17. Miri Piri
The concept of "Miri Piri" was highlighted by the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind when he was throned Guru on 11 June 1606. At the Guruship (succession) ceremony the Guru asked for two kirpans to be donned on him; one to symbolize the concept of Miri or temporal authority and the second to symbolize the concept of Piri or spiritual authority. The wearing of two swords was a departure from previous Guruship tradition when only the "salli" (for spiritual power) was worn by the preceding Gurus. For many years now, the Sikh community worldwide have honoured the sixth Guru's vision of Miri and Piri and have celebrated this vision on 21 July every year by calling this day the - Miri Piri Divas or the Miri Piri Day.
What do these words mean ?
This word has come from the Persian word “miri”, which itself comes from the Arabic “Amir”. The word "Amir" (which is pronounced as "a-MEER") literary means commander, governor, lord, prince, ruler, chieftain, etc. and signifies temporal power or material power. The concept of Miri signifies worldly, materialist and political power. The concept is linked to the traditional power enjoyed by kings and ruler where the might of the military resulted in the power and ability to rule or influence the people.
This word has again come from the Persian word “pir” which literary means saint, holy man, spiritual guide, senior man, head of a religious order and stands for spiritual authority. The concept of "Piri" is linked to the power enjoyed by religious leaders, church priests, qazis, pandits, etc. to have power or influence over the devotees by way of "spiritual power" or religious power. The words miri and piri are now frequently used together to give the concept promoted by the sixth Guru.
Guru Hargobind sahib was only eleven years old at the time of the martyrdom of his father, Guru Arjun dev sahib. He was faced with two choices, either to let the Muslim tyrannical rulers (Mughals) and fanatical clergy to annihilate Sikhism and other non-Islamic religions of India or fight the tyranny. Guru sahib chose the latter and showed extraordinary personal courage, valour and political acumen and manoeuvred Sikhism on its course chartered by Guru Nanak through the initial crucial stages. The martyrdom of Guru Arjun in 1606 at the behest of the fanatical Mughal Emperor Jahangir prompted the succeeding young Guru Hargobind sahib to refocused the role of the Sikh Gurus. The Guru discerned sagely that the Sikhism had to fight for its survival or be devoured by the mighty Mughals who were tyrannically converting predominantly Hindu society of India to Islam. At his succession ceremony the Guru donned one sword to symbolize Piri, [spiritual authority] and second to symbolize Miri, [temporal authority]. Evidently the Guru sahib's concept of Miri Piri and motivation to assume the dual role of Miri and Piri were to challenge the religious coercion, political tyranny, social oppression and ensure peaceful and prosperous co-existence not only for the Sikhs but also, for the whole multi-religious and multi-cultural society of India. The Guru's motives to assume the dual role of Miri Piri were misconstrued at the time; but were soon validated when the Sikhs had to fight four defensive battles in 1628, 1630, 1631, 1634, A.D. against the aggressive Muslim imperial forces. Led by the Guru himself, the Sikhs routed the numerically superior Mughal forces in all four battles.