It was customary that when the gurus were anointed so, they were presented and adorned with a sword. This was referred to as the sword of the ascetic, of a pir. It symbolized His power, but to depict its benign character, it would be worn on the right side of the body. In this condition, a sword can only be drawn by the left hand, and cannot be brandished as a weapon. The normal way is to wear a sword such that it is drawn by the right hand, when it symbolizes worldly power of a rich king, of an emir.

After the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Har Gobind was anointed the sixth guru in June 1595. The ceremony was conducted by Baba Budha, the wise old one, who had begun his spiritual journey as a disciple of the first guru, Guru Nanak Dev. At the outset, Har Gobind does not mount the usual throne, and instead places the Guru Granth Sahib on it. He similarly dispensed with the ceremonial crown. At the end of the ceremony, Baba Budha adorns the Guru with a sword.

Lo and behold, the sword has, for the first time, been worn on a Guru’s person in weapon form, being drawn by the right hand, like an emir. Baba Budha requests to be allowed to correct the mistake, but the Guru says it is rightly placed, and the time is ripe to take up the weapon in defense of the oppressed, but requests that another sword be placed on him in the traditional pir fashion also. All his life, Guru Har Gobind wore two swords, one on the left and one on the right, and is referred to as the master who was a pir and emir at the same time.

With this simple example, Guru Har Gobind taught us to be saints and soldiers, kings and ascetics – at the same time. In his epic writings, Vaaran, Bhai Gurdas reminds us:

King Janak is the greatest saint —

Though surrounded by riches, his mind continues to be ascetic.

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