HARGOBIND, GURŪ (1595-1644), sixth in spiritual descent from Gurū Nānak, was born the only son of Gurū Arjan and Mātā Gaṅgā on Hāṛ vadī 7, 1652 Bk/19 June 1595 at Vaḍālī, now called Vaḍālī Gurū, a village near Amritsar. As a child, he escaped being poisoned by a jealous uncle and being bitten by a cobra thrown in his way. He also survived a virulent attack of smallpox and grew up into a tall and handsome youth. He received his early education and training at the hands of two revered Sikhs of that time -- Bhāī Gurdās and Bābā Buḍḍhā. The former taught him the religious texts and the latter the manly arts of swordsmanship and archery. He was barely 11 years of age when his father, Gurū Arjan, was martyred in Lahore. Gurū Arjan had on Jeṭh vadī 25, 1663 Bk/25 May 1606 nominated him his successor and, according to the Srī Gur Pratāp Sūraj Granth, sent him instruction "to ascend the throne fully armed, and have armed men, as many as you can, to accompany you." For the ceremonies of succession which took place on 26 Hāṛ 1663 Bk/24 June 1606, Gurū Hargobind chose himself a warrior's equipment. He sat on a seat he had had erected in front of the Holy Harimandar, with two swords on his person, declaring one to be the symbol of the spiritual and the other that of his temporal investiture. Hukamnāmās were issued to saṅgats on Hāṛ vadī 2, 1663 Bk/12 June 1606 to come with offerings of arms and horses. Gurū Hargobind maintained a retinue of fifty-two armed Sikhs. Many more came to offer him their services, and several of them were provided with horses and weapons. Manly sports became popular and bards such as 'Abdullā and Natthā were engaged to recite heroic poetry. Gurū Hargobind combined with soldierly demeanour a compassionate disposition and carried out his spiritual office in keeping with the custom of his predecessors. "He," as says the Mahimā Prakāsh, "arose three hours before daybreak and sat in seclusion, to concentrate on the Divine. Then he dressed himself and repaired to the presence of the Holy Book and began to recite it silently. None entered to interrupt him. None could fathom the depth of his spiritual absorption."
Reports about the splendid style Gurū Hargobind kept led Emperor Jahāṅgīr to pass orders for his detention in the Fort of Gwālīor. According to the Dabistān-i-Mazāhib, the charge levelled against him was that he had not paid the fine imposed on his father. For how long he remained in the Fort cannot be stated with certainty. From forty days to twelve years (the Dabistān-i-Mazāhib), several different periods of time are mentioned. It seems that Gurū Hargobind remained in the Fort for a few months during 1617-19 whereafter he was required to stay in the royal camp under surveillance for some time. During his detention in Gwālīor, Sikhs made trips to the city in batches to see him and, when disallowed to enter the Fort, they proffered obeisance from outside its walls and returned. As time came for Gurū Hargobind to be released from the Fort, he came out on the condition that all other detenues were freed, too. He led fifty-two prisoners out of the Fort. Bandīchhoṛ (Liberator Benign) is the title by which he is remembered to this day. When at last Gurū Hargobind reached Amritsar, Sikhs illuminated the town. The anniversary of the event is still celebrated at Harimandar, the Golden Temple, with lights and fireworks.
Emperor Jahāṅgīr from now on continued to be conciliatory and, according to Sikh tradition, he delivered to Gurū Hargobind Chandū Shāh, who took part of the responsibility for the execution of Gurū Arjan and for his own incarceration. Chandū Shāh met with a violent end at the hands of the Sikhs. On his lands, also made over to him, Gurū Hargobind founded a new town which came to be known as Srī Hargobindpur. As the work commenced, Bhagvān Dās, a local landlord, objected and attacked the Sikhs with a party of his men. Bhagvān Dās was killed in the skirmish. His son, Ratan Chand, and Chandū Shāh's son, Karam Chand, sought help from the Mughal faujdār of Jalandhar who sent a body of troops against Gurū Hargobind. They were repulsed in the battle that ensued. Both these actions were fought in the vicinity of Ruhelā, the first on 28 Assū 1678 Bk/28 September 1621 and the second on 3 Kattak 1678 Bk/4 October 1621. At Srī Hargobindpur, the Gurū built along with the dharamsāl a mosque for the Muslims.
