Concept of Miri and Piri
"Miri" and "Piri" symbolize the Temporal and Spiritual powers of an authority. In Sikh history, these two words are associated with the ceremony of succession to guruship pertaining to Guru Hargobind (sixth Guru of the Sikhs). As most historians have written that the fifth Guru (Arjan Dev) during his captivity concentrated on God and sought divine light and guidance to save the nascent religion from annihilation. It is said that the only solution revealed to him was to guard it with the aid of arms. Thus, he sent to his eleven-year-old son and successor, Hargobind a 'bel fruit (Wood apple or Aegle marmelos) with five paise as a token of his nomination with his last injunction through a Sikh "Let him sit fully armed on his throne and maintain an army to the best of his ability" (Macauliffe-III-99).
Ceremony of Succession to Guruship
On receiving the fifth Guru's last message and on his death Baba Buddha performed the ceremony of succession. He applied 'tilak' on his (Hargobind's) forehead. Then the Guru asked Bhai Buddha to adore him with a sword. (Remember, until now no Guru had ever worn a sword or any such weapon). Babaji put the sword on the right side of Guru's body, who pointed out the mistake. But when Babaji wanted to put it on the other side, the Guru forbade him to do so. He, rather, asked him to fasten another sword on the left side.
Two Swords of Miri and Piri
The Guru declared that the two swords signified Miri and Piri, (Shakti and Bhakti), deg, and teg. One symbolized temporal power and the other spiritual power; one to smite the oppressor and the other to protect the innocent. He then told his followers "In the Guru's house spiritual and mundane powers shall be combined". He again said, "My rosary shall be the sword belt and on my turban, I shall wear the emblem of royalty". (Macauliffe-IV, 2; Sarkar, A short history of Aurangzeb, 156). He instructed the Sikhs to keep a sword and a horse. Hargobind had given the same message as that of Guru Nanak, but he also added to it the challenge of a hero. The use of swords, bows, arrows, and even a gun was a common thing for personal safety and security (See Dr. Hari Ram Gupta's page 156).
Entry of Militia Elements
Gurudev had armed and drilled some of his sturdy disciples. He had possessed a stable of seven hundred horses three hundred horsemen, and sixty gunners (Topchi). Five hundred young men from Majha and nearby territories were recruited as infantry. One thing of great interest was that they believed that by fighting for the Guru in the cause of righteousness, they would be attaining salvation (Mukt).
Guru Hargobind Sahib had demanded arms and horses as gifts. He had built a fort at Amritsar as Lohgarh (a fortress of steel). In front of the Harimandir, he built an Akal Takht (God's throne). There he sat on a raised platform, 12 ft high in princely attire. Harimandir was the seat of his spiritual authority and Akal Takht was the seat of his temporal authority. There he used to administer justice like a king in a court, honor as well as punishments. Thus the Guru had created a government of his own like that of the Mughals.
Guru Hargobind Satisfies a Sadhu with a Beautiful Answer to his Query
It is not necessary that all the disciples of Guru Nanak would have accepted this new concept of Miri Piri. Many stories have been written that many people went in denial when Guru Sahib started practicing swords. One similar and important story goes "Once the Guru was staying in Kashmir. There came a Sadhu to see him. He was a Deceani, Ramdas by name. Riding a horse, the Guru had returned from a hunt. Many Sikhs were there with him.
He asked the Guru, "I had heard you occupied the gaddi of Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak was a Tyagi sadhu saint who had renounced the world. You are wearing arms and keeping an army and horses. You have yourself called Sacha Badshah-A True King. What sort of a Sadhu are you?"
Guru Hargobind said, "Internally a hermit, and externally a prince; arms mean protection for the poor and destruction for the tyrant. Baba Nanak had not renounced the world but had renounced Maya, the self and ego. Ramdas was pleased to hear this) and said, "This appealth to my mind" ( Eh Hamare Man Bhavati Hai ). (Sri Hanumant Swami's Sri Samarthanchi Bakhar, pp 22-23). Sadhu Ramdas was Samrath Ramdas who became Guru of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Read the Full Story here.