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Duration of Detention of Guru Hargobind

Dr. Kirpal Singh* and D. R. Narang**

* 1288, Sector 15-C, Chandigarh.
** 602 Dr. Mukherjee Nagar, Delhi-110009
Sometimes it appears futile to conduct researches into the areas where deep faith is involved.
There are, however, certain aspects of the Sikh Gurus lives where historical research is not only
necessary but urgently needed. It is well established and agreed to by one and all that Guru
Hargobind, the sixth Guru of the Sikhs was imprisoned by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. How
long he had been in confinement, has been a matter of conjecture eversince the time of
imprisonment. The contemporary Dabistan records that the Guru was imprisoned for twelve
years. The Sikh sources are at variance with one another regarding duration of Gurus
imprisonment. Gurpartap Suraj Granth writes its duration to be of forty days. Mehma Parkash
does not give time limit of Gurus detention nor Gurbilas Padshahi Chhevi. Modern writers
widely differ on Gurus duration of detention. History of Sikhs by Ganda Singh and Teja Singh
concludes that the Guru was imprisoned for two years. One Ph.D. thesis on Guru Hargobind in
Punjabi University, Patiala, stated that the Guru was imprisoned for six months. The purpose of
this paper is to ascertain the duration of imprisonment of Guru Hargobind.
The following three aspects have been analyzed and studied in order to arrive at some rational
conclusions :-
1. Study of old Gurudwaras connected with Guru Hargobind - their location,
inscriptions and oral traditions, etc. It is a pity that old historic Gurdwaras have neither
been comprehensively identified and listed nor properly studied. These constitute very
significant source of information.
2. Recorded Traditions of Gurus life. It yields important information which can
hardly be ignored.
3. Persian Sources: The collaboration of the two above-mentioned sources of
information with the contemporary Persian record is essential. It is very significant that
Persian and Gurmukhi sources should collaborate to yield authentic results.
Arrest of Guru Hargobind
To determine the date of arrest of Guru Hargobind is perhaps more difficult as compared to
finding the date of his release. In former case no date has been ventured, so far the Bhatt Vahis
are silent. There has been no mention of the date of detention in Gurmukhi or Persian sources.
We have to build the case on various clues and hints here and there. It will therefore be very
important to study circumstances leading to the arrest of the Guru.
Guru Hargobind received summons from the Mughal authorities at Amritsar. After consulting
Baba Budha and Bhai Gurdas the Guru set out for Delhi. All Gurmukhi sources, including
Gurbilas Patshahi Chhevin. Sri Gur Gurpartap Suraj Granth and Mehma Parkash agree that the
Guru visited Delhi and stayed at Majnu da Tilla for some time. Most of these sources record that
the Guru met the Mughal Emperor at Delhi, and the Guru and Emperor both went to Agra after
the meeting:
HJIl I8 oI 3J =l H=H
Hl3I HI 3J I8 HIl3 = olH
"Jahangir went to Agra to stay there. The Guru accompanied him in order to please Sangat."
Sri Gurpartap Suraj Granth has dilated Gurus stay at Delhi, whereas an earlier source Mehma
Parkash (1776 A.D.) has devoted one chapter (Sakhi) relating to the Gurus stay at Agra. Most
probably, the Guru stayed at Agra where he killed a ferocious tiger in one of his hunting
excursions. Hunting of tiger by the Guru in the hunting excursion of the Emperor has been
recorded by Twarikh Guru Khalsa as well as by Gurbilas Patshahi Chhevin. Both sources give
details about Gurus killing a ferocious tiger. Fortunately, this is confirmed by the location of an
historic Gurdwara, named Sher Shikar, in jungles of Dholepur. Sardar G. B. Singh who stayed at
Dholepur and had visited the Gurdwara gives the following details of this shrine.
"The Gurdwara was built to commemorate the killing of ferocious lion by Sri Hargobind Sahib
while hunting in the Jungles near Dholepur which is a sub-division town in the Bharatpur
District of Rajasthan. In pre-independence days it was the capital of erstwhile princely state
bearing the same name. It is situated at a distance of twenty one miles from Agra on the Agra-
Gwalior, national highway."
The Gurdwara is a modest structure and is located on the eastern side of the Parikarma of an
ancient tank. Half a dozen Hindu temples devoted to various deities stand on the southern side of
the Parikarma. The entire complex is known as Athsath Tirath, is situated at a distance of four
miles outside Dholepur.