Further clashes with the Mughal authority broke out with the battle of Amritsar, which according to the Bhaṭṭ Vahī Multānī Sindhī, was fought on Baisākh 17, 1691 Bk/14 April 1634. Its immediate cause was only a minor dispute. Emperor Shāh Jahān, on a visit to Lahore, was out hunting in the neighbourhood of Amritsar. One of his favourite hawks flew and fell into the hands of the Sikhs. The royal messengers came to claim the bird, but the Sikhs refused to part with it. The emperor was annoyed and sent a body of troops under Mukhlis Khān, the faujdār of Lahore. The Sikhs fought back and Mukhlis Khān was killed in the encounter which took place at the site now occupied by the Khālsā College.
Soon afterwards Gurū Hargobind left Amritsar, this time taking with him the holy Granth Sāhib seated in the Harimandar. The first long halt was at Ḍaraulī, near Mogā, in present-day Farīdkoṭ district. From there Gurū Hargobind sent the Granth Sāhib with the family to Kartārpur. He himself sojourned in the Mālvā, visiting his Sikhs and confronting, on 16 December 1634, the Mughal troops in yet another battle, this time at Lahirā, near Mehrāj, now in Baṭhiṇḍā district. Another armed clash took place at Kartārpur on 29-30 Baisākh 1692 Bk/26-27 April 1635, when Gurū Hargobind's own erstwhile Paṭhān follower, Paindā Khān, led out a Mughal force against him.
Gurū Hargobind finally retired to Kīratpur where he spent the remaining nine years of his life in peace. The town was of the Gurū's own creation and had existed since Bābā Srī Chand had, according to the evidence of the Bhaṭṭ Vahīs, broken ground at his request, on Baisākh sudī Pūranmāshī 1683 Bk/1 May 1626. The site had been gifted by Rājā Kalyān Chand of Kahlūr, one of the chieftains who had won their reprieve at Gwālīor through Gurū Hargobind's intercession. Kīratpur now became the centre of the Sikh faith. Sikhs came here from all parts to see the Gurū. Gurū Hargobind gave most of his time to religious devotions. Contact was maintained with saṅgats in far-flung places, and old warriors like Bidhī Chand were sent out as preachers. For Sikhs the roles of saint and soldier had become mutually complementary. About the Gurū himself, Bhāī Gurdās wrote : "Great hero is Gurū Hargobind. He is the vanquisher of armies, but his heart is full of love and charity." This synthesis of the heroic and the spiritual was Gurū Hargobind's distinctive contribution to the evolution of Sikh society.
Gurū Hargobind had travelled extensively in the Punjab spreading the word of Gurū Nānak. He had also visited places such as Nānakmatā and Srīnagar in Gaṛhvāl (where the famous Marāṭhā saint Samarth Rāmdās met him) in the east and Kashmīr in the north. The journey to Kashmīr was made in 1620 in the company of Emperor Jahāṅgīr, and Srīnagar, Bārāmūlā, Ūṛī and Puñchh were among the places visited. Gurdwārās in these and in many places in the Punjab and outside honour the memory of Gurū Hargobind.
Gurū Hargobind, like all of his predecessors, lived a married life. He had six children -- five sons and a daughter. Gurdittā, Aṇī Rāi and the daughter Bībī Vīro were born to (Mātā) Damodarī, Sūraj Mall and Aṭal Rāi to (Mātā) Marvāhī and Tegh Bahādur to ( Mātā ) Nānakī. Two of his sons, Bābā Gurdittā and Aṭal Rāi, died in his lifetime.
Gurū Hargobind passed away on Chet sudī 5, 1701 Bk/3 March 1644 at Kīratpur. The cremation took place on the bank of the River Sutlej at the site now marked by Gurdwārā Patālpurī.