Bandi Chhor — Guru Frees the Captured

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Images for this story were created by Hannah Kaur (12) and Annika Kaur (15), daughters of Kanwar Dhillon of 'Art of Punjab'

We all know that God is all powerful. Sometimes we call God ‘Bandi Chhor’: Who can free those who are captured. This is the story of how Guru Hargobind also got that as a nickname, because he also freed the captured, and became… Bandi Chhor! 
After Guru Arjan Dev sacrificed his life for truth, his young son became the 6th Guru. But before leaving his body, next to the river, he instructed, "Tell my son Sri Hargobind to not be sad for my passing. As he carries the light of the Guru, he shall keep all traditions alive in the house of Guru Nanak. And he must start a new tradition as well: The warrior tradition." 
So the young Guru Hargobind did as he was destined. Wearing the two swords of Miri and Piri he gave the teaching that we must be masters of the physical world as well as the spiritual one. He commanded the Sikhs, "Whoever comes to see me, bring horses and weapons." 
Young men also started volunteering to be part of the Guru’s army which was growing every day. The emperor heard of his rising power and wanted to know if the Guru would be a threat or not, "Call the Guru to meet me. Then I will see if he is a spiritual man like his father who deserves respect, or if he is a rebel I have to take care of."
When they met emperor Jahangir asked, "Guru Hargobind, you are a strong warrior, but I have a spiritual question: Which is better, Hindus or Muslims??"
Guru Hargobind explained that religious labels are not as important as what is in the heart and that we can all meditate on Sat Nam. The answer was beautiful and reminded the emperor of Guru Arjan Dev, "How enlightening! I offer you 1 thousand rupees in honor of your wisdom. I am traveling soon, please join me and we can spend more time together!"
The Guru agreed to go and on their travels Jahangir saw the wonders of the Guru. For example the Guru saved him from a vicious tiger by slicing it in half. In another situation a Sikh demonstrated that they consider the Guru the True emperor. More things like this happened and Jahangir was more and more impressed with his warrior saint guest, "There really is no one like the Guru. What a great guy!"
One of emperor Jahangir’s advisors didn’t like this. His name was Chandu and he was a great enemy of the Guru’s house,

"I tortured and killed Guru Arjan. If his son continues to earn the emperor’s trust, it could be me who is tortured instead! I have to do something…"

So he bribed Jahangir’s trusted astrologer, and together they came up with a scheme,

"I will give you money if you fool the gullible emperor. We have to make up a reason to isolate the Guru to break up their friendship… "

So the astrologer pretended to be worried and said to the emperor, "Sire… Ohhh it’s very bad... there is a huge problem in your stars…" 
"Oh no! Is Mercury in retrograde again!!!"
"Ohhh, it’s worse than that! ALL the planets are in retrograde! It spells bad luck for you... for a full 7 years! You will be in danger that whole time! Unless…"
"Unless what? Is there a solution?"
"Well, according to this chart… it looks like you need someone to pray for you… someone named... Hargobind… hm this Hargobind will have to stay in a secluded place, Gwalior Fort, and do ritual bathings and malas for you every day..."

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They continued to convince him that the only way to save him from this made up bad luck was to isolate Guru Hargobind. Even though emperor Jahangir didn't like the idea he agreed his own safety is most important. He got on his elephant and sadly went to the Guru. While all this scheming was going on the Guru was enjoying the day like he always did. He saw that Jahangir didn’t look happy, "You look sad, what troubles you?" 
"All the planets are in retrograde, and I am facing 7 long years of bad luck…" 
Jahangir told the Guru about the stars, about Gwalior and praying for 40 days. Guru ji immediately knew what was happening, and who was manipulating him, "The stars are not crossed against you, and you don’t have back luck. If there is bad luck it will be for a certain someone..."
But Guru Sahib was patient, he knew it was not yet time to expose Chandu to the emperor, "But I can go to Gwalior... if it makes you feel better."
"Great are you oh perfect Guru. You destroy the pain of those who seek your sanctuary. You have shielded me from bad times ahead!"
The Guru went to Gwalior fort. It was a palace that was used as a prison for all the kings who Jahangir thought would rebel against his empire. There were 52 kings and they were sentenced to spend their whole lives there. Their ankles were bound in shackles and chains, they had lice in their hair, they were weak and malnourished. They used to wear the rich clothes but now they had simple clothes that were torn and dirty. But on this day they became happy for the first time in a long time. 

"We used to be royalty, but now we live like rats!"
"But seeing you gives us hope!"
"We are blessed to have your darshan"
"Great is the Guru!"

Every day Sikhs would visit Guru ji there and every day Jahangir would send resources and food. Instead of eating it himself Guru ji would feed the 52 kings and even the guards. 
After a few days of this langar program the Sikhs noticed that Guru Hargobind hadn’t eaten anything, so they asked him why. Guru ji answered, "This food is not for me. If you want me to eat then you have to get a job, work honestly and make the food yourself. But it’s up to you. I’m fine. I can just eat the air." 
Of course Guru ji could have done that but the Sikhs went to work and then offered Guru ji their food which was full of devotion and the Guru was happy to eat that. Guru does not exist for any selfish reason. 
"My power is for saving those who are humble and destroying the wicked."
Meanwhile, Chandu was still scheming,

"Now that I have the Guru captured I have to find a way to kill him..."

