Guru Hargobind and Emperor Jahangir
A notable chapter in Sikh history revolved around the historical interactions between Guru Hargobind and Emperor Jahangir. These meetings between the sixth Sikh Guru and Emperor Jahangir demonstrated the teachings of the Guru as well as his heroic personality.
Guru Hargobind, the sixth Sikh Guru, helped in the shaping of Sikh history in the early 17th century. This is a critical phase of the Sikh-Mughal relationship and it showcases the teachings from The Guru as well as his bravery.
Guru Hargobind Sahib, however, introduced the practice of holding Diwans twice daily to allow the Sikhs to learn the meaning of life and righteous living. His Darbar, or court was, indeed, spectacular in terms of religious spirituality and wisdom. The impression it left on the visitors, no matter their religious affiliations, was long-lived. His followers called him Saccha Patishah (the True King).
Even if he was powerful and popular, Guru Hargobind never aimed at territorial expansion. However, he supervised the building of the Akal Takhat, the Throne of the Immortal, at Amritsar, which was a venue for deliberations on Sikh matters and making crucial decisions. He also created Loh Garh, the fort of steel, in Amritsar.
This was the case for Emperor Jahangir, who saw Guru Hargobind as a threat to his power. He invited the Guru to Delhi to express his views and thoughts to address his concerns. The Guru met Jahangir and he asked him on diverse philosophical and theological questions.
When asked about the differences between the Hindu god Parmeshar and the Muslim god Allah, Guru Hargobind highlighted the oneness of God, stating that His name is truth and He is the Creator, merciful, and the Lord of all.
The Guru said that God is the creator, provider, and ultimately the destroyer of the world. He had spoken of the countless worlds beyond ours, the greatness of the Creator, which was greater than our understanding.
The Guru replied to Emperor Jahangir on the issue of Hindus versus Muslims and in the reply, he stated that everyone is a son of one God.
On being asked about a good ruler, Guru Har Gobind stated that God is the only perfect ruler and that a king should be considerate, and helpful, and work towards the amelioration of hardships experienced by their people.
The Guru’s answers impressed Jahangir and he befriended him. In a hunt, the emperor’s life was in jeopardy as a tiger attacked the party. The Guru acted quickly and boldly to save the Emperor's life which cemented their relationship.
The friendship between Guru Har Gobind and Emperor Jahangir was tested when a humble Sikh from Agra went to see him with an offering for the Guru who incidentally offended the Emperor. Eventually, the misunderstanding was fixed, but it planted seeds of dissension among the Emperor’s advisors.
Finally, the conspiracy against Guru was headed by one of Jahangir’s ministers, Chandu, which resulted in the false accusation of Guru of plotting against the life of the Emperor. Guru Hargobind who was sent to Gwalior Fort, two hundred miles southwest of Delhi, was imprisoned unjustly.
The Guru did not leave the prison premises; on the contrary, he taught the people in the prison about unity and spirituality. Many prisoners including Rajahs and princes became his followers. Nur Jahan, one of Jahangir’s favorite wives understood Guru’s innocence and set him free. Nevertheless, Guru Hargobind demanded that all the 52 imprisoned princes should be released and he therefore earned the title “Bandi Chhor” or “The Liberator.”
When he was released from his imprisonment, the Guru went back to Amritsar; the community welcomed him home in a big way. To this day, the lighting up of streets and the celebration of Deepmala at the Golden Temple is observed as an annual ritual.