Guru Hargobind was born at Wadali village in June 1595 and was the only child of Guru Arjan Dev. He was invested with the Guruship on May 25, 1606 just days before his fathers martyrdom. From a young age he was educated in the sciences, sports and religion as his father had insisted. Baba Buddha was responsible for overseeing the Guru's religious teachings.
During the Guruship ceremony Guru Hargobind respectfully declined to wear the Seli (woolen cord worn on the head) which had been passed down on each successive Guru since Guru Nanak. Instead the Guru asked for a sword. Baba Buddha, never having handled a sword before, placed it on the wrong side of the Guru. Guru Hargobind noticing this, asked for another sword saying "I'll wear two swords, a sword of shakti (power) and a sword of bhakti (meditation)." Henceforth the Guru would always carry two swords to symbolize his dual role of holding secular power (Miri) and spiritual authority (Piri).
Soon after his ascension to Guruship in 1606, Guru Hargobind laid the foundation of a new temple at Amritsar; the Akal Takht. The Akal Takht was built facing Harmandir Sahib (the Golden Temple). Guru Hargobind had a throne built, and would administer Sikh affairs from here. The temporal nature of the Akal Takht balanced the spiritual nature of the Golden Temple, emphasizing the dual concepts of Miri and Piri introduced by the Guru. Guru Hargobind donned the royal regalia of a King and was known by the Sikhs as Sacha Padshah (The True King).
Guru Hargobind knew that the Sikh's would no longer take their freedom for granted, he undertook to steel his Sikhs against tyranny and oppression. The Guru now gave instructions to the Masands and to all the other Sikhs that they should make offerings in the future of horses and weapons rather than just money. The Hindus had become so weak that they could not contemplate any kind of resistance to the rulers of the date. The Sikhs did not believe in self-denial alone; they grew increasingly aware of the need for assertion also. They wielded arms and lived an active life, reared horses, rode on them, and racing and hunting became their pastimes. Guru Hargobind encouraged Sikhs in physical activity and weapons training as well as prayers. Soon an army of one thousand horses was raised. The spiritual side was not neglected. Guru Hargobind would rise long before the day dawned and after his bath in the holy tank, would go into meditation. The Guru would then join his Sikhs for prayers both in the mornings and evenings. Guru Hargobind did not want his emphasis on the temporal caused by the necessity for a war like posture to detract his followers from the spiritual ideals of Sikhism.
The Gurus military activities were soon reported to Emperor Jehangir by the ever jealous Chandu Shah, who still had an unmarried daughter on his hands as a constant reminder of the indignity hurled at him. Guru Hargobind was summoned by Jehangir and decided to go see the Emperor. Many Sikhs were apprehensive about the Guru going as they feared for his life. Before setting out for Delhi Guru Hargobind assigned the secular duties of running the Golden Temple to the honoured Baba Buddha and the spiritual instructions to the great scholar and scribe of the Guru Granth Sahib, Bhai Gurdas. Guru Hargobind then set out for Delhi accompanied by three hundred horses.
When Jehangir met Guru Hargobind, he was quickly won over by the young Gurus charm and holiness. The Guru had a number of religious discourses with the Emperor who wanted to be sure that no harm was intended to Islam by the propagation of Sikhism. When asked which religion was better Hinduism or Islam, Guru Hargobind replied quoting Kabir:
"God first created light, All men are born out of it. The whole world came out of a single spark; Who is good and who is bad? The Creator is in the creation, and the creation in the Creator, He is everywhere. The clay is the same, the potter fashions various models. There is nothing wrong with the clay or the potter. God the true resides in all, Whatever happens is His doing. He who surrenders to Him gets to know Him. He is His slave. God is invisible, He cannot be seen. The Guru has granted me this sweet gift. Says Kabir, my doubts are dispelled. I have seen the Pure with my own eyes." (Parbhati)
When Jehangir found out that Guru Hargobind was a great lover of sports, he invited the Guru to accompany him on a tiger hunt. During the chase the Emperor was attacked by a ferocious tiger. The attendants accompanying the royal party lost their nerve and their horses and elephants panicked. Guru Hargobind rushed his horse and pulling out his sword, he engaged the killed the dangerous tiger single handed. Jehangir was full of gratitude towards the Guru for risking his life. Jehangir became so fond of the Guru that he asked him to accompany him on a number of visits. Once while visiting Agra a poor grass-cutter follower of the Guru came to seem him. The grass-cutter, crying that he wanted to see the vision of the True King, was led by the royal attendants into the camp of the Emperor. The grass-cutter put a coin before him and stood with folded hands, praying, his eyes filled with tears and his throat choked with emotion. The Emperor was overwhelmed with the devotion of a loyal subject and offered him a large gift. The Sikh replied, "O True King, if you are so pleased, bless me with the glory of God's Name that I be emancipated." When the devotee was told that he had come to the wrong camp, and that the one who granted redemption was housed in the opposite camp, the devotee unhesitatingly left the presence of the emperor picking up his coin saying "Then this too is meant for him, not your Majesty".
While at Agra Jehangir suddenly fell ill. The ever scheming Chandu Shah conspired with astrologers to tell the emperor that he would only be cured if a holy man was sent to Gwalior Fort and undertook penance on the emperors behalf. Guru Hargobind was now requested to go to Gwalior Fort. Fully aware of Chandu's scheming, the Guru agreed, and accompanied by an escort of five Sikhs left for the fort. Guru Hargobind spent a number of months within the fort sometime between 1617 and 1619 as a virtual prisoner. Here were also imprisoned a number of princes who lived in deplorable conditions. Guru Hargobind uplifted their spirits with daily prayers and distributed much of his rations to them. Chandu Shah even tried unsuccessfully to have the Guru poisoned. Eventually many months after Jehangir's recovery he was finally convinced by Wazir Khan a admirer of the Guru in the mughal court to release the Guru and invite him back to Delhi. Guru Hargobind refused to leave the fort unless all of the princes who were political prisoners were also not released. Jehangir agreed after he was reminded by Wazir Khan that the emperor owed his life to the Guru.