Data Bandi Chhor the Great Deliverer
October/November, the worldwide
Sangat (community) celebrates the safe
return of the sixth
Guru Hargobind from detention from Gwalior
Fort in about October 1619. The day of his return to Amritsar coincided with
Hindu festival of
Diwali, ("the festival of lights"). This
concurrence has resulted in a similarity of celebrations amongst
Murtaja Khan, Nawab of
Lahore, noticed that Guru Ji had
Sri Akal Takhat Sahib, 'The Throne of the
Amritsar, and was also strengthening his
army, he informed the Mughal Emperor Jahangir about this. He also,
incorrectly, emphasized that the Sikh Guru was making preparations to take
revenge for his father's torture and martyrdom. When Jahangir heard about
this he at once sent Wazir Khan and Guncha Beg to
Amritsar in order to arrest
Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji.
Wazir Khan, who happened to be an admirer of Guru Hargobind, rather than
arresting him, requested the Guru to accompany them to
Delhi telling him that Emperor Jahangir
wanted to meet him. Guru Sahib accepted the invitation and soon reached
Jahangir meets the Guru
their first meeting when Jahangir saw the Guru, he was completely won over
by his youthful charm and holiness. Jahangir asked the Young Guru whether
the Hindu or Muslim religion was better. The Guru quoted some lines of Kabir.
Jahangir was very impressed with this answer. Deciding to become friends
with the Guru he gave him a royal welcoming. Learning that the Guru was also
an avid hunter he invited Guru Hargobind to accompany him on his shikars
one of these hunts the Moghul Emperor was hunting a lion which had been
terrorizing a small village. Suddenly out of the bush the ferocious beast
charged at Jahangir. Gunshots and arrows failed to end the attack of the
lion. The beast was almost upon the Emperor when Guru Hargobind jumped
between them. Yelling to the lion that he must first deal with him he raised
his shield to deflect the lion and with a single stroke of his sword, the
lion fell dead.
appreciative Emperor and Guru Hargobind were now becoming good friends. But
Chandu Shah could not bear this. A rich
banker with much influence in Jahangir's court he had once refused, with
very derogatory remarks, sugestions that he arrange a wedding between his
daughter and the young Hargobind, son of Guru Arjan.
Chandu Shah continues his evils ways
when he realized the match could be very beneficial he tried to arrange the
wedding. But Guru Arjan, having heard of the unkind remarks by then, refused
the proposal. Chandu's anger and intriques then played a large part in Guru
Arjan's death. Now seeing the growing friendship of the two leaders and
still smarting over his rejection by Guru Arjan Dev (his daughter was still
unmarried and thus the rotten sore on his ego was still bleeding) he began
his intrigues again this time taking aim at Guru Arjan's son, Guru Hargobind.
at Agra, the Emperor fell seriously ill. The royal physicians tried their
best but they failed to cure him. Chandu Shah now saw his chance, conspiring
with the astrologers, he asked them to tell the Emperor that his sickness
was due to a bad convergence of the stars.
was told that the disease could be cured, only if some holy man would go to
Gwallior Fort and continuously offer prayers to the deity there. He
suggested that there could be none more appropriate than his new friend
Guru Hargobind Ji and that he should be
asked go to Gwallior Fort. At the Emperor’s request the Guru readily agreed
and left for the Fort with several companions.
the fort Guru Ji met many Hindu Princes who were detained there due to
political reasons. Their living conditions in the fort were very deplorable.
With the help of Hari Dass, the governor of fort, the Guru had their
conditions improved. The princes soon joined the Guru in his daily prayers.
Unknown to Chandu Shah Hari Daas was a Sikh of
Guru Nanak and he had become an ardent
Guru Hargobind. When Chandu wrote to Hari
Daas telling him to poison Guru Sahib, he had at once placed the letter
before Guru Ji.
Mian Mir intervenes
several months had passed without their Guru being released,
Baba Buddha Ji and a group of Sikh devotees
traveled to the fort to meet with the Guru. They told the Guru that the
whole of Amritsar, his family, devotees and all the pilgrims who had come,
from near and far to visit him, were missing his presence dearly. They were
worried that their Guru might never leave the prison.
memory of his father's recent imprisonment, torture and death weighed
heavily on their hearts. The Guru assured them that they should not worry,
he would join them soon. Outside the fort Sikhs gathered and began to
carried out Parbhaat-Pheris (singing
Gurbani), as they walked around Gwallior
Fort waiting for their beloved Guru's release.
