The story we know says that 52 Hindu princes got released from the Gwallior Fort by holding onto a specially made cloak of Guru Hargobind ji. Every year, a few days before Diwali, the Sikh community commemorates this event at Bandi Chhor Divas. The time when Guru Hargobind Dev ji got released from prison and, through his grace and compassion, caused the release of those imprisoned with him.

Guru Hargobind frees 52 Kings

For myself, I like to meditate upon the time before Guruji’s release. Historical accounts differ as to how long Guruji spent in jail at the Gwallior Fort. Political and spiritual intrigue brought him there. Chandu Shah had tried, unsuccessfully, to create ill will between the Guru and the ruling Mughal Emperor of the time, Jahangir. But Jahangir felt inspired by the young Guru-prince, and befriended him, instead.

Only when Jahangir fell sick with a serious illness did Chandu Shah and the astrologers convince him that a holy man needed to go to Gwallior Fort and pray for the Emperor’s health. When the Emperor asked Guru Hargobind ji to take that assignment, the Guru did not refuse him, even though the imprisonment lasted for years.

When I think about Gwallior Fort, I wonder what it must have been like for the other prisoners to have Guru Hargobind ji with them. What kind of transformation may have happened during the time he spent with the them? Did he teach them meditation? Did he sing with them? What kind of conversations did he have with them?

Guru Hargobind's Chola
This is the actual 52 panel chola Guru Hargobind wore on Bandi Chhor Divas
in October 1619. This 400 year old relic has been preserved until today. 
[photo courtesy of SikhNugget]

What about martial arts? Did he hold martial arts classes with the other prisoners?

How did they spend those years together?

History recounts all the intrigues against the Guru while he resided at the Gwallior Fort including the attempts on his life by Chandu Shah. But history is unfortunately silent about how the routine of the Fort changed during Guruji’s presence. And what it was like for the prisons to have his darshan every day. Did he hold court there? Did the prison actually become the Guru’s Darbar?

In my mind’s eye, I like to imagine those 52 Hindu princes during the years of their imprisonment with the Guru. How some may have fallen in love with his radiance, and felt blessed to study with him during that time. How others may have resented him or felt jealous. But surely how it was an incredible time for everyone.

Are you really in prison if you get to see the Guru’s face every day? Did the prison become a type of dharamsala during those years? A rare and special ground of Dharma?

Guru Hargobind

What would it be like to be locked in prison with the Guru?

Those thoughts go through my mind when I meditate on Bandi Chhor Divas. Yes, the day of liberation came for all of the Hindu princes. But it is also fascinating to think about what may have happened in the Guru’s presence during the years leading up to their liberation.

Wherever the Guru is, Light comes. Wherever the Guru is, Freedom follows. And even prison can become a blessing with the Guru’s touch.

- Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa

Bandi Chhorh Divas often happens as SikhNet begins it annual fundraiser. Everything that we do at SikhNet serves the mission of bringing the Guru’s light and touch to the farthest corners of the world.

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We thank you for your support,
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we wish you a blessed BANDI CHHOR DIVAS

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