"The Gurdwara is situated in picturesque surroundings with a backdrop of Aravali hills. The
inhospitable Chambal Ravines are near by. A colourful portrait, depicting Guru Hargobind Sahib
taking on the lion with help of large shield held in the left hand, and cutting the beast into two by
a sword in the right hand, decorates the walls. Parkash Ustav of the sixth master is celebrated
here with great eclat every year. It is attended by the Sangat of Dholepur and sturdy peasantry
from Punjab settled on the canal fed rural areas.
From the above mentioned circumstances it is almost certain that the Guru was sent from Agra to
Gwalior where he was interned. The Gurus internment in the Gwalior Fort is a confirmed fact
and had been agreed to by one and all, including contemporary Dabistan.
Factors Determining the Date of Detention
Following factors are significant for determining the date of Gurus imprisonment:
Recently found stone Inscription in fort of Gwalior:
While digging a tank near the Gurdwara in the Fort of Gwalior one Persian inscription on stone
has been found, which runs:
"One perfect man, Pir-i-Hind, the sixth Nanak Hargobind was imprisoned by the
orders of Emperor Nur-ud-Din Sultan-i-Hind, Jahangir. While in fort of Gwalior, the son
of Guru Arjun used to take bath day and night in this Gangula tank.
Samat 1670 Bikarmi
Wazir Khan."
There are two important deductions from this inscription. Firstly, the tank where the Guru used
to take bath had been built by Wazir Khan, the founder of Wazirabad, a flourishing town in the
district of Gujranwala (Pakistan). He belonged to Chiniot, modern district Jhang, Pakistan. He
was a great builder and built a beautiful mosque at Lahore, for which he is still remembered. He
built bath, market and other buildings in Lahore and a brick fort in Chiniot. According to Bhai
Kahn Singh he was a great devotee of Guru Arjun and Guru Hargobind.
Secondly, the inscription gives the date viz. 1670 B. K. corresponding to 1613 A.D., which
implies that Guru Hargobind was in Gwalior fort in the year 1613 A. D. Consequently he would
have been arrested either in 1613 A.D., or earlier.
There are two significant clues in the Gurbilas Patshahi Chhevin, a work of 18th century. These
clues implicitly give date of the Gurus arrest. Firstly, Wazir Khan who brought Gurus
summons to Amritsar said to the Guru:
HJ I =l 83 HJl18l3 8 c o8 H8l1 =Hl 38 JJ UUl1 I oH u
"The Emperor talked of Guru and said that six years have passed since martyrdom of Guru
Arjun. Wazir Khan sighed and uttered that Guru Arjun was manifestation of God."
It clearly implies that the Guru was arrested six years after the martyrdom of Guru Arjun. That
comes to 1612 A.D. as Guru Arjun was martyred in 1606 A.D.
The second important clue does not give the Bikarmi Sambat but gives Lunar and Solar dates of
Gurus departure from Amritsar after receiving the summons. The exact wording is:
= 8e I =lU U1l= le Uu lu3 H H1el8 le H= HH = I81oH=l oH I
After salutation (to his mother) the Guru set out after riding on the horse. That day was Sunday,
fourth of Lunar month and two days of the month of Magh, had passed.
With the help of these indications we have to find out the year. In An Indian Ephemeris by L.D.
Swamikannu Pillai, (Vol. VI) we have tried to find the year fulfilling three conditions- Sunday,
Magh 3, and Chauth (4th) of Lunar date. It appears that the day of Sunday is not correct. These
three conditions are not fulfilled throughout the life of Guru Hargobind. The Third of the month
of Magh and fourth day of Pooranmashi was 31st December 1612 A.D. Perhaps this is the date
when the Guru set out from Amritsar towards Delhi. This leads us to conclude that the Guru was
arrested early 1613 A.D.
Administrative Evidence:
The order for the execution of Guru Arjun was given to Murtza Khan who was the governor of
the Punjab. It has been stated in Tuzik-i-Jehangiri:
"I ordered them to produce him and handed over his houses, dwelling places and children to
Murtza Khan and having confiscated his property commanded that he be put to death by Yasa."
Murtza Khans real name was Sheikh Farid and he was an ardent follower or Seikh Ahmed
Sirhindi, of Naquashbandi order. It is evident from the letters of Sheikh Ahmed addressed to
Sheikh Farid and published in Maktubat-i-Imam Rabani, preserved in Dr. Ganda Singhs
Collection Punjabi University. Patiala. Jehangir gave him the title of Murtza Khan which means
praiseworthy. He was granted Jagir of Bhairowal on right bank of Beas, near Fatehabad, where a
battle had been fought against the army of Jahangir when he was pursuing the forces of rebel
prince Khusrau. He was ordered to "hang up and impale the seditious Ahmaqs and others who
had taken part in the rebellion. It appears that Murtza Khan remained the governor of Punjab
uptill January 1608 after which Qutlij Khan was appointed governor. Murtza Khan was
reappointed as governor of Punjab in month of Tir? 1020 Hijri corresponding to July 1611 A. D.