The Guru is released, but refuses to go alone
Sai Mian Mir, a noted Sufi Sant and friend
of both the Guru and his father, had travelled to the Emperor's Court to
meet with Jahangir asking him to release the Guru. Jahangir, who had fully
recovered then ordered Wazir Khan to release Guru Sahib.
Gwallior Fort Wazir Khan informed Hari Daas of the Emperor's order to
release the Guru. Hari Daas was very pleased to hear this and quickly
informed Guru Ji about the message from the Emperor. But the Guru refused to
leave the fort unless the 52 princes were released as well.
agrees but sets a condition
Wazir Khan informed the Emperor of the Guru's desire, the Emperor first
refused, but finally agreed, after Wazir Khan reminded him of the debt he
owed the Guru for his recovery. Not really wanting to free the prisoners the
Emperor cleverly added the following condition :
"whoever can hold on to
the Guru's cloak can be released."
fifty–two princes who had been detained for political reasons or for
defaulting on large sums of tribute owed the Emperor, had suffered in the
fort for years. The Guru with his heart full of compassion for the plight of
others was determined to get the prisoners freed.
had a cloak made with 52 corners or tails, the cloak was soon delivered. So,
as the Guru walked out of the gate of the fort the fifty-two princes trailed
behind, each holding on to his own tail of the Guru's special cloak. The
Guru's cleverness had trumped Jahangir's clever condition and liberated the
fifty-two princes. Guru Hargobind is therefore also known as Bandi-Chhor
Celebrations held at Gurdwara Bandi Chhorh
Bandi Chor is built at the
place where the Guru stayed during his detention. Jahangir advised Wazir
Khan to bring
Guru Hargobind in his court at Delhi with
great honour. Jahangir had realised that he was wrong for allowing the
torture and killing of
Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who had not committed
any crime or offence. Wanting to exonerate himself of any guilt in the death
he indicted the crime on Chandu Shah and other officers. So in order to show
his innocence he wanted to meet
Guru Hargobind Ji. On meeting with the
Emperor Guru Ji wasted no time in telling Jahangir that there was no such
thing as a bad convergance of the stars.
Sikhs celebrate this day as Bandi Chhorr
Divas i.e., "the day of release of detainees". So in the evening,
illuminations are done with "Deewalee" (earthen oil lamps), candles and
The celebrations are held both in the
Gurdwaras and in homes.
What do we learn from Bandi-Chhor Diwas ?
Hindu Princes were freed with Guru Sahib. Guru Sahib could have left the
Fort when he was offered the chance. However, Guru Ji thought of others
before himself. To the Guru others' freedom and rights were more important
than his own. Guru Ji is always thinking not of his emancipation but
everyone's emancipation. This is the attitude and virtue which Guru Ji
filled within his
Sikhs, by putting into reality this
Bandi Chhorh Divas
Chorh Diwas is a day on which
Guru Hargobind Sahib was released with 52
Kings from Gwalior Prison. The word "Bandi" means "imprisoned", "Chhor"
means "release" and "Divas" means "day" and together "Bandi Chhor Divas"
means Prisoner Release Day.
Bandi Chhorh Diwas is not Diwali
Chorh Diwas and
Diwali are separate festivals and the
events actually fall on different days; however, commonly in the popular
calendars, they are celebrated on the same day. For this reason, many people
often think of these events as if they are the same. In real terms, the day
of release of the sixth Guru with the 52 rajahs (kings) was actually a few
days before Diwali in 1619.
two celebrations represent two quite different events in history. On Bandi
Chorh Diwas, the long imprisoned
Guru Hargobind was released from Gwalior,
taking with him 52 long imprisoned Rajas, whose release was a result of the
(a Hindu festival) was being celebrated on the day when the Guru reached
Amritsar. On the arrival of the Guru in
Amritsar, the people lit up the whole city
with thousands of candles, lights and lamps like they had never done before;
there was much celebration and joy.
Chorh Diwas falls on the night of
Amavas in the month of
Assu; this actual Bandi Chorh Diwas is
celebrated each year at
Gurdwara Data Bandi Chor Sahib, Gwalior
with much gaiety and joy, a few days before Diwali.