He tried to have a gift sent to the Guru, a robe soaked with poison. But his plan failed. Next he convinced most of the emperor's other advisors to never mention the Guru’s name,

"Hey psst! I will give you a ton of money if you just keep your mouth shut about the Guru…"

And it worked. When the 40 days were up Jahangir forgot to instruct his people to release the Guru. But the Sikhs hadn’t forgotten. At the same time the Sikhs had received an order from the Guru’s mother, Mata Ganga ji, "Do everything in your power to make sure my son is returned to Amritsar as soon as possible!"
The Sikhs knew that even though they had spiritual powers, they were not supposed to use them, but with Mata ji’s order they made an exception. Two of them transformed into tigers and snuck into the emperor’s sleeping chamber late at night, Jahangir: "Oh no! This is the end of me! Guru Hargobind, save me!"
The Guru showed up and moved the tigers away from him. Even though this happened again the next night Jahangir didn’t realize why it was happening.

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Then one of the Sikhs, who had transformed into a tiger, managed to speak with him, "The Guru is the highest of the high. You were supposed to have him released after 40 days. But you still haven’t. So you’ve lied to the Guru. If you don’t release him today, the tigers just may end you tonight!"
Jahangir felt this was true, he sent a most trusted advisor to have the Guru released. While he was waiting he happened to meet with a saint, a holy Pir, who was travelling through the area, "Great Pir, please tell me what makes holy men different from others?"
The holy pir explained, 

"Saints do not live for themselves. They only exist for others. A true saint has spiritual power…  but does not use it! The greatest saint is Guru Arjan Dev. He has more power than even I can imagine... and yet... he made himself meek and allowed himself to suffer by the hands of Chandu." 

"Chandu made the Guru suffer!? He was just supposed to collect a fine… But why would the Guru allow it if he didn’t have to?"

"The Guru is far beyond me. I asked him this very question. He told me it was part of his game and that I shouldn’t intervene. He told the same thing to other masters and even the gods in heaven. The greatest of the gods was even scared to disobey Guru Arjan. His message is deep and his trait is that he didn’t lose one thought, not a single one, to anything but peace. " 

"I also think the Gurus are great, but don’t you think these compliments are a bit too much… I mean they aren’t even part of our religion…"

"Whoever sits on the throne of Nanak is the greatest of the great. As far as I am concerned they are Thee God."

"Allah Himself! … I uh… I don’t know what to say…"
The emperor was now desperate to release Guru Hargobind. Meanwhile the kings had heard that the Guru was free to leave. 

"Guru ji, you aren’t just our friend, You are our beloved" 
"And now you are leaving!? If you don’t save us, who will?"
"You are merciful like God Himself"
"You have the power to save us like how Krishna saved the elephant!"
"You are our savior"

Guru Hargobind declared, "I shall take you all with me when I leave. Otherwise I will stay here with you. Your shackles will be removed, just remember the peace giving Sat Nam."
The kings were so happy to hear this. They already felt free. Guru ji gave his message to the advisor who returned to Jahangir, "You have returned back to me alone! Where is he? Where’s the Guru?" 
The trusted advisor explained what the Guru had told him, "The kings have come under my sanctuary. I never abandon my people. If someone calls out to me even once, I can never leave them behind. It is not just for me to save them in the afterlife, but also in this life. If all the kings are not released, I will stay here with them."
The emperor didn't like the idea of releasing all the kings, "We lost a lot of men and resources capturing those rebel kings. And if we release them they’ll just rise up against me!"
After thinking about it for a while the emperor decided that only a few kings could leave with the Guru, "If they are touching you while they reach the threshold the shackles will be removed from their feet and they will be free." 
Guru Hargobind appreciated this unique condition… and he came up with a unique solution. He ordered that a special robe be made that is so long, with so many folds, that every king could grab on. When it was read the Guru put it on, and dressed himself with decorations and jewelry. He looked shining. The kings realized he was leaving and they ran towards him, 

"The Guru is leaving now! Beloved Savior! Help us!"
"You are the only one who can save us!"

"My friends, grab onto my robe. It is big enough for all."

guru hargobind frees porisoners.jpg

So they all did. There were so many of them they had to move very slowly. When they crossed the threshold of Gwalior gate all their shackles were finally removed. A huge crowd was waiting outside watching and cheering this glorious scene. 

"They’re free! Hooray!!!"
"Guru Maharaj ki JAI"
"Great is the Guru"

All the prisoners were now free to return to their lives as kings. 
Today the world has seen with their eyes that Guru ji saves us in this life as well as the afterlife. Now no one will doubt that the Guru is the emperor above emperors.
Without firing a single arrow he had the most powerful emperor bend to him. Guru Hargobind is compassionate to the meek and the destroyer of the wicked. The Guru is ‘Bandi Chhor’, he frees those who are captured.

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Even those who are captured in their own thinking that they are slaves, he reminds us that we are all royalty. Guru Hargobind is the master of heaven and earth. If you call out to him, he will help you too!  

Storyteller:  Harijot Singh Khalsa
Age ranges:  13 - 17, 18 and over