On account of the governors inimical attitude towards Guru Hargobind there appear to be the
adverse reporting. It was perhaps at his instance that the Guru was summoned to meet the
Emperor. Thus Murtza Khans reappointment as governor in the suba of Lahore as mentioned in
Tuzik-i-Jehangiri coincides with the date of inscription recently found at the Gurdwara in the
Fort of Gwalior, as well as with the indication and hints and clues mentioned in the chronogram
relating to the internment of the Guru. Thus it appears almost certain that the Guru was
imprisoned in the first half of the year 1613 A.D.
Release of the Guru:
The Sikh sources like Gurbilas Patshahi Chhevin and Mehma Parkash account for the release of
the Guru from the Gwalior Fort due to the illness of Jehangir, the Mughal Emperor. He was
advised to release the Guru, to be cured of his illness, and he did accordingly. No specific date
has been mentioned for indisposition of the Emperor. Twarikh Guru Khalsa, however, suggest
that the Guru was released because of the intervention of famous Sufi Saint Mian Shaikh
Mohammad Mir ,popularly known as Mian Mir of Lahore. It may be mentioned here that Sufi
Saint had known the house of the Guru as there has been very strong tradition among the Sikhs
that the foundation stone of Hari Mandir, now known as Golden Temple Amritsar, was laid by
Mian Mir at the request of Guru Arjun, father of Guru Hargobind. So it is very likely that Mian
Mir would have spoken to the Emperor when he met him. During his rule Jahangir met Sufi
Saint Mian Mir only once. That was on Thursday 30th December, 1619 A. D. (3rd Bahman H.
1029). This meeting to k place at Kalanaur. According to Bhatt Vahi Talauda Pargana Jind, the
Guru and Jehangir were at Kalanaur (modern Distt. Gurdaspur) on First Phagan 1676 i.e. 27th
Feb. 1620. Both the sources suggest that the Guru would have been released in 1676 Bikarmi
viz., 1619-20 A.D. Bhatt Vahi Multani Sindhi states that the Guru reached Amritsar on the first
of Magh 1676. B. K. corresponding to 28th January 1620 A.D. It may also be true as Kalanaur
and Amritsar are not very far. Guru Kian Sakhian gives 28th Katak 1676 B.K. viz., 28th
November 1619 A.D., the date of Gurus release from Gwalior along with Hindu rajas. From the
above study it is evident that Guru was released in 1676 B.K., viz., 1619-20 A.D.
Guru Hargobind was confined in the Gwalior Fort, as already been mentioned, in first half of
1613 A.D. and was released in 1619-20 and duration of his imprisonment was about six years, or
It will not be out of place to discuss here another aspect of the Gurus imprisonment in the
Gwalior Fort. Teja Singh and Ganda Singh argue, in a footnote on page 46 of A Short History of
the Sikhs (1950) "...during these very years several children were born to him : Gurditta in 1613,
Viro 1615, Suraj Mal in 1617, Ani Rai in 1618, Atal in 1619, and Tegh Bahadur in 1621."
Karam Singh who was the first writer to study and research the chronology of Sikh Gurus has
asserted that there had been errors in writing chronology of Guru Gargobind because the death
date of Baba Gurditta in 1638 A.D. had been mistakenly accepted as the date of death of Guru
Hargobind and recorded on the fly leaves of manuscript copies of the Adi Granth (Birhs). Hence
there has been difference of five or six years. Randhir Singh has worked on Gurparnalian, and
his work with same title was published by S.G.P.C. Amritsar in 1964. He writes in the preface
that, after correcting different conflicting versions, he had prepared Shud Gurpernali which he
has given at the end of the book and has extensively quoted his sources. According to Shud
Gurparnali mentioned by him. Guru Hargobinds first marriage with Mata Damodari took place
on 23rd Bhadro, 1660 B.K. viz August 1603 A.D. The second marriage of the Guru with Mata
Nanaki was performed on I Vasakh. 1677 B.K., viz March 28, 1620. The third marriage with
Mata Marwahi was performed on Savan 11, 1677 B.K. corresponding to July 10, 1620. The Shud
Guruparnali of Bhai Randhir Singh and Bhatt Vahis records the following dates of Gurus
1. The date of birth of Baba Gurditta has been recorded in the Bhatt Vahi Talauda,
Pargna Jind - Asu-Poornmashi 1665 B.K. viz. October 4, 1608 A.D. at Guru Ki Daroli
(modern Distt. Ferozepur).
