from the time of Guru Nanak, Sikhs had not taken up arms. Even while imprisoned, Guru Arjan sat on the hot plate in non-violence, meditating in a state of shuniaa, to set a supreme example to all Sikhs.
So, following this decree from his father, Guru Hargobind is known for having initiated an Akali army (Risaldari) that included a personal bodyguard of 57 horsemen, 700 horses, 60 gunmen and over 500 infantry. The calvary was eventually passed to his grandson, Guru Har Rai, with the special caveat to only be used after being threatened, or to protect the innocent, never to initiate war. Guru Hargobind advised that wherever possible every Sikh keep a sword and a horse.
A brilliant martial artist and avid hunter, Guru Hargobind encouraged those around him to maintain fitness to the degree that they would be ready for physical combat. Upon becoming Guru, he put on two swords: Miri, representing temporal power and Piri, to symbolize spiritual authority, explaining that one sword was to smite the oppressor while the other was to protect the innocent. Guru Hargobind said “In the Guru’s house, spiritual and mundane powers shall be combined. My rosary will be my sword belt and on my turban I will wear a kalgi.” Soon following his installation as Guru, Hargobind constructed the Akal Takht in front of the Golden Temple in Amritsar as the seat of temporal power. To this day, this Takht is recognized as the center of sociopolitical deliberation and power in the Indian Sikh community. Guru Hargobind excelled in matters of state, and his Darbar (court) was noted for its splendour.
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