2. Guru Tegh Bahadur was born on (19 Maghar 1678 B.K.) 18th October, 1621 A.D.
from Mata Nanaki.
3. Suraj Mal was born on 5 Asu (5 September, 1623 A.D.) from Mata Marwahi.
4. Anni Rai was born 23 Katak (24th October, 1623 A.D.) from Mata Damodari.
5. Atal Rai was born on Phagan 11 (February 6, 1626 A.D.)
6. Bibi Viro was born on Savan 11 (11th July 1626 A.D.)
Thus the Gurus children were either born before his confinement in the Gwalior Fort or after.

1. Ganda Singh "Nanak-Panthis". English translation of Dabistan published in The Panjab Past and
Present, Punjabi University, Patiala, April 1967, p. 62.
2. Santokh Singh Bhai, Sri Gurpartap Suraj Granth, Ras 4, Ansu 62.
3. Ganda Singh and Teja Singh, A Short History of the Sikhs, Bombay 1950, p.40.
4. Baljinder Singh Cheema, "The Life and Times of Guru Hargobind", Ph. D. Thesis, Punjabi
University, Patiala 1991, p. 139.
5. Sohan, Gurbilas Patshahi Chhevin, Edited by Inder Singh Gill, Amritsar, 1968, pp. 163-64.
6. Santokh Singh Bhai, op, eit, pp, 171-73.
7. Sarup Dass Bhalla, Mehma Parkash, Vol. I, Patiala, 1971, pp. 428-30.
8. Ibid., p. 428.
9. Gurus going for hunting has been mentioned in Mehma Parkash, Killing of lion has been
mentioned in Gurpartap Suraj Granth and Gurbilas Patshahi Chhevin and Twarikh Guru Khalsa.
10. Giani Gian Singh, Twarikh Guru Khalsa, Vol. I, Patiala, 1971, pp. 720-21.
11. Sohan, op. cit., pp. 170-71.
12. G. B. Singh, note dated 9, 3, 93 entitled "Gurudwara Sher Shikar Sahib." He visited Gurudwara in
March 1977 as per his letter addressed to me of March 9, 1993.
13. The Panjab Past and Present, op. cit., p. 62.
14. Ishar Singh Nara, Raja-Jogi, Journal, dated June-July, 1971, p. 27, Mera Janam te Jiwan Samachar,
Delhi, 1992, p. 18.
15. H. Beverige, The Maathir-ul-Umra, Vol. II, Asiatic Society Calcutta, 1952, pp. 982-83.
16. Bhai Kahn Singh, Mahan Kosh, Patiala, 1960, p. 809.
17. Sohan, op. cit., p. 161.
18. Ibid., p. 163.
19. L.D. Swami Kannu Pillai, An Indian Ephemeris. Delhi, 1982, p. 27.
20. Ganda Singh, Makhiz-i-Tawarikh-i-Sikhan, S.G.P.C., Amritsar, 1949, p.21.
21. Alexander Rogers & Henry Beveridge, Tuzuk-i-Jehangiri, Trans. Delhi, Vol. I 1968. p. 69.
22. Mohammad Salah Kambo, Amal-i-Salah-Shah Jehan Nama, Edit. Dr. Ghulam Yazdeni and Dr. Wahid
Qureshi, Lahore (Pakistan), 1967, pp. 33-34.
23. Alexander Rogers & Henry Beveridge, op, cit., Vol. I, p. 69.
24. Ibid., p. 69.
25. Ibid., pp. 198-99.
26. Sarup Das Bhalla, op. cit., p. 431; Sohan, op. cit., pp. 176-79.
27. Giani Gian Singh, op cit., p. 426.
28. Alexander Rogers & Henry Beveridge, op, cit., Vol II, p. 219.
29. Sarup Singh, Guru Kian Sakhian, Edit. Piara Singh and Giani Garja Singh, Patiala, 1986, p. 192;
Baljinder Singh Cheema, op. cit., pp. 118-119, 140.
30. Randhir Singh, Gurparnalian, S.G.P.C. Amritsar, 1964, p. 283.
31. Sarup Singh, op. cit, p. 26.
32. Randhir Singh, op. cit., p. 285.
33. Ibid., pp. 284-85.
It is difficult to determine the years of the birth of the Gurus children as their birth dates without
mentioned of year have been recorded. Bhai Randhir Singh recorded probable dates.